The Reality of Our Generation

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           When my peers learn that I am in the business school, they often dismiss my discipline as crunching numbers and checking stocks in a suit. What they typically don’t realize is that business is so much more. It’s about learning how to think – asking the right questions and finding innovative answers. When reading The New York Times a while back, I came across an op-ed article that particularly struck me. As Harvard education specialist Tony Wagner stated, “The goal of education today should not be to make every child ‘college ready’ but ‘innovation ready’ – ready to add value to whatever they do.”

            The key words there are innovation and value. Contending in a business world that’s undergoing such rapid transformation due to technology and globalization means it’s increasingly necessary to be able to create the change rather than simply adapt to it. As columnist Thomas L. Friedman points out in his article, the high-wage, middle-skill job is a luxury of the past. While our parents simply had to find a job, we now have to invent it. The reality of our generation is that the only high-wage job you’ll find is also high-skill, and these skills extend beyond the expected academic excellence. This revamped skillset calls for distinction in communication, collaboration, and critical thinking, in addition to an unflappable and intrinsic motivation to continue learning and take risks. Luckily enough, this skillset sounds remarkably similar to a business education.

            When I thought about this new reality of my future as a businesswoman, I took my humanitarian passions into consideration and translated all of these ideas in to two words: social entrepreneurship. With that in mind, I began my hunt for some empowering female examples and soon found a brilliant advocacy organization called Women Deliver. In celebration of International Women’s Day, their voters choose the top 3 from a list of 25 social enterprises competing in the Women Deliver Social Enterprise Challenge to get their idea started with nonprofit seed funding and legal assistance. Among the top 10 winners are organizations that support computer proficiency for minority females, financial workshops for teens in poverty, maternal health care in developing countries, and so much more. Check out the link for a closer look at the amazing work done by these inspiring women.

            This new reality of increased rigor may seem very daunting. In many ways, it is. But it also marks the beginning of something beautiful – doing more valuable, meaningful work than ever before. Back in grade school, we were tested on our ability to regurgitate facts back on to a piece of a paper. Now, our careers will instead be tested by our ability to address real problems with elegant and innovative solutions. The possibilities are endless; all that’s left to do is make it happen. How’s that for a number cruncher in a suit? •

Rachel Julie Huynh

The University of Texas at Austin | The McCombs School of Business

Related Links:

The New York Times Article

Women Deliver Social Enterprise Challenge Finalists Web Page URL

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Paid Maternity Leave: The Hidden Downside for Women

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            Women continue to have a growing presence in the business world, but there is still a struggle to balance work and family obligations.  This second shift of child and home care must be completed, and with the current policies in the workplace, this burden often falls primarily on the women in the house.

            According to research conducted by Dr. Heymann, Dean of the Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California, the Unites States “is the only high-income country that does not offer a paid leave program.”  As the current policy stands nation-wide, the only option readily available for the parents of a newly born child is to take an unpaid leave from their jobs.  This leave hurts the employees’ job performance and sometimes results in the employee losing their job altogether.  Although individual states have begun to enact policies of their own, there is a clear discrepancy between the treatment of men and women under these policies.  When a paid leave is offered, this leave lasts longer for new mothers as compared to the father of the newborn.  When women are paid to stay at home after childbirth, they are out of the workforce for longer periods of time, and are placed at a disadvantage in their efforts to advance their careers. 

It seems these maternity leave policies are encouraging traditional gender roles as socioeconomically it makes the most sense for men to work if  women are given the option of receiving pay for longer periods of time while on leave for the purpose of childcare.  According to “Working Mother”, “…the average time off in 2012 was seven weeks of fully paid maternity leave, while new fathers received an average of only three paid weeks”.  Although a father may have a more flexible work schedule, the mother is more often the one who takes a family leave as she is more likely to be paid for the longer period of time.  This allows the male to continue to further his career without interruption while, due to family leave economics, women exit the work force in order to care for a child.

As women push to be a more integral part of the business world, policies like this one continue to impede their progress.  Women strive to have equality in the workplace as they break down traditional gender roles.  The fact that the mother is considered primarily responsible for a newborn child is a gender stereotype that must be eradicated in order to give women equal opportunity in the business world.  The current nation-wide policy seems to be outdated and any change regarding this topic has moved far too slowly.  It is clear that there must be some attention paid to equalizing the policy of paid family leave for either parent as current policy is negatively affecting womens’ performance and presence in business.

 

MaryEllen Caruso

Tufts University

Link to Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/23/your-money/us-trails-much-of-the-world-in-providing-paid-family-leave.html?pagewanted=all

Mind the Gap

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Little girls all over the world are told that they can be whatever they set their minds to. Having attended an all-girls high school, I was surrounded by only young women being the head of all the clubs and filling all the seats in the hardest classes. It was grounded in me, that women could do anything just as well, if not better than men and not to let any stereotypes stop me from going after my goals. Although I hold that message clear in my heart, this article did prove a solid point. As Budson stated our generation has been “raised of women telling [us] that [we] can be anything [we] want to be, that the world is [our] oyster. But what [was not shared], is that [we] can be anything that [we] want to be, but the structures and systems and culture have not caught up.” Even though we strive to be CEO’s and entrepreneurs, society has not yet fully come to terms with that idea. This is evident through the apparent wage gap, even in one of the most progressive states.

It is a common misconception that the reason men get paid more than women for doing the same job is because of childbirth but, this article disproves that claim. Sadly, women’s “number one reason for leaving is they don’t see that they are being valued by the organization, or they don’t see growth opportunities.” Women are seen as very different players than men in the business world. As this article discusses, when men are competitive it is seen as a positive thing yet, when women are competitive it is seen as them being rude. An interesting statistic that enhances that evidence that men make more than women in the workplace is that “a woman one year out of college makes $7,622 less than her male counterpart. In short, women begin well behind the starting line, a fact that can snowball over a lifetime into a huge pay gap, says Babson’s Susan Duffy.” This reality is hard to fathom but, sadly something many of us will have to face as graduation approaches us in the next few years. It was also made clear that the higher up in a company a women goes the more likely they will be paid less than their fellow male counterparts because wage is less monitored and therefore more susceptible to their boss’s biased discretion.

I believe that a point the article made on the lack of awareness of the wage gap is a key reason that it still exists today. In such a progressive state as Massachusetts, were women are known to be successful, no one really thinks of questioning such a thing as wage gap. It is a harsh reality to realize that when society sees a women doing well for herself in her career, that they think it is good enough and she should not need to question her equality to her male staff. As a young, powerful, female generation that truly has the world at our fingertips, I believe that it is our job to make sure that the structure and culture of society catch up to our growing abilities and treat us as equals. Together our voices can carry the message of equality but, in order to do so we must speak up and demand it.

Jessica Klein

Syracuse University

Link to the article: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2013/01/gender-wage-gap-men-women-massachusetts/

“Gender is Performance” – Is Fashion Pioneering Equality in the Workplace?

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Over the past century, women have been actively seeking for equal opportunity as men in terms of pay and advancement in the workforce.  Although there has been gradual improvement,  the reoccurring theme is that men still hold considerable amounts of leadership positions at the top of the career ladder as well as receiving higher salaries relative to women.  However, for professional models in the fashion industry, the opposite is the case. 

I am currently a business student; however, I wish to explore careers extending beyond the realm of financial services to align with what I am interested in, but more importantly, what I am really passionate about.  With that being said, fashion is one industry that has never ceased to charm me.  Although professional modelling is not a viable career for myself or a majority of the world population, the dynamics within the industry is directly contrary to that of conventional situations and as a result, I believe it provides a unique perspective to bridging gender inequality in the common workplace.

In 2009, top female models earned almost 50 times more than top male models!  Why? The argument is simple: there are just so many more components involved in female modelling.  Former model Liza Elliott-Ramirez notes that “females .. generally have to pose more, wear more, sit in a hair and makeup chair for hours.. if you have someone who has extremely curly hair, and they want straight hair, that’s two hours.  Men are just short hair; it’s less to do. It’s less work. It’s a blessing and a curse.”  I’m sure that although more is required from female models, it would definitely be realistic for a male model to accomplish these tasks as well.  In an article by the Guardian, American philosopher Judith Butler argues that “gender is performance,” and that by observing men “drag up, in make-up and wigs, [do] we [then] understand how hard women have to work to look like women every day.”  A recent trend of androgynous models emerging in the industry, such as Ukrainian male but working (as a) female model, Stav Strashko and Casey Legler, the first woman to be signed exclusively as a male model, are two examples of those who have turned the tables on gender norms of the fashion industry.  From the POV of agents, they are basically hiring two models for the price of one! My comprehension from these occurrences is that compensation should be based on actual talent and performance of the individual. Strashko and Legler are skilled models when portraying both their own genders as well as the opposite sex, and at the end of the day, regardless of biological gender, they are stellar at the work they were hired to do and compensation is reflective of that. 

Of course, different industries operate differently, but I think this is a great model to follow suit.  If individuals are rewarded solely based on the work they are competent in, qualified and hired for, and advancement is contingent on performance, this could be one feasible option to consider to bridge the gap between men and women in the common workplace.  

Alice Liu 

University of Toronto St. George

Links to articles:

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/01/25/male-models-earn-less-than-female-models-wheres-the-outrage/
http://www.upstart.net.au/2013/05/14/morphing-genders-for-fashion/
http://www.guardian.co.uk/fashion/2013/mar/03/model-casey-legler-perfect-man

Don’t Just Lean In: Be Entrepreneurial!

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“Lean in,” Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg encourages women. Seize available opportunities within existing organizations. However, rising female business owners in the newly recovering economy encourage fellow (wo)men to instead open new businesses. According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), 2013 is the year for the Female Entrepreneur. Female business owners are very optimistic about their businesses’ overall performance and businesses’ economic outlook. Most importantly, they predict that more women will start their own businesses this year. With the advancing discussion on gender equity, as well as the increasing use of technology (i.e Web 2.0) in small business marketing, now is the perfect time to start a business.

1. Empowerment programs are being offered by big corporations to assist women in improving their existing businesses or creating new businesses. This year, Walmart’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Project Partnership is prominent in the U.S., China, Canada, Mexico, India, and Brazil. Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Women Program provides global female business owners with business and management education through partnerships.

2. Do what you like, and possibly achieve life-long dreams. Traditional entrepreneurship is still one of the real ways to create your own position and make tons of money doing so. As bestselling author Kelly Corrigan might ask, why should what we want to do with our lives be a big secret? If you have business ideas, don’t be afraid to get started. Corrigan dares you.

3. Be part of the change. “Entrepreneurship is a vehicle for job creation and women are the future of entrepreneurship,” asserts NAWBO President Diane Tomb. Women are not only eager to start their own businesses, but also to push into male-dominated industries – especially now that these industries have opened opportunities that have not existed before. With entrepreneurial ambition and social innovation, women have the power to change the world.

4. Don’t be afraid to fall into a stereotype. Meghan Casserly explains in a Forbes article just a year ago that stereotypes regarding women’s choice in entrepreneurial endeavor marginalize some women in favor of others. “Pink Ghetto” is the somewhat offensive concept that most female business owners focus on start-ups relating to beauty, shopping, mothering, or fashion. While this may be true, don’t be embarrassed about the fact. Go with what you know, even if it plays into a silly stereotype.  

5. Join the (fun) conversation. Women Entrepreneurs Rock the World just held its annual conference in New York City. Get involved with the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College (U.S. News rated #1 for Entrepreneurship). The World Awaits is a women’s business conference to be held on October 2-5, 2013 in the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami, Florida.

These are just a few good reasons to start a business this year. George Bernard Shaw told us that “life is not about finding yourself; life is about creating yourself.” So lean in; create opportunities. Step in and make it your business to seize the day.

Lena Wu

Babson College, Massachusetts

The Power of Mistakes: Amy Schulman

Amy Schulman - Pfizer

For women striving to compete with men in the business and professional world, emulating “perfection” can often seem like a survival necessity.  But according to Amy Schulman, the senior vice president of the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer, this mindset can be both constricting and detrimental to a woman’s success.

 According to Schulman, this mindset is markedly different in women than in men due to the fact that women tend to interpret things internally.  Whereas men tend to blame a mistake on the situation, women tend to blame themselves and attribute a mistake to a personality or talent deficit. When receiving workplace feedback, for example, a neutral rating is often interpreted by women as a problem and by men as doing “pretty well”.  This can then affect the way a woman feels about her performance, her likelihood at achieving success, and her desire to stay with the same company.

So while “perfection” can often seem like the only way to make a positive impression in the workforce, understanding that this is not always possible can actually be more beneficial.  Understanding and staying aware of the gender differences in performance interpretation could make a huge improvement in the gap between the number of men and women in the top ranks of a company.  In making perfection in performance a lesser priority and making mental interpretation a greater one, women will be able to better “lean in”—ultimately allowing for both greater personal and corporate success.

Stephanie Wisner

Cornell University

Further reading: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2629

Beyond the Borders of Verbal Communication: Fleischmann’s Story

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In present-day society, we are often inspired to follow in the footsteps of past-day heroes, whom we look to as role models and inspirations.  According to Ranker.com, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., and Helen Keller are among the most recognized role models people would like to meet in person.  While I find myself in agreement with these voters, I have also paid more attention to the everyday people around me and subsequently have found myself inspired by their stories.  Whether it’s the mother in the check-out counter in front of me balancing the groceries in one hand and a crying baby on the other or the young athlete who persevered despite an injury, I find all their stories inspiring.

Recently, I came across the story of Carly Fleischmann.  Carly was a young girl diagnosed with autism at 2 years old.  Doctors described her as being mentally deficient and that she would in all likelihood retain the developmental maturity of a 6-year old.  She had difficulties learning to walk and sit upright, similar to the masses of other children diagnosed with autism.  Nonetheless, her parents never relinquished hope and instead had her undergo intensive therapy every day from the time she turned 3.  Her progress was described as being “excruciatingly slow” and many of her parents’ friends suggested the idea of institutionalizing her, though her parents rejected the notion.  Her slow progress continued until she turned 11, when Carly made a momentous breakthrough with help of one device: the computer.  Unbelievably to both her therapists and her parents, she slowly began to channel her thoughts by typing them out on the computer.  Words such as “You don’t know what it feels like to be me, when you can’t sit still because your legs feel like they are on fire” and “People look at me and assume I am dumb, because I can’t talk” poured forth from this young girl – the very same girl whom many had believed to be mentally retarded until that point in time.

The power behind the words of this 11-year old was both mystical and awe-inspiring to me.  Despite her lack of verbal communication, she still managed to transmit her voice via this mechanical tool. In writing this blog post, I was hoping that everyone would be able to see the ways in which people around us, who in all regards may seem ordinary, may in fact be wells of limitless potential.  I realized the fact that we don’t just have to look to champions of the past for inspiration, but we can also look to the people who surround us in everyday life.  I learned a lot from Carly’s story and especially took to heart this one message from her: “I am autistic, but that is not who I am.  Take time to know me, before you judge me.”  Someone may carry a disability or disorder like Carly, but that isn’t all that defines them.  I like to think that Carly opened my eyes to the realization that people are creatures waiting for the “extraordinary” in them to be discovered.  By observing and interpreting the way people carry themselves in day-to-day life, you might just find yourself being perpetually inspired.  In the same way as judging a book after having read it and not by its cover, I hope that Carly’s story inspires the rest of us to look more kindly upon the strangers around us, and understanding that they too may just be waiting for someone to uncover their potential.

Isabelle Lam

University of Alberta

Further reading: http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/14/tech/mobile/carly-fleischmann-mobile-autism

Job Hopping: Good or Bad?

Job-Hopping

Wherever I turn, I feel like people are talking about how much the world has changed, even within the last decade alone. From the improvement of technology to a more global thinking society, no one can deny the every-changing world we live in.

One of the major changes people are talking about is how frequently newcomers to the work force are changing jobs, or as it has been termed: job-hopping. An article from Forbes commented on the undeniable difference between the workers over and under the age of 35. According to the article, the average worker’s expectation of staying at a job is around four and a half years, while “ninety-one percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three.” Because the facts are irrefutable, I decided it was time that I thought more about the downsides and benefits of this relatively new trend. One of the obvious downsides to moving around so much is the perception of not being committed to a company. Not too long ago, recruiters would look poorly upon someone who had three different jobs within the last five years, however we may be currently on track to make this résumé a norm. Workers who are actively looking to quickly climb the corporate ladder usually employ the method of job-hopping.

In order for companies to entice their employees to stay with the company, I suggest two things. One, allow for growth. Having achievable goals or a new position to work towards allows a person to climb the corporate ladder internally and makes it unnecessary to search for a position at a different company. The second main factor that will convince workers to stay is flexibility. Like the Jeanne Melster mentions in the article, when bosses listen to what their employees want or need, and reasonable accommodations are made, then they are more likely to stay.

Sometimes change is vital. If there is no personal growth, no intellectual challenge or unreasonable demands, then look for another position. When I try to imagine where I’ll be in five, ten, fifteen years, my mind goes blank. I have no idea. I want to be happy at my job. I do not know if that means I will need to go through ten different jobs, I will find the perfect one out of college, or I will be satisfied at some point between these two extremes. However what I do know is that I will not settle until I am. I believe this is one of the biggest differences between our generation and the ones before us: our determination to not settle for less than what we want. So let’s go out there, make a difference and be happy – whether it takes twenty-five jobs or only one.

Avery Stroman

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Further Reading : http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannemeister/2012/08/14/job-hopping-is-the-new-normal-for-millennials-three-ways-to-prevent-a-human-resource-nightmare/

Do You Control Your Role Model?

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We’re constantly being told what we can and can’t do, where we’re allowed to go, at what age we’re allowed to go places. And it may be frustrating, but we allow it because it’s external. But, at least we always have the ability to control our internal things.

Or do we…

We all think we have control over things that WE choose. Things like our role models. But what if we actually didn’t? Think about it – how many guys have women role models? Yet how many girls have male role models? Now hear me out. I get the automatic reaction that girls want to be like girls and guys want to be like guys, I do. But actually think about it. How come no one would blink an eye if a young girl had a poster of Barack Obama, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, but it would be so wrong if a young boy had a poster of Hilary Clinton, Beyoncé, or Ivanka Trump solely because they looked up to them? Yeah, I know – the realisation of how true that is, is frustrating.

Now I don’t want to preach, far from it. I get that we still have a long way to go in business as women. The fact that the percentage of senior managers throughout the world that are women is still only 24% in 2012 is a little more than just depressing. But the fact that children feel, be it subconscious or not, that they have restrictions on who their role models can be. That my friend, is extremely depressing.

Now contrary to what most of you are thinking, I do not think that the answer is to push for more businesses to hire women and to promote women as incredible role models. I just want successful women to be promoted as equally as men, and to be viewed as a good role model for both boys and girls. I think a lot of the time those extra pushes actually do the complete opposite. Take the awards for companies that hire a lot of women: “Top Employer for Women”. Fantastic! I think it’s great that women know which companies they can work for that will not discriminate against them, really I do. But what about the other extreme? Are men more intimidated by companies that are the “Top Employers for Women” because they feel they may get overlooked for not being a women? Or maybe that the female managers will be this crazy, media induced version of a feminist? Or that the entire office culture will be a replication of the Stepford Wives? That is not what we want!

But it all starts with education. Not of the masses and not that your company hires the most women or has the most women in senior management roles, but of equality. Equality in the office, in our everyday lives and in our role models. Educate your own kids, other children, people that you care about. And one day, maybe just one, we’ll be able to take over the world enough to have our posters on walls of people who look up to us.

Kristiann McCool

University of Alberta

Link to article: http://www.internationalbusinessreport.com/files/ibr2012%20-%20women%20in%20senior%20management%20master.pdf

Women on Wall Street: The “All Star” Analysts We Need

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Although there is a huge presence of women in many industries nowadays, Wall Street is one that still lacks adequate female representation. According to John Coates, a neuroscientist at Cambridge University, “the trading world is 95% young males.”

Women are needed in this industry, not just because of fair job opportunities, but also because it is proven that they could significantly improve the market. There was a study done in 2010 by Alok Kumar at the University of Texas showing that females have an important quality, which is positive in a risk-taking based industry. The study examined records of every single projection made by all Wall Street analysts from 1983, and found that women were often more accurate than men (by a margin of 7.3%) when deciding when to take a risk and when not to.  There were also more reported female “all star” analysts, again because of their success in the trading business. Women have 10% less testosterone than men and are not as quick to blindly take a risk, as men do. Women are more attentive to costs and benefits and only take a risk if they have a good chance in winning. This could really make a difference on Wall Street and overall improve our economy.

My father works in the trading field and has told me that he works with some women, although most of his colleagues are men. When I asked whether or not he sees any women doing a better job than men, he said that the few women in his firm have high positions. They are reliable and are hard workers, and although there are not many of them, their roles in the business are important and may even be more efficient than a male’s. More and more, women are becoming interested in business and wanting to become a part of the working world. Hopefully, in the next decade, women will become more involved on Wall Street and put their talent and unique capabilities to use.

Jessica Menachemson

Bucknell University

Link to article: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/belle_market_lrAp5fhNJHSRBF3KapsBIJ