Debating Minimum Wage, and Reflections on a Year of #MeToo

Youngme Moon, Mihir Desai, and Felix Oberholzer-Gee are back with Season 2 of After Hours! In this episode, they debate whether the federal minimum wage should be raised, offer their personal reflections on a year of the #MeToo movement, and share their picks for the week.

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For interested listeners:

HBR Presents is a network of podcasts curated by HBR editors, bringing you the best business ideas from the leading minds in management. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Harvard Business Review or its affiliates.

Using the Power of Supply Chains to End Sexual Harassment

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In the year since allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein shocked the public, the #MeToo movement has exposed widespread workplace sexual harassment—not just in the entertainment world, but across industries.

Last week, we at New America’s Better Life Lab published what we believe is a novel, forward-thinking report on the reality that harassment is “severe, pervasive, and widespread” across low and high income jobs and male- and female-dominated occupations. We also published an accompanying toolkit, called #NowWhat?, aimed at stakeholders invested in changing this reality. Among the recommendations we offer, one in particular is salient to businesses: supply-chain reform.

In a nutshell, this means leveraging consumer, worker, and corporate power to drive change at the companies you do business with.

Consider the Fair Food Program, which leverages farmworker and consumer pressure to demand that food buyers, like fast-food companies, demand that their food

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Perfect Is the Enemy

From the Women at Work podcast:

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If you’ve worked your way up in a competitive field — or are anxious by nature — you may have perfectionist tendencies. Maybe you’re a hard-driving, obsessive worker who thinks a task is never quite done. Or maybe you’re avoidant, struggling to start a project because you want it to be done just right.

We all know society holds women to a higher standard than men and rewards us for not making mistakes. But internalizing other people’s expectations — or what we think they expect — will only burn us out. To keep rising in our careers, we need to get in tune with our own standards for what’s a good, or good enough, job.

It is possible

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How Men Can Become Better Allies to Women


Women’s conferences and employee resource groups (ERGs) are increasingly inviting men to attend. By creating events aimed at men, they hope to include men in discussions around gender equity in the workplace, and make organizational diversity efforts more successful.

The evidence shows that when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organizations see progress — compared to only 30% of organizations where men are not engaged. But today, too many organizations still miss the mark on gender equity efforts by focusing gender initiatives solely on changing women — from the way they network to the way the lead. Individualistic approaches to solving gender inequities overlook systemic structural causes and reinforce the perception that these are women’s issues — effectively telling men they don’t need to be involved. Without the avid support of men, often the most powerful stakeholders in most large corporations, significant progress toward

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Which Types of Companies Are Adding Women to Their Boards, and Which Aren’t

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California recently passed a law requiring public firms headquartered in the state to include at least one woman on their boards by the end of 2019. The proposal has led to criticism that board quotas have unintended consequences. Others have claimed that a quota might be necessary to combat the glacial pace of voluntary change in boardrooms.

Our contribution is to bring hard data to pinpoint where regulators and commentators might want look to address gender disparity. In particular, we have gathered data on every board appointment and resignation filed with the SEC for all public companies with more than $75 million in market capitalization since April 1, 2018. The findings are eye-opening.

Between April 1 and September 24 2018, 228 women have been appointed to boards relative to 433 men. That data points to the well-known gender disparity in the board room. However, when we probed

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The Problem of Visibility for Women in Engineering, and How They Manage It

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Women engineers have a visibility problem. Like women in other ultra-masculine sectors, they are often excessively visible as women, but overlooked when it comes to their technical expertise. This paradox gets in the way of forming relationships at work and hurts their advancement.

We wanted to know how women deal with this. In 2014 we interviewed 50 women engineers in three leading FTSE 100 organizations in the UK. All three organizations said they were committed to diversity and were attempting to hire, retain, and promote more women engineers. However, numbers remained persistently low, and in all three organizations attrition was high, especially among junior women. But the women we spoke to had remained in their companies, and several had advanced to senior positions. We asked them about their day-to-day experiences of work, opportunities for career progress, and how they overcame the challenges they faced.

We Deserve Better Than “Attagirl”

From the Women at Work podcast:

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Hearing your manager say you’re doing a great job is, of course, lovely. But without examples of your greatness in action, or suggestions for how to be even better, you don’t have the information you need to keep improving. Studies have found that women tend to get feedback that’s vague or tied to their personalities, which doesn’t boost our performance ratings. Meanwhile, men get feedback that’s specific and tied to business outcomes, which sets them up to develop and be promoted.

First, we talk with Harvard Business School professor Robin Ely about the research on women and feedback. Next, we talk with Tuck School of Business professor Ella Bell Smith about how to draw out actionable,

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How Men Get Penalized for Straying from Masculine Norms


When women behave in ways that don’t fit their gender stereotype — for example, by being assertive — they are viewed as less likable and ultimately less hirable. Does that same hold true for men? Are they similarly penalized for straying from the strong masculine stereotype?

The short answer is yes. Research demonstrates that men too face backlash when they don’t adhere to masculine gender stereotypes — when they show vulnerability, act nicer, display empathy, express sadness, exhibit modesty, and proclaim to be feminists. This is troubling not least because it discourages men from behaving in ways known to benefit their teams and their own careers. Let’s look at each of these behaviors:

Showing vulnerability. Men are socialized to not ask for help or be vulnerable — and they can be penalized when they challenge this notion. An informative set of studies from 2015 finds that when male (but

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Research: When Boards Broaden Their Definition of Diversity, Women and People of Color Lose Out

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Over the last several years, competing notions of “diversity” have emerged. In many corners, the traditional definition, focused on demographic diversity, has been eclipsed by a new concept centered on experiential or cognitive differences. Deloitte, a provider of advisory services to firms around the globe, including 85% of the Fortune 500, encapsulates the trend, noting, “Up to now, diversity initiatives have focused primarily on fairness for legally protected populations. But organizations now have an opportunity to harness a more powerful and nuanced kind of diversity: diversity of thought.” Similarly, Korn Ferry, a global management consulting firm, urges firms to reorient their recruiting efforts to emphasize “diverse perspectives, experiences, and contributions.”

This conceptual shift has had real-world consequences extending to the very apex of firms — the board of directors. We have been studying corporate governance for nearly two decades. Through a combination of interviews with board

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Making Great Decisions

From the Women at Work podcast:

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There’s a lot that goes into making a good decision at work: figuring out priorities, coming up with options, analyzing those — and several steps later, planning for what to do if you’re wrong. If you’re a woman, you are also factoring in how your colleagues expect you to ask for their opinions so you can create consensus. And if you do, they’re still likely to see you as indecisive and lacking vision.

We talk with Therese Huston, author of the book How Women Decide, about our strengths as decision makers and how to work around double standards when we’re making decisions and communicating them to our team.


Therese Huston is the author of How

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Fixing the Gender Imbalance in Health Care Leadership

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Female physicians continue to face myriad challenges in medicine ranging from implicit bias to gaps in payment and promotion to sexual harassment. So it is not surprising (though it’s still appalling) that although equal numbers of men and women now graduate from medical school, only a small fraction of female physicians become medical leaders. Currently in the US, only 3% of healthcare CEOs are women, 6% are department chairs, 9% are division chiefs, and 3% are serving as chief medical officers. This is despite women comprising 80% of the healthcare workforce and evidence that having women in upper management and on corporate boards is associated with improved financial performance and enhanced accountability.

These numbers point to a clear need for better representation of female physicians in leadership. How exactly to achieve this given the many barriers they face is less clear. Yet bright spots have emerged, both

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How We Describe Male and Female Job Applicants Differently

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Words matter. And the words we use to describe men versus women differ in significant ways that can affect their careers.

This starts early on. Research finds that girls who are described as “bossy” are viewed negatively in ways that boys are not. This discrepancy continues into adulthood where the description of being “ambitious” is an insult for women but not for men.

Such words impact the identities that young girls and women form, pushing many of them to feel that they need to be “nice,” a pressure they carry into their careers. For instance, in a recent study of residents training to be physicians, almost half of the women described “apprehension in appearing ‘bossy’ when leading cardiopulmonary resuscitation drills,” whereas no male participants expressed this concern.

The impact words can have on career trajectories is accentuated in the workplace, where people are often

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Where Are the Male Allies in U.S. Politics?

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As the sexual assault allegations by Professor Christine Blasey Ford against Judge Brett Kavanaugh have played out, too few men — but especially male politicians — have publicly supported an open and respectful hearing of her assertions. This week, Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), her frustration boiling over at male congressmen who have questioned the integrity or mental status of Blasey Ford, or worse, remained conspicuously silent on the issue, spoke for many when she said, “I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing, for a change.”

The problem of the silent — and therefore tacitly complicit — man festers at the root of America’s ubiquitous workplace sexual harassment and gender exclusion. Reasons for male silence are legion, but most often relate to lack of awareness about the experiences of women at work, ignorance concerning the

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Research: Women and Men Are Equally Bad at Multitasking

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According to popular stereotypes, women are better multitaskers. In fact, a quick Google search leads to many press articles claiming a female advantage. For example, women came out as better multitaskers when researchers used fMRI scans to measure brain activity, computer tests to measure response times, and an exercise in which people walking on a treadmill had to simultaneously complete a cognitive task.

From analyzing decades of studies of men and women in other cognitive skills, we know that men’s and women’s performance is usually quite similar. Yet there are a few tasks in which men and women consistently outperform each other — on average: For example, it is well-established that men typically fare better when imagining what complex 3-dimensional figures would look like if they were rotated. In turn, women reliably outperform men in certain verbal abilities such as remembering a list of words or other verbal

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Managing Parental Leave (Yours or Someone Else’s)

From the Women at Work podcast:

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Having a baby is exciting — and exhausting. Figuring out how to take parental leave, or manage someone who’s doing it, can add an extra wrinkle.

No matter how long you’ll be away from work, there’s preparation to be done: talking to your boss, making sure colleagues can cover your projects, handling unexpected needs and feelings.

With the help of our guest expert, Daisy Wademan Dowling, we talk about how to effectively plan for your parental leave or the leave of someone you manage. And through the story of a lucky woman whose organization offers 12 months of paid leave, we explore what our lives might be like if we had access to more generous leaves.


Daisy Wademan Dowling

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Let’s Do Less Dead-End Work

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Women are expected and asked to do thankless tasks — order lunch, handle less-valued clients — more than men, and research shows that doing those tasks slows down our career advancement and makes us unhappy at work. We talk about why we wind up with so much office drudgery and how to get some of it off our plates. Guests: Lise Vesterlund and Ruchika Tulshyan.

Could you take notes? Would you mind ordering lunch? We need someone to organize the off-site event — can you do that? Whether you’ve just started your career or are the CEO of the company, if you’re a woman, people expect you to do routine, time-consuming tasks that no one else wants to do.


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Do Longer Maternity Leaves Hurt Women’s Careers?

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Career or child care? It’s an unfortunate dilemma faced by every working woman with a baby on the way. Should she take a lengthy maternity leave, knowing that more time at home can improve the well-being of both mother and child? After all, research shows maternity leaves are related to lower infant mortality and reduced maternal stress. Or should she forego that long maternity leave, knowing that getting back to work quickly will improve her career opportunities?

Around the world, we are seeing a trend towards legislating longer, paid parental leaves for both mothers and fathers. Earlier this year, for example, Canada expanded its paid parental leave program from 35 weeks to 61 weeks; several Scandinavian countries have already made similar moves. These changes are motivated by a progressive concern to improve the work-life balance for working parents and encourage greater parent/child contact in those crucial first months

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How Companies Can Ensure Maternity Leave Doesn’t Hurt Women’s Careers

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Imagine that a temporary absence from your workplace could lead to 10 years of sustained high performance being forgotten. Imagine that your relationship with senior partners at your firm, with whom you had previously worked closely, significantly worsened. This was Diane’s (not her real name) experience following her early return to work from parental leave. “Before I went,” she told us, “I was promised, ‘You will get all your clients back,’ so that was part of the reason I came back. I thought the sooner I came back and got my clients back, the better. But when I came back, that didn’t happen — I didn’t get any of them back.” On her return, she found that not only did she fail to get her clients back, but the colleague who took them over didn’t even know that she had previously managed them.

Diane’s experience represents the

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Don’t Underestimate the Power of Women Supporting Each Other at Work

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Don’t underestimate the power of women connecting and supporting each other at work. As my experiences from being a rookie accountant to a managing director at an investment bank have taught me, conversations between women have massive benefits for the individual and the organization. When I graduated college in the 1970s, I believed that women would quickly achieve parity at all levels of professional life now that we had “arrived” — I viewed the lack of women at the top as more of a “pipeline” problem, not a cultural one. But the support I expected to find from female colleagues — the feeling of sisterhood in this mission — rarely survived first contact within the workplace.

When I was a first-year accountant at a Big Eight firm (now the Big Four), I kept asking the only woman senior to me to go to lunch, until finally she

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How Women of Color Get to Senior Management

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Women of color are a force in the U.S. economy. They are projected to make up the majority of all women by 2060, which means they’ll also likely become the majority of the U.S. workforce. They also generate $1 trillion as consumers and $361 billion in revenue as entrepreneurs, launching companies at 4x the rate of all woman-owned businesses.

Developing a diverse leadership pipeline can benefit companies in all sectors. Firms with the most ethnically diverse executive teams were 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability, and those with executive-level gender diversity worldwide had a 21% likelihood of outperforming their industry competitors. A recent study of VC firms found that more-diverse teams had higher financial returns than their homogenous counterparts.

The problem is that, to date, companies have not been great at promoting women of color to senior roles. And this isn’t for lack

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