Tag Archives: harvard business school

A Beginner’s Mind

“Katie’s Chinese?” said my nine-year old in a quizzical tone.   Total disbelief hung in the air.  “Adopted? Are you sure?”    He and my daughter were discussing a neighborhood playmate, a child that they’ve known for close to a decade.   Their exchange humbled me.   Could these two really have not seen any differences as they laughed & played with this beautiful little girl?    Their conversation got me thinking about the impact of what we see, and don’t see, in transition. Continue reading

Bringing Transition Into Focus

“Take yourself out of autopilot,” encouraged Janice Marturano, a former executive at General Mills and now head of the Institute for Mindful Leadership.  Her plea was part of an overall recommendation towards purposeful pauses featured in,  In Mindfulness, a Method to Sharpen Focus and Open Minds (NY Times 3/23/2012).  She reasoned that with mindfulness, “overtime you’ll feel more focused and connected to yourself and others.”  Reverse autopilot.  Could that concept benefit you? Continue reading

Summer Book Review #29: Getting Even – Why women don’t get paid like men – and what to do about it

‘Just because we can measure it doesn’t make it meaningful,’ shared a female physician at a dinner recently.  Today my son’s pediatrician can run a report to see which of her patients missed their last immunization cycle.  In theory the doctor could outreach to me to remind me to come in if my son’s name made the list.    My dinner companion was pointing out, “does this phone call make the physician a high quality one?’


This same objectivity about ‘measurement’ and the conclusions we draw from it served as a backdrop to Summer Book Review #29, “Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men – And What To Do About It,” by Evelyn Murphy, former Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of MA, with E.J. Graff.  (Simon & Schuster, 2005)

Murphy shares that one of her motivations for writing the book is rooted in the incomplete messages about women’s wages that are fueled by statistics from the U.S.  Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics.   In Getting Even Murphy adds a social scientist’s posture by leveraging research and analysis on workplace behavior to more fully shape her argument for gender-based wage discrimination.  (Getting Even, pg 9)   The combination is powerful and engaging. 

Getting Even explores a pervasive gender-based wage gap.    This gap isn’t simply the  difference between the average wage of a woman versus that of a man.  Rather it is the cumulative effect of this difference for every hour worked over a woman’s life. Depending up her educational and professional profile, Murphy estimates that a woman loses between $700,000 and $2,000,000 over the course of her working life.  (Getting even, pg 26)  Sobering…or truly sad?

While the numbers are meaningful Murphy argues that numbers alone don’t tell the whole story.  What about the opportunity cost of these lost wages?  An extra set of lessons for a child.  A much-needed new car or refrigerator.  A long-awaited vacation.

Prior to reading the book I had an awkward relationship with the concept of discrimination.   It hadn’t touched me, or so I thought.  Long time readers may recall a similar reaction I had to the word ‘ambition’ and its baggage as discussed in Anna Fels’ outstanding Necessary Dreams, Summer Book Review #8.

The real story in Getting Even isn’t numbers at all but the realization that women today face a large widespread spectrum of discrimination.   Getting Even introduces 5 categories of discrimination.  These include the most egregious, like blatant sexual discrimination and sexual harassment, and those more subtle but no less damaging to a woman’s wage profile, like  workplace sex segregation,  everyday segregation, or discrimination against mothers.

Murphy dubbed the 4th category, everyday segregation, ‘working while female.’  Don’t you love that one?   “It’s what happens when a woman’s ideas are dismissed – only to be discussed seriously by a man.  Or when employers turn to old boy networks rather than public postings to recruit new talent.  Or when interviews or applications evaluate male characteristics more highly, even when women’s strengths  and communications styles could accomplish the job just as well, and perhaps better.” (Getting Even, pg 175)  Have you ever encountered any of these?

You may be asking, “is there really a wage gap?”  Maybe this book is dated.  Haven’t we made strides recently to negate this?

Last spring I attended the 50 year celebration of women entering the Harvard Business School.  One of the earliest female tenured professors, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, shared her observations.    Many, while not focused entirely on wages, mirrored Murphy’s.

I remember a young female grad challenging Prof. Moss Kanter saying that gender based gaps in advancement were a thing of the past.  I jumped to Moss Kanter’s aide with an observation of my own 100 person cohort, 20 years post graduation.  “For the 1st ten years out, the jobs were largely similar (assuming both genders were engaged in full-time work),” I said.  “Once we cleared ten years, our male colleagues started getting opportunities like, ‘go run Asia.’  While the women were offered incremental opportunities.  At 20 years out the gap  in opportunity is enormous.  So large that we can never catch up.”  Moss Kanter was pleased with my support.  I’m not so sure I’m pleased with what this non-statistical analysis says about women’s opportunities, let alone our wages.

Getting Even concludes with a practical set of actions to close the gap, both individually and as leaders in organizations.   Not only is it  worth a read but you may want to add it to the list of possible graduation presents for college grads. Invaluable.

I really enjoyed Getting Even as much for its wage perspective as for its education in discrimination.   I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that it caused me to pause.   Was ‘working while female’ and all the missed acknowledgements a silent trigger to my transition?   From this vantage point it’s easier to measure the wage gap it caused.   I wonder if that’s Ms. Murphy’s real message?

Copyright © 2013 NovoFemina.com.  All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from NovoFemina.com.

Engaging our hearts…

“We need you to be a part of this institution with all your heart,” said Dean Nitin Norhia, Dean of the Harvard Business School (HBS), in his closing remarks for the W50 Conference last Friday in Boston, MA.  W50?  It was a two-day celebration marking the fiftieth anniversary of women’s participation at HBS.  A dear friend of mine who looked puzzled when I told her about it asked, “that’s something to celebrate?”

Quirkiness aside I was intrigued by the Dean’s choice of words, ‘your heart.’   Earnest.  Simple. Powerful.  He sensed power enough in the connection with women’s hearts that he appealed to it.  Directly.   What else can benefit from that type of engagement?

At two years into transition I think transition is about having the confidence to listen to your heart.   What will make your heart sing?   The answer is highly personal.   To understand it requires a long journey full of ambiguity, isolation and energy.

In January I had the pleasure of spending the morning with a well-regarded researcher of gender studies at Babson College, a leafy hot bed for entrepreneurship just outside of Boston.   Thank you Research Jam for such wonderful access.   Or, did I always have it?

Anyway we talked about her observations on the transition that women go through when choosing entrepreneurship.  Her responses surprised me.

I asked about the triggers she sees when this transition occurs.  “The trigger is a ‘realization,’ a realization that living the dream is not just for only a few people,” she shared.   Sound familiar?

She also shared her view of transition’s characteristics.   Three I thought bordered on profound.  First, transition like entrepreneurship requires a self-created identity.  In entrepreneurs she observed that this skill set is highly developed.

A self-created identity.   Interesting.  If I’m honest I’ve had a more productive second year in transition than my first.  It might be because I’ve created a working hypothesis or draft identity that supports all my various experiments.  It goes something like this.  “I’m interested in women’s development.  This manifests itself in three ways….”   This is where I break and fill in my experiments, including Novofemina.   It’s nothing earth shattering but it serves as an umbrella under which I can align my various trials.

Thai Umbrella Maker

Thai Umbrella Maker

Her second characteristic…in transitioning to entrepreneurship women realize that they can create a business on topics that matter to them.  Climate change.  Nanotechnology.  Organic foods.  You name it.  As a side note this fact played out consistently in the responses to the Research Jam’s Online Survey.  Women shared example after example of businesses that were created out of all sorts of passions and events in their lives or the lives of their loved ones.

Her final characteristic was ambiguity.  From my humble perspective this is the show stopper for many in transition.  Most women I know have so much going on – care of aging parents, paying off education debt, managing families, cultivating all sorts of relationships, work – they don’t have time to invest in ambiguity.

Allowing ambiguity to hang around for any period of time seems like a luxury.  Am I right?  Women need to wrestle with ambiguity quickly so that they can get on with the 25 other things they need to accomplish before lunch.

It’s funny.  A person I interviewed earlier this week also mentioned ambiguity.  She thought it was the great divider too.   A veteran of transition and a gracious mentor to others she thought that those willing to walk with ambiguity in transition yield a tremendous benefit.  To her ambiguity opens our hearts to surprisingly valuable views.  Those who don’t go there never see this potential nor benefit from its many gifts.

Before concluding my conversation with the gender research expert at Babson she mentioned data about the growing number of women choosing entrepreneurship.  Why is that I wondered out loud?

“Many are disenchanted with the environment from where they came.  They see it as their only avenue forward.”

Coincidentally I heard this as well at the W50.  “Women seek entrepreneurship as a form of escape,” remarked HBS Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter at the W50 Conference last week.   Long time readers will recall that I didn’t really enjoy her book, Confidence, in spite of its awesome title.

What an interesting theme…both thought leaders were onto escape.   How do you respond if overtime you aren’t listened to in the work environment or in other environments where you contribute ?    Escape sounds so negative.  Is it simply another trigger to create?  Creating something that can leverage the fullness of our potential.

I’m a bit critical of a Dean who appeals to hearts of women and the minds of the other gender.  But I’ll suspend that conclusion for the more productive……I believe that women get really engaged when they are passionate about something.

Transition in large part is about having the confidence to listen to our hearts.  Make no mistake….it isn’t a solitary introspective activity.  It requires reaching out to new people and challenging new experiences.  Each of these activities needs a common denominator…..your heart has to be in it.  Where is yours these days?

Copyright © 2013 NovoFemina.com.  All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from NovoFemina.com.

A simple handshake?

“The justices shake each other’s hand. That’s just what they do each time…It just- it’s meaningful, and I’m glad the court does that,” said Sandra Day O’Connor during her interview with NPR’s Terry Gross (‘Out Of Order’ At The Court: O’Connor On Being The First Female Justice, March 5, 2013).  Chief Justice Melville Fuller started this custom in the late 1800’s saying that “it shows that harmony of aims, if not views, is the court’s guiding principle.”  O’Connor concurred.   It introduced a harmony.  Aligned members.  I wonder if a handshake is a metaphor for transition? Continue reading

Time for questions?

“I have a passion to know things,” said Morgan Freeman, one of my all time favorite actors, as he responded to Charlie Rose‘s query.  Rose, installed unadorned at his round table, listened intently as Freeman described a pet project of his, “Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman.”  The cable series investigates the questions that have puzzled humankind, and Freeman, seemingly forever.   During the interview Freeman described himself as having, “a passion to know things.  (As a kid) I was not science minded.  I was an A student because I questioned.”  Questioned? Continue reading

A forest not trees….

More than 20 years ago I staged a personal albeit modest ‘conscientious objector‘ moment.  I was a first year graduate student at the Harvard Business School facing a two-week break at the Christmas holidays.  Since Labor Day we’d been assigned about 100 pages of reading per night.   Our holiday assignment was to read a roughly 300 page book.   So goes the concept of a break….  Knowing full well the risk of being asked to summarize the book publicly upon my return I ignored the assignment.  Much to the horror of my classmates I might add. Continue reading

What are your 100 precincts?

Have you figured out the ten teams that matter?  I asked naively during a meeting earlier this week.  If the looks on the faces opposite to me were any indication, the answer was no.   My meeting comrades had been charged with a change management effort at their company.    They had lengthy color-coded spreadsheets.  Action plans and timelines.  They hoped to train everyone.  Win hearts and minds.  And accrue victory one step at a time…..   Continue reading

Career and Life Blockers…

Ever heard of blockers?   I picked up on the phrase during my tenure as head of HR and Administration at a large S&P 500 corporation.  A blocker in that context was a person who stood in the way of another’s progression.   For those outside the corporate world this may seem odd so here’s the scoop.   Every year the CEO, the head of HR (yours truly), and all business unit presidents would discuss the ‘talent’ (read: employees) who held the title director or higher.  In our world that numbered more than 400 people. Continue reading

Transition Interrupted….

“Take out your application and reread it,” urged an endearing professor to our section of first year students at the Harvard Business School.   We were less than a month into a two-year residence there.   To a one we were humbled by the scope and pace required of us.  At that moment we stood bleary-eyed and dejected.  Her recommendation was intended to rekindle some sense of personal self-worth amidst a sea of upheaval.  Did it work?  Not sure any of us headed for our file cabinets but the sentiment was an elixir in its own right. Continue reading