Category Archives: Dual Income families

Re-thinking our think tanks

Is this the best our brighest can come up with?

Women an untapped resource
Earlier last year the World Economic Forum issued a report indicating long-term talent management issues were actually being concealed by high levels of unemployment.
In today’s global and fast-changing business environment, access to highly skilled people – not just top talent, but also people who possess essential expertise – is crucial to succeed and grow,” Hans-Paul Bürkner, Global Chief Executive Officer and President of The Boston Consulting Group, Germany commented. “Some industries, such as business services, IT and construction, are likely to experience significant skills gaps, regardless of geography. At the same time, certain countries, such as Japan, Russia and Germany, will face shortages of highly skilled employees in many industries.”

The report calls for increased geographic mobility among countries as part of the solution. Anyone involved in executive search or recruitment will be familiar with the complex issues involved in enticing potential candidates to be internationally, regionally or even locally mobile. There are many factors in the frame: cultural issues, language and education system considerations, commuting times, childcare support and custody matters, dual career families – to name but a few.

However, the report suggests that the talent crisis will start much sooner than anticipated. With an aging population of hitherto unrecorded levels, the 60 + demographic is projected to exceed the under 15 demographic , for the first time ever in history by 2050. It is anticipated that in order to sustain the economic growth of the past 20 years, the United States, for example, will need to add 26 million workers to its talent pool by 2030. Most developing countries can expect large skill deficits in a range of categories. The report calls for a number of eminently sensible strategic measures to extend the talent pool by developing the skills of migrant workers, tapping into 2nd and 3rd tier universities and encouraging companies to extend the reach and creativity of their recruitment practises.

So far so thoughtful.

A gem
Imagine my surprise therefore when this little gem drifted onto my screen a few weeks ago. Another think tank report from The World Economic Forum report on 5th January 2011, Global Talent Risk analysing projected talent shortages in 25 countries, 13 industries and 9 occupational clusters between 2020 -2030. If you peer hard and long enough, one of the reports suggestions, last at number 7 is “Extend the pool by tapping women, older professionals, the disadvantaged and immigrants

So despite the fact that women comprise a significant global economic demographic, they are for some reason grouped with other seemingly marginalised categories. Is this the best our brightest can do? Fewer than a fifth of leaders present last year at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2010 were women. This year efforts are being made to increase the number of women representatives at the 2011 conference, by insisting on attendance quotas for women. This is possibly designed to revamp the Forum’s alpha male image. But will that be enough?

Marginalised
Women represent 60% of today’s graduates and therefore a major segment of a top talent pool. I am always astounded why our leaders seem so resistant to reviewing our current talent management strategies to maximise their contribution to the workplace, to the point where governments are talking about a need to impose quotas. It has to make economic sense to maximise the potential of our workforces. Yet this significant qualified and skilled demographic, is lumped together with the “disadvantaged and immigrants” ( whoever you are, I’m sure you are very nice indeed and no offence intended at all) by some of the supposedly leading intellects and the brightest and most creative brains in our global economies. It’s hardly surprising that we find ourselves in this situation.

So perhaps before we start uprooting and whizzing people around the globe to fill these gaps, one approach might be to ask how can we tap into the talent we have on our doorsteps? What do organisations need to do to maximise the potential of this key sector of the talent pool sitting there in the wings?

Now is the time to reinvent, rather than react. Perhaps we also need to re-think our think thanks.

Home and work: Balance or convergence?

Transplanting biz strategies into the home
The gender split of household duties and child care as well as a general work/ life balance, is one of the most talked about issues in any group of working women whether on-line or IRL. In a women’s online professional forum I have recently joined as a mentor, the issue is debated intensely, although with few solutions offered. Complaints abound: the lack of workplace flexibility, partner inflexibility, school runs, orthodontists appointments, parent teacher conferences, nanny, crèche and au pair issues

Earlier this year, I carried out a survey of Gen Y women and 54% indicated that they expected their partners to be fully engaged in household management and childcare, so with older generations letting go of the Superwoman myth, things should be improving. However currently many women are still assuming a greater share of domestic and childcare responsibilities.

Non – alpha males
Lucy Kellaway in an article in the FT.com Breaking the glass ceiling at home carried out an analysis of the partners of the top 50 Women in World Business. and decided that these women successful were in relationships with non-alpha males. “The biggest reason that alpha women don’t become CEOs is that they have made the common, yet fatal, error of marrying an alpha man” These non alpha males are seemingly happy to take a back seat and let their partner’s careers take priority.

I think however we need to bring some financial perspective into this discussion. Ms Rosenfeld’s husband, may have given up his professional activity, but was it really to pick up a dish cloth or pair up the socks? With Ms Rosenfeld’s compensation package according to Forbes estimated to be at $26m I somewhat doubt it.

Genetic hardwiring
Lucy Kellaway’s theory, interesting though it is, also flies in the face of anthropological theories fielded by psychologists who tell us that women are genetically programmed to seek out the males who will help them produce the strongest children. In organisations, these men are commonly (but not always I agree) found near the top of the pyramid, profession or chosen field of activity. So it would suggest that ambitious women would tend to seek out like-minded men.

So how does the average non salary millionaire couple strike up the ideal balance, so that both can achieve their career goals? As the workplace becomes more flexible with dress down Friday’s, remote working, and with the possibility of employees being professionally contactable any time and anywhere, how are some couples and single parents dealing with this?

I spoke to a number of different women and it seemed that many were applying business techniques in the home. I heard the words procedure manuals, outsourcing, monthly meetings, responsibility allocation, forward planning.

Personal stories
Julia a senior business consultant told me ” I approached it almost in a business change management way. During my maternity leave , I identified key tasks, drew up ” job profiles ” for our domestic management, splitting chores and responsibilities according to our strengths and capabilities and what was logistically possible. We agreed to allocate a budget for a weekly cleaning company, because neither of us want to spend our very little free time doing the ironing. We decided that in the short-term to take the financial hit to make life easier and it was a small penalty to pay for both of us staying on our career paths“.

It was one of my greatest professional challenges combining work and home” Sarah now a CFO with an international pharmaceutical company ” the early years were very stressful. I had a number of au pairs and nanny’s which basically ate up my whole salary. At the time my husband wanted me to give up work and stay at home. Happily I didn’t because we are now divorced! As a single parent I allocate domestic responsibilities between my children. We all have the equivalent of job descriptions and ad hoc project management duties! I am lucky I can employ domestic support – a man before you ask!

Sally’s approach is much more indirect ” I cultivated some weaknesses. I made a mess of the laundry early in our relationship and it’s not a job that I’m now expected to do. I designed a procedure manual and made sure all the recipes we use are in there. Now my son aged 13 has his own copy and is quite a competent cook. I use online shopping and home delivery for almost everything and even outsource the ironing. I’m one of those crazy people who goes to the supermarket at midnight! “

Melissa and her partner have a monthly domestic meeting in the same way as they might in an office. “We check how we are doing. Manage our budget, make plans and allocate responsibilities. Now the kids are older they also join in for the last part. The minute we let the formal structure slide – chaos descends in no time! “

So as the gender split of domestic responsibilities becomes a workplace issue, some women are making a corporate style stamp on their home management. But is this a successful attempt to find balance or a destructive convergence as Stephen Covey suggests in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families,Home life has become more like an efficiently run but joyless workplace , while the actual workplace with its emphasis on empowerment and teamwork, is more like a family

What do you think?