Are We Driving (the best) Half of Our Workforce Away?

Are We Driving (the best) Half of Our Workforce Away?

Last week was the Vice Presidential debate, and I didn’t watch it. Honestly, I am on a diet, forbidding alcohol, so it was not an option. However, looking at Social Media, my understanding of the debate’s outcome was:

  • It was a traditional debate; both sides avoided questions, had their talking points, and remained calm.
  • The Fly Won
  • Senator Kamala Harris made all sorts of unpleasant faces and was a “b****.”
  • Vice President Mike Pence talked over Kamela and the female moderator, demonstrating male sexism.

As I didn’t watch it, I have no idea who won; however, many women saw Vice President Pence’s interruptions of Senator Harris sexist norms. Simultaneously, various news outlets reported that Vice President Pence did a great job among many of the President’s supporters. This data ties in with a fascinating paper just released, “Status threat, not economic hardship, explains the 2016 presidential vote,” by Diana C. Mutz, at the University of Pennsylvania. According to Professor Mutz, “Candidate preferences in 2016 reflected increasing anxiety among high-status groups rather than complaints about past treatment among low-status groups.” Thus white males continue to be threatened by other groups diminishing their privilege and claiming to suffer discrimination. 

To those who are up in arms so far claiming there is no sexism in the U.S., I would recommend looking at the “Am I the Asshole?” forum on Reddit. The AITA forum provides a thorough look at gender inequality and the degree of sexism in our society. Once you have read this, reflect on what it means for your wife, daughter, and mother. We need to face it and remove it. Adopting the Administration’s stance with its executive order’s stated goal is “to combat offensive, and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating,” is just doing more damage and denying reality.

However, being sexist in business and creating an unwelcoming environment for women will not attract more women into the business world. As I discussed in a prior blog post, we need them in business, and we need women more at higher levels of the organization. The data shows that:

  • Companies with female CFOs improved their earnings;
  • Companies with female CIOs improved their investment returns; and 
  • Companies with women on their boards performed better.

Furthermore, some claim that countries with women leaders have performed better during COVID, but there is more to that discussion. While this may be a correlation and not causality, it is worth noting. Women also are better at today’s’ leadership requirements, e.g., working in groups and showing empathy. As I said last week, most of our graduates from undergraduate, law, and medical schools are women; to drive them away is just putting us at a global disadvantage.

So, given the above, having more high performing women should put you at a competitive advantage. It is time for what I call the “Moneyball” approach. There is a market of high performing employees who are not valued as highly by your competition. The key is to provide an attractive work environment for them, design compensation to meet their needs, e.g., flexible time, and seek out to recruit them. Building an organization that attracts and retains high performing women at all levels will also attract other women and will provide you with a competitive advantage. We all need one of those in these times.

Copyright (c) 2020, Marc A. Borrelli

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Are we losing (the best) half of our workers?

Are we losing (the best) half of our workers?

The job numbers released last week confirmed what we heard for some time. Women are leaving the workforce in record numbers. According to the jobs report, 865,000 women over 20 dropped out of the American workforce compared with 216,000 men in the same age group. Thus, four times the number of women are leaving the labor market compared to men. Women are bearing the brunt of parenting and running a household while also working a job during the pandemic. The consensus is that even though men are doing more than they’ve perhaps done in any other generation, it’s still not half. The Labor Department finds that married mothers do almost double the household chores and parenting as married fathers.

This environment has created a pressure cooker environment in many households, and it has come to a head with the start of the new school year. As many children stay home instead of returning to school, many women are making the difficult decision to drop out of the workforce altogether. The child care crisis is wreaking havoc on women’s employment.

The new school year has brought it to a head with many children staying home instead of returning to their classrooms in person. And it is forcing many women to make a difficult choice and drop out of the workforce altogether. At the end of 2019, women held just over half of all payroll jobs for only the second time in history. Women now account for 49.7% of the workforce.

This departure from the workforce isn’t just an issue for women, it’s an issue for families, the government, and the economy because women employment it drives GDP.

For women. The longer women are out of the workforce, the harder it is to get back in. Every month and year that a woman is out of the labor force leads to a decline in skills, behind on the latest technology, and increasing the wage gap between others who have been in the workforce.

For the economy. Women are critical contributors to household income. According to many, family finances are going to deteriorate in the immediate term.

For the government. If women leave the labor force, there is a risk that the country will take a step back in gender dynamics, both in the workplace and at home. It will reduce the number of women seeking to enter the workforce in the future, and many will leave due to harmful gender dynamics.

The country’s issue is that today more women (72.5%) are graduating from college than men (68.5%). The effect of this is rippling through the economy; more women (50.5%) are graduating from medical school than men (49.4%), and more women (52.4%) are graduating from ABA-approved law schools than men (47.51%). As a result, we are sacrificing our best and brightest.

Not only that, studies show that once women land leadership positions, they excel, often surpassing men, because they have developed soft skills necessary for effective leadership. Females CFO seems to correlate with high income, female CIOs lead to better investment decisions. Traits like empathy, communication, and listening are qualities that serve women well when in management positions.

Getting women back to work requires long-term thinking about the types of jobs where women want to work. However, according to the Harvard Business Review, misogyny is rampant in the restaurant industry, and we have all seen the stories of its extent in the news and technology industries. Providing opportunities for women in STEM fields will help close the gap and provide more stable employment opportunities in the future. However, individual attitudes will have change.

What does this mean for you? I think the challenge for HR and CEOs going forward is to find a way to provide women a way to keep working and reduce the stress they face at home or offer them a path back in the organization and reclaim their position on the corporate ladder. Those companies that can do this effectively will attract great resources and enable them to get ahead.

Looking at the situation reminds me of Bill Gates’ speech in Saudi Arabia. The audience was segregated by gender, with a large panel dividing the fully veiled women from the men. A participant asked whether the country could realistically become “one of the most competitive economies by 2010.” Gates replied, “Well if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get too close to the top.” If the U.S. wants to keep to the top, we have to find a better way to utilize the excellent talent pool we have and not throw a lot of it away.

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Want to Improve, Put Women in the C-Suite

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At the end of last year, there was a male-to-female ratio of 19:1 for CEOs and 6.5:1 for CFOs, which exposes a persisting underrepresentation of females in key executive positions. Within my Vistage groups, I am pleased to say that the male-to-female ratio is 11:3 for CEOs. However, that aside, some recent articles have shown the superior performance of companies that have women in C-Suite positions that are typically not reserved for females.

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Thus, female CEOs drove more value appreciation, improved stock price momentum, better-defended profitability moats, and delivered excess risk-adjusted returns for their firms.

However, a new study by HEC Paris Business School and MVision Private Equity Advisers found that investment committees of private equity fund managers comprising both males and females have experienced comparatively higher returns compared to their male-only peers. Therefore, if PE firms want to outperform their peers, they should appoint more women to their investment committees. The diverse investment committees well outperformed their male-only counterparts! Professor Oliver Gottschalg found that on average, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform their peers, and 27% more likely to exhibit substantial value creation. Specifically, his research found that gender-diverse investment committees outperformed all-male committees in alpha, TVPI, and IRR by 7%, 0.52%, and 12%, respectively. The level outperformance is due to a broader base of perspectives and the subsequent avoidance of more blind spots!

So what is of interest is that while women’s participation in Investment Committees results in outperformance, Private Equity never received the memo. As can be seen from the chart below, women are very under-represented in the major Private Equity Groups

Not only that, Bloomberg has found that startups with all-male teams raise less money than those with a woman. Therefore, you would think all startups would be looking for female teammates. Unfortunately, many are run by men who “know best.”

Thus, while I am the first to say that correlation does not necessarily mean causality, there undoubtedly enough data to say, “If you want to realize above-average performance, put women in your C-Suite!”

This has to be one of the easiest things to improve your performance and make better decisions. If you say, “We just can’t find them,” you are not looking in the right place.

Copyright (c) 2019, Marc A. Borrelli

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