Category Archives: demographics

Work/Life Center Expanding Scope Beyond Work/Life

I look on this as a sign of the changing times. Starting in January 2012, the Center for Work-Life Policy will be going by a new name: the Center for Talent Innovation. Its flagship project, the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force, will also now be known as the Task Force for Talent Innovation. (Here’s the full name-change announcement.)

You might not think this is significant, but I do.

When I came on board as Human Resource Executive®’s managing editor in 2000, work/life balance probably topped the buzzword list. Employers, it seemed, were just starting to take this conundrum seriously — parents, namely moms, whose full potential as productive and often top-talented employees was being compromised by the more uncompromising 40-plus-hour, office-bound workweeks.

Now, I take this switch to suggest we’ve graduated to a more inclusive concern about the talents of both genders. Working dads are just as compromised as working moms, I’m thinking the thinking goes.

The Center describes its reason for the name change as twofold: “to drive groundbreaking research that leverages talent across the divides of gender, generation, geography and culture; and to create a community of senior executives united by an understanding that full utilization of the global talent pool is at the heart of competitive success.”

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founding president of the Center, says her organization “is deepening its scope and reach; these last two years, we have ‘gone global.’ ”

She also says the name changes “are driven by enormous growth in the span, scope and stature of the organization. Eight years ago,” she says, “the CWLP was a small, U.S.-based nonprofit centered on women’s retention and acceleration issues.

“Today, it’s a global think tank with representatives in San Francisco, London and Mumbai, and projects in Brazil, China, India and Japan. … Men are newly center-stage in our work. When we look at ‘the X Factor’ — 33-to-46-year-olds — or ‘Asians in America,’ we focus as much on men as women.”

I’m fine with heading in new directions. I’m fine with the notion that concern for women has graduated into a much larger concern for the full realization and utilization of talent overall. I get it that we’re all on a global stage now.

I just hope no one is lured into thinking that that old “conundrum” of the late 1900s and early 2000s — that women leave careers more than men out of concern for their children and that workplace fexibility still isn’t flexible enough for them to reach their full potential and still give their children the lives they deserve — has really been solved.

Women Still Not Making Big Strides as Business Leaders

Not the greatest news for women leadership in business, if you go by recent reports from Catalyst, the New York-based organization dedicated to expanding women’s opportunities in the global marketplace.

According to the 2011 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors, Executive Officers and Top Earners and prior Catalyst censuses, women in corporate America have made no significant gains in the last year and are not further along the corporate ladder than they were six years ago. Youch.

Here are some of the more discouraging statistics, based on responses from 497 U.S.-based companies: Women held 16.1 percent of board seats in 2011, compared to 15.7 percent in 2010. (If we were rounding these, which we usually do, they’d be the same.) In both 2010 and 2011, less than one-fifth of companies had 25 percent or more women directors, while about one-tenth had no women serving on their boards.

There’s more. In both years, women of color still held only 3 percent of corporate board seats. And the number of women holding executive-officer positions actually went down, from 14.4 percent in 2010 to 14.1 percent in 2011.

The salary picture is no brighter for these women executive officers, either: In 2010, women held only 7.6 percent of executive-officer top-earner positions, a percentage that actually went down a tenth of a point in 2011, to 7.5 percent. That leaves men accounting for 92.5 percent of top earners in the year we’re about to usher out the door. Lastly, in both years, nearly one-fifth had 25 percent or more women executive officers, yet more than one-fourth had no women executive officers at all.

How can this be? Hard to say. Ilene H. Lang, president and CEO of Catalyst, says that — considering another Catalyst study demonstrates sustained gender diversity in the boardroom correlates with better corporate performance — “continued obstacles to progress make no sense.”

I know in my 11 years here, we’ve written many stories suggesting top-talent, high-performing women are rethinking the corporate-ladder top-leadership track because of its detriment to their very delicate work/life balance. But I would have thought corporate America would be further along than this by now in helping women solve those challenges — through greater flexibility, leadership development, telecommuting and teleworking options, coaching and mentoring, you name it … just sayin.

At least, on a positive note, a more expanded look by shows more advancement. According to a recently launched “Women at Work” infographic by the Foster City, Calif.-based digital resource for online education, some 78 million women are projected to enter the workforce by 2018, with 10 percent of women over 25 holding an education beyond a bachelor’s degree in 2009, compared to only 1.7 percent in 1960.

OK, well, there’s that. I just hope those 78 million are being supported better by then.


STEM Programs’ Cultures Need to Change, Study Finds

Research companies eager to hire more female and minority scientists to their mix may want to consider these latest findings of the Bayer Facts of Science Education XV survey.

In this, the 15th such survey by Bayer Corp., 413 science, technology, engingeering and mathematics department chairs were polled from the United States’ leading research universities and those that produce the most African-American, Hispanic and American Indian graduates.

Researchers found that, although American women entering college are the best-prepared academically to successfully graduate with STEM degrees, women and underrepresented minorities still lag way behind Caucasian and Asian males in actually securing those degrees and going on to work in those fields.

The survey asked respondents to shed light on the educational environments in which this shift occurs and found a noticeable lack of encouragement for females and minorities to pursue these studies by departments still headed up by mostly male (87 percent) and Caucasian (88 percent) chairs.

“One of the greatest challenges most universities face is changing the cuture of teaching and learning in STEM courses,” says Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who chaired the National Academies committee that produced the 2010 report, Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science & Technology Talent at the Crossroads.

“Too often,” he says, “we in higher education believe high quality is related to how many students are weeded out of STEM courses. Instead, the emphasis should be on rigorous course work coupled with support, together leading to larger numbers of students succeeding academically.”

Greg Babe, Bayer’s president and CEO, says this latest research “adds an important, unheard voice to the national discussion about how we as a country need to broaden student participation in STEM to include more women and minorities.”

Although the release about the study doesn’t detail the part corporate America should play, I would venture to guess if more universities heard from more employers dissatisfied with the numbers of women and minorities graduating from these programs and coming to them as qualified job candidates, the impetus to change that culture might be that much greater.

Study: Older Workers are the Most Engaged

New research from Boston College’s Sloan Center on Aging & Work finds that employees 40 years old and older are the most engaged and demonstrate the the highest level of organizational commitment. It also finds that those 50 years old and older are the most satisfied with their jobs.

The Sloan Center’s Generations of Talent Study gathered data about work experiences from 11,298 individuals working for seven multinational companies, at 24 worksites in 11 countries. The researchers divided the countries into “old-developed countries,” or those with older populations and developed market economies (Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, the U.K., the U.S.) and “young-developing countries,” or those with younger populations and developing market economies (Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa and Botswana).

In both sets of countries, workers 40 years old and older reported higher levels of engagement, organizational commitment and job satisfaction than their younger colleagues, the study found. It also found that job satisfaction is highest among those 50 and older and nearly as high wtih those who are younger than 30.

“Contrary to popular opinion, older workers are the most engaged, and forward-thinking companies need to begin strategizing about how to capitalize on this asset,” said Dr. Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, the Sloan Center’s director.

Data Shows Educated Women More Prominent in the Workplace, a digital resource for online education, just put out an analysis of Forbes‘ list of the World’s Most Powerful Women of 2011, called “Wonder Women,” showing 56 of those 100 women holding graduate degrees.

The salaries of these educated women are also going up, according to the analysis: Since 1979, women with college educations have seen a higher increase in average earnings than men.

Perhaps the most striking statistic is that, of the 100 Most Powerful Women, 88 percent have children. Not coincidentally, many work in family-friendly companies — such as Kraft Foods and Morgan Stanley — that provide fully-paid maternity leaves (something all countries but the United States, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea guarantee today).

“Juggling a powerful career and a family can be a lot for anyone to handle,” says Seth Restaino, spokesperson for OnlineSchools. “However, this list … proves that it can be done … .”

But just how motivated women are, in general, to pursue this upper echelon appears to be another matter. I’m in the process of analyzing for our website ( a nationwide study recently put out by More magazine showing 43 percent of women surveyed saying they’re less ambitious now than they were a decade ago.

Another eye-opener in that survey: 73 percent say they would not apply for their boss’ job. Two of three women in the poll, conducted by The Polling Company Inc./WomanTrend, say they prefer more free time over more pay and two of five say they’d be willing to accept less pay for more workplace flexibility.

More on that More poll to come. For now, as to the real status of women in corporate America, it appears the jury’s still out on where we really are, and where we’re headed.

Report: Employees Getting More Suicidal

Thoughts of suicide are permeating the workplace, according to Harris, Rothenberg International, a New York-based firm that provides EAP, work/life consulting and other services to employers. Calls to HRI’s EAP counselors from employees contemplating suicide and managers concerned about suicidal employees are up 33 percent compared to the period a year ago, according to the company.

Not surprisingly, the lousy economy’s a big factor. HRI points to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention entitled “Impact of Business Cycles on the U.S. Suicide Rates, 1928-2007,” which notes that suicide rates rise and fall with the economy.  What’s tragic, as HRI points out, is that many people with suicidal thoughts avoid getting help and instead try and “tough it out” on their own.

Suicidal thoughts are often triggered by despair over workplace changes wrought by the economy, says HRI’s director of clinical services, Dr. Randy Martin. Many employees thought (or were led to believe) that changes were temporary, but when they realize that’s not the case, despair can set in, he says. Some employees struggle with grief over the loss of coworkers who were downsized, while others deal with enormous stress and anxiety from generational conflicts with bosses who may be younger than them.

“There has been a significant increase in employee stress and anxiety from 2010 through the year to date, and overwhelmed employees who cannot see some light at the end of the tunnel may feel powerless, hopeless, angry and disenfranchised, which can lead to self-harming thoughts and behaviors,” says Martin. “The economic crisis has become a human crisis.”



Ding Dong, The MANcession’s Dead

Great news for those of us born with the Y chromosome: The so-called “mancession,” which saw employment among men decline by more than 5.2  million between late 2007 and the end of 2009, may finally be over, according to the prolific folks at outplacement-consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Since January 2010, male employment has risen by almost 1.7 million, according to Challenger, which uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Just within the last 12 months alone, 686,000 men have found jobs–with the caveat that the unemployment rate among males is still at 8.9 percent.

Women, on the other hand, now seem to be faring more poorly than men on the jobs front–only 365,000 of them have found jobs since January 2010, while the number of employed women has fallen by 85,000 in the last 12 months. With male-dominated industries like construction, auto manufacturing and financial services shedding jobs like crazy earlier in the recession, it seemed that men were bearing the brunt of the economic downturn. Today, amidst the putative recovery, government cutbacks and slashed education budgets mean that women are now dealing with a disproportionate share of job losses in part becuase the aforementioned sectors are dominated by women–for example, women account for 62 percent of local-government workforces, according to Challenger. So, it’s been an equal-opportunity downturn after all …

‘Do You Mind if I Bring My Mom to the Interview?’

Admittedly, this latest survey from OfficeTeam doesn’t come with many numbers — I was hard-pressed to find any, in fact — and we’ve certainly written about “helicopter parents” crowding in on their millennials’ job searches and careers, but some of what the respondents recounted were worth sharing.

One parent wanted to sit in during the interview. Another called a politician to push a hiring executive to hire his son. One mother submitted her daughter’s resume on her behalf. Another called to ask how her child did in the job interview. And my favorite: “A parent came by my desk and told me that he expected his daughter to get preference for a position since he was a manager at the company.”

More proof that a whole lot of my baby booming cohorts just don’t get it — you know, that parenting tip about letting children grow up.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing firm collected these and other anecdotes from more than 1,300 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees in the United States and Canada. OfficeTeam Executive Director Robert Hosking says parents mean well, but “those who become overly involved in a child’s job search can derail their son’s or daughter’s prospects of being hired because companies may question the applicant’s level of independence and maturity.”

Take it from one who knows, it’s damn hard to let go and let them sink or swim. Each one of my sons, 30 and 26, has had to tell their mom to “cool it” once or twice. But at least that was after I asked their permission to get involved.

For those worst-offending helicopter parents, and I hope for your sake you know who you are, maybe you can make asking permission your first step toward recovery.