MBAs, Improving Diversity & Climbing the Corporate Ladder
In this episode, Brian Ardinger talks with Doug Branson about his new book The Future of Tech is Female: How to Achieve Gender Diversity.
Brian and Doug start the conversation by looking at trends in the market. Doug outlines the history of women in senior corporate positions. Of the 70 women that have been CEOs of publicly held companies, 70% have MBAs. Of the 27 women that have held exec positions in IT companies (out of 600), two have STEM backgrounds and 25 have business or law backgrounds. Doug believes the current emphasis on STEM for women produces lopsided experience. It won’t take women higher in the company. They also need business and marketing backgrounds. The IT industry, Doug suggests, is the worst of all industries for representing females. In Silicon Valley, the men they bring in, to fill the middle-level ranks using H1B visas, crowds women and minorities out and prevents them from rising in these environments.
Doug’s book, The Future of Tech is Female, is about how industries can generally improve diversity. There’s been little to no emphasis on what corporations can do and lots of emphasis on how women can change what they are doing. Doug recommends 15 ideas that companies can try. He says individuals can also offer earlier and equal treatment of girls, especially exposure to computers, and suggests there are good arguments for single-sex education. We also need an awareness of the nerd and geek phenomenon that happens as teens to prevent girls from getting involved in computers.
When looking from a global perspective, diversity and corporate governance in the US is a back-burner issue. In Asia and Europe, it’s a very front-burner issue. Europe has focused on quota laws which have worked in some countries, while women have made no headway in Japan.
Doug disagrees with some of Sheryl Sandberg’s advice in her book Lean In. He says women won’t have 11 different positions climbing the corporate ladder, but rather 3.3 positions on the way to CEO. Also, mentoring programs rarely work for women to advance through companies. Australia is now trying mentoring + sponsorship to place women on executive boards there.
What should corporations be implementing? Address work-life issues and support women for childbirth and rearing without hurting their career. It’s statistically insignificant for women to take off two years during a working life. Some companies are supporting women in this way. Other companies are using a structured search, where they include and have an interview with a minority member. The most important thing for companies is to have this idea of dignity, respect, and equality for everyone.
Things are getting better for women. Half of law and medical schools are female, and 40% of MBA programs are women. Sometimes Doug advises women to go where women aren’t, like the Oll and Gas, Ag and Utility businesses. These industries all have females leaders. On the other side of the coin, things haven’t changed for women. Those in dominant positions in tech are choosing people that look like them and that excludes women.
If you are interested in learning more about women in technology and HR trends, check out Inside Outside Innovation Ep. 97 – China Gorman on HR trends
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