Ipsos Reid Poll: Female Execs Gauge Their Advances

women managers and executivesAn interesting Ipsos Reid poll of female executives conducted late last year sheds light on what the perceived career holdbacks are for women in the workforce these days.

The results of the online survey, which queried ~500 American women working in managerial or executive roles, suggest that women continue to face obstacles in advancing their careers to upper-level management and executive positions … although the disparities are less today – and hopefully continuing the trend toward parity.

An example of one perception which continues to show a big divide between women and men is this:  While ~37% the survey respondents feel that physical appearance and personal image are factors in career progression for men, nearly all (~90%) believe that they are for women.

On the other hand, the perceived differences are less stark when it comes to opportunities for career progression based on the gender of a female employee’s immediate superior.  When asked how gender affects the chances for women to obtain a managerial position, here’s how the respondents answered:

If the superior is a woman …

  • 26% better chance for advancement
  • 30% worse chance for advancement
  • 44% no difference

If the superior is a man …

  • 26% better chance for advancement
  • 25% worse chance for advancement
  • 49% no difference

… Which translates into trust levels that aren’t so very different at all:

  • ~22% would trust a man more for help with career advancement
  • ~18% would trust a woman more for help with career advancement
  • ~60% express no difference in trust levels

Positive Work Attributes

The Ipsos/Reid survey also found that nearly two-thirds of the respondents consider women to be better leaders than men, primarily for these five reasons:

  • Women are better communicators
  • They are more organized
  • They are more empathetic
  • They have a better understanding of the needs of their employees
  • They are more open to changing their approach

For the record, two attributes that respondents do not attribute to women over men are:

  • Women have better instincts than men
  • They are more invested in an organization’s success compared to men.

With a confident self-image and backed by positive work habits, what do these respondents see as the biggest continuing challenges to their career growth?  Here’s what the Ipsos Reid survey found:

  • The requirement for women to work harder and put in longer hours to prove themselves: ~77%
  • Managing work and family balance: ~61%
  • External factors (economic climate/job loss): ~56%
  • Being welcomed into an established senior management team:  ~48%
  • Dealing with outdated perceptions of women in managerial and executive roles: ~48%
  • Lack of female mentors: ~47%

Moreover, ~78% of respondents discern a “noticeable” different in salaries between men and women.

Asked what a company might “fear” about promoting women to senior managerial and executive posts, the respondents cited several probable factors:  the fear that an executive might want to start and maintain a family … and the fear of too many absences from work due to family obligations.

Bottom line, the Ipsos Reid survey reveals some continuing obstacles for women in the executive-level work force.  But there’s positive news, too.  Additional survey findings can be found here.

If you have additional observations or perspectives on this topic, please share them with other readers here.

The Day-to-Day Things Bothering B-to-B Marketers

Marketing Executives Group (LinkedIn)The discussion boards on LinkedIn are often good places to capture the pulse of what’s happening “on the ground” in the marketing field.

A case in point is a discussion started recently on the Marketing Executives Group on LinkedIn by Carson Honeycutt, an account executive at marketing research firm Mintel.

Honeycutt’s question was, “What are the biggest day-to-day issues for marketing execs?”

He was interested in getting input to help him speak to needs and offer solutions when interfacing with his customers and prospects – even if those solutions meant referring them to other vendors.

According to Honeycutt, he often hears responses like, “Too busy to talk. I’m swamped and we have no budget anyway.”

His query generated some interesting feedback. Comments ranged from the succinct (“sounds like you’re getting the brush-off”) to ones that were more helpful and useful.

The OfficeOne response I liked particularly well came from Brent Parker David, a marketing strategist at CRE8EGY. His listing of the day-to-day issues for marketing execs were to-the-point:

  • Too many meetings;
  • Lack of experienced creative thinking;
  • Personal and political agendas overshadowing the mission and the marketing objectives;
  • Too many “experts” who have never truly accomplished anything — but are very comfortable telling others what to do or how to behave.

I think most of us involved the marketing field for any length of time will be nodding knowingly at the above points …

Another response — more nuanced — came from Matt Smith, a marketing strategist in the consumer packaged goods  field. Here’s what he contributed:

“When Marketing doesn’t provide deep insights and a strategy to leverage them, price discounting takes over. This gives Sales the lead, as they are the executors. Growing sales, no matter how it’s done, is taken as progress. Sales is the hero, even though margins [may] have eroded.

“The byproduct of this is increasing their trade spend budgets — and by extension, their political clout. Conversely, Marketing loses clout as they don’t have an answer that drives sales AND margins. In the zero-sum budget game, the increased trade spend comes out of the advertising/promotion/innovation budget.”

Smith went on to add that “marketing is only stifled by bean-counters if they don’t know their customers and [can’t] devise a creative strategy to get them to buy more at higher margins.”

What are your own thoughts about the biggest day-to-day challenges facing marketing execs? Please share your thoughts with other readers here.

 

Google finds that in hiring practices, what’s old is new again.

Google hiring practices
Google Gone Retro: Its hiring practices look more familiar than different today.

Has Google made an about-face when it comes to the way it hires staff?

Over the years, there have been numerous articles written about Google’s unorthodox and highly selective recruitment and interviewing process

The company seemed to take a certain delight in the degree to which it subjected job candidates to mind-bending suitability tests and humiliating proctology-like HR examinations.

So I was a bit surprised to read this June 19, 2013 article in the New York Times, in which staff business reporter Adam Bryant published excerpts from an interview he had with Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google.

A major objective of the interview was to determine to what degree so-called “Big Data” can be used to help find the right candidates fill leadership and managerial positions in companies.

Instead of giving us all sorts of ways in which Big Data is helping to do that, Mr. Bock focused instead on the limitations.  And in the process, he revealed that Google has made attempts to harness more experiential data to come up with more effective hiring practices.  Here’s what he said:

“We’ve done some interesting things to figure out how many job candidates we should be interviewing for each position, who are better interviewers than others, and what kind of attributes tend to predict success at Google.

On the leadership side, we’re looking at what makes people successful leaders and how we can we cultivate that.”

And what about some of the more infamous Google hiring practices, such as looking at college transcripts from a million years ago or asking people to solve impossible “challenge questions” or equations?  Bock revealed these learnings:

“We found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time.  How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane?  How many gas stations in Manhattan?  A complete waste of time.  They don’t predict anything.  They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

And about GPA stats, Bock revealed that after all of the data crunching, Google’s HR department came to this conclusion:

“GPAs are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless – no correlation at all, except for brand-new college grades where there’s a slight correlation … we found that they don’t predict anything.

After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different.  You’re also fundamentally a different person.  You learn and grow.  You think about things differently.”

So now Google has reverted to the tried-and-true formula of structured behavioral interviews, consistently applied across all applicants. 

This includes using standardized behavioral questions to listen to open-ended responses, which then makes it possible to see how candidates actually interacted in real-world situations, as well as what they consider to be “easy” or “difficult” situations in which they found themselves.

Regarding leadership qualifications, according to Bock, Google has found that these are ambiguous or amorphous characteristics:

“For leaders, it’s important that people know you are consistent and fair in how you think about making decisions, and that there’s an element of predictability.  If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom because then they know that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want.”

Where “big data” comes in to play here is in twice-a-year employee surveys that Google conducts on all of its managers, evaluating a variety of factors. 

Those factors are the fundamental ones — things like sharing information, treating all team employees fairly, and providing clear goals and performance standards.

But Bock cautions that leadership success is highly dependent on the context; what works at one company isn’t necessarily right for another firm.  “I don’t think you’ll ever replace human judgment and human inspiration and creativity,” he notes.

I was pleased to read these comments, because I always felt that attempting to develop a radically new paradigm for job hiring, while being an interesting and novel endeavor, was also somewhat presumptuous on the part of Google. 

At the end of the day, human nature is what it is:  fickle, unpredictable, fallible.  No amount of “re-engineering” is going to change that.

TMI: The Seduction of Data

The Seduction of DataIt was the Roman philosopher Seneca who once remarked, “The abundance of books is a distraction.”

(He said it in Latin, of course.)

Fast-forward 2,000 years … and we’re dealing with the same phenomenon – on steroids.

Jonathan Spira, author of the book Overload: How Too Much Information is Hazardous to your Organization, calculates that “info-inundation” and the productivity inefficiencies that emanate from it costs the U.S. economy around $1 trillion per year.

But how can anyone combat the information explosion and not risk missing out on something important? After all, no one wants to be left behind when it comes to “knowing what needs to be known.”

But there are some small things you can do to help control your information environment. Spira and others suggest a few tips:

  • Skim and scan information first rather than digging deep from the get-go. More than 80% of it is likely dispensable.
  • Set aside some quality “thinking time” to properly digest what is truly important from what you just consumed.
  • Engage in more “real-time” interactions with colleagues rather than wasting energy over long e-communiqués and missed communications.

A related issue is whether “too much” information actually hinders good decision-making. That possibility was studied by psychologists at Princeton University and Stanford University more than a dozen years ago in research that seems even more pertinent and consequential today.

The researchers studied two groups of people. Each group was presented the same set-up: A person with a well-paying job and a solid credit history is applying for a bank loan. The issue facing the two groups is whether to reject the loan application because a background check has uncovered the fact that for the past three months the loan applicant has not paid on a debt to his charge card account.

Group A was informed that the amount of the card account charge was $5,000 … while Group B was told that the amount was either $5,000 or $25,000. Participants could decide to approve or reject the application immediately, or they could hold off making their decision until more information was available.

It was later revealed to Group B participants that the applicant’s debt was only $5,000 rather than $25,000. So eventually both sets of participants had the same information upon which to make their decision.

The experiment’s findings, published in a report titled On the Pursuit and Misuse of Useless Information, revealed the interesting final result: In what clearly should be a cut-and-dried decision to reject the loan application, more than 70% of Group 1 participants dutifully did just that. They rejected the loan application, properly protecting the bank from undue financial risk.

Group 2? Only about 20% rejected the application.

The Princeton/Stanford study concluded that even though both groups possessed the same exact information, Group 2 revealed an intriguing blind spot when it comes to the way many people make decisions: They’re passionately interested in filling information gaps.

But the compulsion to seek out the added information can actually lead people to delay making decisions for too long … or ultimately to make the wrong one.

Making the siren call of info-inundation all the more dangerous, the explosion of information that’s at our fingertips thanks to the Internet means there’s always “one more report” … ” one more evaluation” … “one more perspective” to seek out and consider.

It’s the seduction of data … where sometimes “more” can be “less.”