Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Gender Pay Gap

I haven't blogged in a while because, excuse is that I have just moved country (from Singapore to the UK) and that takes a fair bit of mental energy and time and planning. And it literally sucks the life out of you trying to set up bank accounts and trying not to stab yourself in the supermarket because you can't find the polenta. The other excuse is I have wanted to blog about many issues but sometimes I can't work out a way to write about these constructively*

But last week I attended a lunch and employment law update which was very helpful on a number of levels. The main being that while I know a little something about employment law in the UK (enough to be dangerous), I don't know much. This is actually a good position to be in because it makes me research and learn and talk to people who know more than me. I know what I don't know, which is better than thinking I know everything. It means I will end up in less sticky situations.

One of the items for discussion was Gender Pay Gap Reporting in the UK. I'd heard a little bit about it before I moved to the UK but as the company I work for doesn't have enough employees in the UK to have to complete the report, I let it fall out of my brain. But after some superior sandwiches and other lunch food tidbits I was in the right frame of mind to take in what this meant for employers.

Employees with more than 250 employees are expected to report their Gender Pay Gap by 2018 in the following ways:

  • the mean pay gap between men and women,
  • the median gender pay gap, and
  • the gap in bonuses paid to men and women.

The brief included what exactly constituted 250 employees and what formulas you used for the calculations and when it all had to happen by. It struck me that this type of reporting has the potential to change the culture of how we look at gender and equal pay in the workplace. Because I'm assuming that the pay gap is not going to be positive for women. Actually I know it's not because of the clever research conducted by the International Labour Organisation and the World Economic Forum and the United Nations and many many other private and public sector organisations. We know the gap is not going to be pretty and this is going to force employers to start to do something about it, because there is going to be a bit of an uproar. You would think.

But then the presentation took a bit of a turn. There was a discussion about how you could potentially avoid reporting and how if you engaged a lawyer to help you look at your data, then the data would fall under legal privilage so you could get away with not reporting (say if your results were really bad and you needed time to sort it out). And then some information on how there wouldn't be any sanctions for companies that didn't report and then I started to feel a bit "half glass empty" about the whole situation.

In my home country, Australia we have been doing reports like this through the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. At least since 2008 the reporting requirements include numbers of males and females at each level, having policies that support gender equity in relation to all parts of people management and some other stuff that I don't think anyone cares about. I think the Workplace Gender Equality Agency is doing a great job driving this agenda but most companies I have worked at have all the right policies on equal employment opportunity and flexible work practices and so on. What is harder is having the right culture and leaders who believe and live the intent of the policies.

In various roles I have either been responsible for completing the report, part of a team completing the report or reviewing the report before CEO sign off. I can say generally that most years it is a scramble to demonstrate that the organisation has done anything to move the gender diversity issue along (though maybe I haven't worked for the right organisations) and to be honest it's exhausting applying creative thought to situations that don't deserve it.

The legislation that sits behind this reporting is well intentioned and should produce outcomes where organisations really look at what's happening in their patch and start to engage in dialogues to improve the situation. Equal pay for women and men has a huge impact on our community at large. Instead the lack of teeth in forcing or reviewing the public reporting means for many HR people tasked with filling out the sometimes excruciating details, is that it is all for nothing. We seem to be lacking some real grit and courage to deal with the problem.

Gender and diversity reporting attempts to create transparency around organisational remuneration, policy and cultural practices but how can this happen when there are no ramifications for non reporting or for reporting poor figures with no robust plan to fix it?

I really like this TEDx video which was shared on my social media a number of times this week so I had to pay attention. In January this year, David Burkus talked about why sharing salaries could benefit employees, organisations and the wider society.

Take a look. What do you think? Would you want your colleagues to know what you get paid? I think the new UK legislation is attempting to create transparency around pay gaps and that's a good thing.

Or maybe we could just pinksource? Its pretty, cheap labour. Go watch this video, now!

*code for writing about a topic without getting sacked

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

He's a Good Guy!

It seems appropriate that I talk about the "Good Guy" on International Women's Day. Don't know who the "Good Guy" is? Well, let me tell you.

It's this person that exists in organisations. And they are a guy in the truest sense of the word. A man. Not the collective term "guys" which could mean a group of men and women. It's just the men. I probably have noticed the "Good Guy" phenomenon more because I have worked in lots of male dominated industries and organisations. I am often the only woman in the room so I think I can talk from some sort of experience.

The "Good Guy" is generally not that great at their job, actually that's not fair. Some aren't great but they usually have some really good attributes, and to go with them they have some significant development areas. Some have great potential teamed with significant career de-railers.  But they usually survive, because they are a "Good Guy".

We are all good at some things, not great at others but I'm talking about larger extremes than your average person.

The term "Good Guy" is used in sentences like "yeah.....but he is a Good Guy!" or "he's a really good guy" usually said in defence of a conversation about the person's significant limitations and the issues or challenges they are creating in the organisation. The term is only used by men about other men which somehow infers that they are one of them. Part of the group, the pack. The term humanises the "guy" and makes us realise that we are dealing with humans and that no one is perfect. And that's ok and organisations need "Good Guys". Not all of them, but some. Harsh but true.

The real issue I have with "The Good Guy" is that there is no like term for women. Do you ever hear someone say "she is a great chick?" Well no because it may be offensive and, well, just no. What about "but she is a good woman"? Ever heard that? Nope. I did have one male manager describe one of my direct reports as a "Good Egg". He meant it in a positive good way, but still..... it's not the same as "Good Guy" is it?

How do we humanise women in the workplace when they are demonstrating good attributes but significant development areas? Some of the terms I have heard include; "quirky" and "inconsistent", maybe "emotional" or "challenging"...often these are negative and not humanising. And how do Women indicate that other women are part of the same group, the women tribe, part of something greater? I'm just not sure that exists, and that perhaps, is the real problem.

I don't think the solution to diversity is to bash men in organisations. Far from it, but we need to work out a way to humanise and celebrate the contribution that women make, and work out how they are part of the group that is somehow to be protected in the same way the "Good Guys" are.

So to all the fabulous women who are forging their way, happy International Women's Day! #pledgeforparity

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Manage your energy, not your time

This is the title of a great Harvard Business Review article. I used this article as some pre-reading for the participants on a recent leadership development program. We talked as a group about the kind of things each of us do to top up our energy. I really like the article because it recognises that we only have so much time each day, but we can recharge our energy to be more effective in a number of different ways.

I like talking about this topic with leaders because I find that our working lives are getting busier and more manic. The environments we operate in are less stable and less predictable and increasingly we need better strategies to deal with stress, pressure and ambiguity. For leaders working in a global environment these issues are even more pronounced, particularly when they are being asked to produce more, with less resources.

I also recognise that leaders need to perform at their peak and often do very little to ensure that they actually can. Top athletes use every resource available to them to ensure they have the best competitive edge. They have coaches and dieticians and psychologists and physiotherapists and exercise physiologists and specialist doctors. What do leaders have to ensure they can run the race and produce the results? In some, or most cases, nothing.

That's why I love this article. It addresses different types of energy including the body (or physical energy), emotional energy, the mind and spirit. The article talks about how you can build energy in each area. 

I write this post from the airline lounge in Singapore, on the way to Queenstown, New Zealand to restore my energy. I am attending Trey Ratcliff's Photography and Yoga workshop. I met Trey in the lift at a blogging conference three years ago. He turned out to be the keynote speaker and blew the attendees, including me, away with his energy, courage and creativity. 

I follow him at stuck in customs and when he posted about this workshop I just had to go. A couple of ways I manage my energy when working long hours and travelling a lot is to do something physical and to do something creative. This workshop at Aro Ha seemed to combine the two perfectly. 

I'll be learning some new things like processing photos, which I haven't really done before. I have purchased Lightroom for this task and am looking forward to learning how to enhance raw images from the camera. Actually it would be really good to just work out how to get photos into the software. I'm coming from a low base aren't I?

I'm looking forward to doing something physical everyday from trekking around the beautiful scenery near Queenstown to doing yoga. This will be a nice change from my usual day sitting on my butt or even standing at my new adjustable desk. Swapping this view with clean air and mountains should be good for the soul.

Most weeks I manage to attend one or two yoga classes so getting to do one every day without the rush of work and time, will be a luxury. I'm also looking forward to seeing how the vegetarian "paleo friendly, gluten free, dairy free, and enzymatically active" food makes me feel, and there will also be massages. I like massages. Still tossing up whether I should take some wine along or whether a week without alcohol would be a good thing. Ok, I know the answer to this. 

The opportunity to use my brain and body in a different way for a whole week is such a luxury. I like my job and what I get to do each day but I know if I don't take out time to breathe and be creative I'm not good at my job. This coming week I will get to restore my physical and emotional energy along with recharging the mind and the spirit.

Of course you don't have to fly hours to attend a retreat to restore your energy. What are some of the things you do?

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Follow your passion, or not?

High Line, NYC
Much popular career advice comes with tag-lines like "follow your passion" and "do what you love, love what you do"  and so on.  I love thinking about these things. The things I love and that I'm passionate about. Things like looking at fashion and interior design photos on Pinterest and researching and eating at the the best most innovative restaurants in Singapore and doing some virtual and sometimes real shopping on Net-a-Porter. I'm also passionate about stupid expensive handbags and attempting to become a runner.

In addition I like photography and yoga and am managing to combine these by attending a workshop in a couple of weeks in Queenstown New Zealand. I like travel too and we are heading to Switzerland for Christmas and then Paris after that, well because travel is fun and because we can. And apart from fantasising about becoming a fashion blogger every couple of weeks, well I usually like my day job.

Arran lives and breathes riding bikes while he is not working in risk management in large banks. If he isn't riding a bike, he is planning a ride or watching videos about riding or choosing a new bike to ride or selling a bike so he can buy another bike without getting in too much trouble.

So all this is very well isn't it? So why don't we live our passion and do these things for a job? Well to start with I like having a roof over my head and money in my wallet, and while people do do all these things to make money, I'm just not sure I want to. I once went to an event at the Chanel store in Sydney. I was so excited to learn about fashion and all the excitement and meet other people also interested in fashion, but to tell the truth it was all a little hollow. Some of the attendees were more interested in checking themselves out in the mirrors than talking to me about all the pretty things.

Well a few weeks ago Dr Jason Fox who is all about making clever happen, posted a link to this article The Many, Many Problems With "Follow Your Passion" It's a good read and true I think. The point of the article is to find work that is not necessarily your passion, but something that you can become engaged in.

Taken directly from the article by William Macaskill engaging work has the following aspects which seems to make sense to me:

  • Independence: How much control do you have over how you go about your work?
  • Sense of completion: How much does the job involve completing whole pieces of work so that your contribution to the end product is easily visible?
  • Variety: How far does the job require you to perform a range of different activities, using different skills and talents?
  • Feedback from the job: How easy is it to know whether you’re performing well or badly?
  • Contribution: How much does your work “make a difference,” improving the well-being of other people?
So if you are not enjoying your work, which of these items are you missing? Would love to hear from you.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Having and having a career sponsor

So a little while ago a friend, kinda fabulous friend and all round amazing women, asked me to write about having a career sponsor.

At the time I felt like a bit of an imposter. I didn't really know anything about the topic apart from a general idea of how cool it would be to have a career sponsor. At the time I couldn't say I had ever had one.

Then this thing happened at work. A fairly major structure change and people were ringing me, and asking how it affected me! Well. Truth be told, long story short, it wasn't that great. I always respect the need for businesses to make decisions,  however if they affect me negatively and my career goals, well then, I'm not going to be happy about it.

The skeptical part of me said that those people calling thought I might have the inside scoop on the changes (I didn't) and the part of me that thought these people cared, said the opposite. I would say 90% were the later.

You see my purpose is to make organisations better place for people to be. I do this through working with leaders, to help them be better and more effective. Maybe that sounds naff, but I don't care. That's me. And I want to work in organisations where I get to do that, at least for some of the time.

The change in structure, in part, would hinder my ability to do this. So what do I do? What would you  do?

I always believe that we all have choices. Some are better than others of course. Should I take a few days off and build my network and meet all the Senior HR recruiters in Singapore? Or should I stay put and ride it out?

My decision rested on a number of people who advocated for me and supported me. People who I thought might think I was ok, or did an ok job, but who actually spoke up and were positive supporters. I guess I had hoped they would, but learning that they took some sort of action....well, I was/am humbled. Some were my peers and some were more senior. Wow!

That doesn't mean that anything has changed except for knowing I have some powerful supporters, and that is pretty cool.

Tell me about your career sponsors.....

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Disneyland and Motivation

Writing from New York City. Just like a real writer!
There I was, a few weeks ago, sitting with one of the leaders I support and we were seriously in a state. Both of us. He had been, and was, having a tough time. Business conditions have been hard with no indications that things were going to improve in the short term. Some things that were being tried to rectify business performance were not seeming to have any effect. Making progress against our goals is one of the most powerful motivators. The opposite being when you get home from work and feel like you have achieved nothing. We all know how that feels and it ain't good.

I was in a state because I have been feeling exhausted and in need of a holiday, and also feeling like the things I have been working on don’t make a difference. I think we all want to make a difference and do something worthwhile that has meaning, whether in our work life or doing something else. Even Prince William wants to do something that is worthwhile.

So there we were, two pretty senior people feeling down and dejected. Some would say we needed to harden the fuck up. We decided to go have lunch and look at the water. Same same.

I had been feeling particularly bad about the situation because when I say I want to make a difference, it’s working with and supporting senior leaders where I feel I can make the most difference, and on this day I just wasn’t in the right head space to do this and it really make me reflect.  Here was an opportunity to do what I love best, and I had nothing. I even admitted this to the leader.

I knew I needed a holiday and at the end of that week I would get one, but still....ultimately this is what I get paid for and I was out. I had nothing.  My emotional bank was empty. It bothered me for a couple of days but eventually I got into a space where I had some nuggets to share with this leader. Here are three things I shared.

My first one was about Disneyland....the story started with, “when I was in the Broncos cheersquard  I got to go to Disneyland and do a backstage dance workshop......” I’m sure it was at this point he thought I was nuts, though earlier in the week he got to see my eccentric old lady sunglasses so perhaps he had a hint anyway......

So I did get to do a backstage dance workshop with the Broncos cheersquard when I was 21 at Disneyland in California. I can’t tell you how cool that was. The think that stuck in my mind though, was the choregrapher was telling us about going for auditions and being upset when she didn’t get the job. Her advice was to have a good cry about it, and then pull yourself together and get on with things. That advice really stuck with me. It’s ok and acutally great if you have passion and emotion with what we do. We are humans and are emotional beings before being rational beings. It’s ok to be upset, frustrated, down and low energy when everything you are trying is just not working. Go wallow, go cry but put a limit on it because it’s carthartic for a bit, but if it goes on too long you are heading into the realm of professional help. Which is also fine, as long as you get some professional help.

Secondly, I shared that because I was feeling like I wasn’t achieving anything I went back to the work goals I had set at the start of the year. I was feeling so wrapped up in small admin type work that I needed to make sure I was still on track with the big ticket items. I surprised myself that I was! I added some notes to my goals in our online system, which made me feel great, (progress against goals is motivating) and then went and created a mind map of what needed to be achieved during the coming months.

The third thing that helped was doing a day of interviews for a Finance person. Yep I know. How exciting could that be? But it turned out to be a great day where we met some really great people. One of the candidates, who we really liked, couldn’t articulate his achievements in his previous roles. We tried a number of ways of asking about these but got nothing. After the interview the Finance Director (who I was interviewing with) turned to me and said “you know, you and I could write a long list of what we have achieved just in the last 6 months!” And it was true. That made me feel great when I started to think about that.

Back in Singapore our Regional leader had done somthing similar. He had written a list of all the things that had been achieved so far in the year across the regions we support. This was the longest list. The next list were the things we were still working on. It was a middle size list, and then the last list were the things we hadn’t got to yet. It was a pretty short list.

Sometimes you just have to take stock and reflect on how far you have come. I’m not big on looking back but sometimes you just have to, to see how far you have come. To see the progress you have made. Check out this guy Dr Jason Fox my fav person on motivation and making clever happen.

What are your tips when feeling unmotivated? What do you do?

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Influencing and Managing. Which are you better at?

I often find that people I work with fall into two categories, those that are good at managing and those that are good at influencing. Actually there is a third category who are not good at either and sometimes this group shouldn't be around people at all.

So what's the difference between managing people and influencing people? It's really how they develop their power base in organisations. The former tend to be good at managing people who have a direct reporting relationship to them. They are good at having control of a team and function and are good at getting things done through others. They develop and use positional power. These people tend to be able to the overall scene for their team, set individual goals for their direct reports, provide progress feedback and can generally keep the team working together.

Influencers are people who can get things done through people who don't have a direct reporting relationship to them. The are usually good at developing relationships throughout the organisation from more junior roles through to more senior roles and leveraging these relationships to get things done. The relationships they develop are "trusted" and as they get better at building trust so does their influencing ability to get things done effectively. Often they prefer not to manage people but work as an individual contributor.

These two types of people, develop and manage their power differently in organisations and while you don't have to be one or the other, I find that most people have a preference. The thing is though as you become more senior in organisations you have to demonstrate you can do both. Managing people is a core skill to progress. Many successful senior leaders have started managing a small team, and then a bigger team and then managing managers who manage a team. In senior functional and corporate roles, and as a member of an Executive team your ability to develop relationships to navigate the political landscape and negotiate what you need to get done will be imperative to your success.

I'm more of an influencer which fits with the roles I have held in the past and now. I can definitely manage a team but I am most comfortable building relationships and using these to help me achieve what I need to get done. My development would be if I get to manage a large team in the future would be how I manage my time getting things done through others.

So what's your preference and where would you focus your development?