6 Things Successful Women in STEM Have in Common

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For years, companies, universities and nonprofits have researched the reasons why women are less likely to enter STEM fields — and why, once they enter, they face challenges that frequently push them out. In prior research, we at the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) found that women leave STEM fields in droves: 52% of highly qualified women working for science, technology, or engineering companies leave their jobs. We, and others, have found that the cultures surrounding women in STEM have been shown, time and again, to be particularly challenging.

Yet many other women have managed to build highly successful careers with degrees in STEM disciplines. How did they do it? A new research study I led at CTI uncovers, through a nationally representative survey of 3,212 individuals with STEM credentials, and through dozens of additional interviews and focus group conversations, the differentiators of success for women

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To Reduce Sexual Misconduct, Help People Understand How Their Advances Might Be Received

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The revelations of the #MeToo movement seem to have caught many men by surprise. Comedian Aziz Ansari was “surprised and concerned,” believing his encounter with a woman to be “by all indications completely consensual.” Well-known actor Richard Dreyfus was “bewildered to discover” an incident wasn’t consensual, leading him to “reassess every relationship I have ever thought was playful and mutual.”

Although there are numerous explanations for the widespread sexual harassment and assault allegations that have recently come to light across various industries, in our research we have identified one potential contributor related to the psychology of avowed unwitting perpetrators: a cognitive blind spot that makes them oblivious to how trapped their unwanted advances can make their targets feel.

In two studies soon to be published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, we found that romantic suitors generally underestimate the discomfort

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How Women at the Top Can Renew Their Mental Energy

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For women with leadership ambitions, there is no shortage of advice for how to reach the top. By learning to lean in, speak out, negotiate, delegate, and a dozen other behaviors, women everywhere are launching themselves through the glass ceilings of their organizations, landing jobs at or near the C-suite level.

But what happens after the promotion? While top-level jobs are tough on everyone, the transition to senior management comes with extra challenges for women. Some are psychological, pertaining to gender differences in risk-taking and self-confidence. Others are structural; in parenting, for instance, childcare and domestic duties are still disproportionately shouldered by the female partner. While these barriers affect women at all levels of the organization, they are particularly pronounced in the pressure-cooker environment at the top, putting women at a disadvantage.

Dealing with this challenge is something I am deeply familiar with. I am a certified organizational

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Black Professional Men Describe What It’s Like to Be in the Gender Majority but the Racial Minority

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PM Images/Getty Images

It’s no secret that black people are widely underrepresented in the highest-status professional jobs. Even when they have Harvard MBAs, black women are generally absent in leadership positions at most Fortune 500 companies, and black men are in high-ranking roles in only a handful.

Researchers who have examined black women in corporate settings generally highlight their unique experiences not just as black workers but as black women workers. Dealing with racism and sexism means that black women in these settings face particular challenges at work, from difficulty finding mentors and sponsors to extra scrutiny of their hair and other aspects of their appearance.

These are important findings that give some insight into how race and gender operate together to yield specific outcomes for black women. But they only reveal part of the picture for black workers. Black men, of course, are also present in professional work. How are their experiences in these settings

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Do You Have “Advantage Blindness”?

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Daniel Grizelj/Getty Images

No one wants to think they got to the top through an unfair advantage. You want to feel that you’ve earned it — that your hard work and carefully honed skills have paid off.

But the evidence on diversity in the workplace is conclusive: There are lots of people held back by bias. And that means that some of the people at the top have advanced partly through privilege.

Our research finds the idea of being advantaged to be uncomfortable for many senior leaders. We interviewed David, a senior executive who recognizes both having benefited from unfair advantages and the injustice of bias. He’s tall, middle-aged, well-educated, heterosexual, able-bodied, white, and male — and these provide David with unearned advantages that he intellectually knows he has, but that in practice he barely notices. He tells us he feels an underlying sense of guilt. He wants to feel that his successes

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Women of Color Get Asked to Do More “Office Housework.” Here’s How They Can Say No.

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Hayon Thapaliya for HBR

Selena Rezvani was in an all-day strategy session when she faced a challenge many women of color are intimately familiar with: she was expected to arrange lunch for everyone present.

Simultaneously, seven heads in the room turned towards her, the only non-white person in the room, to place the order. “No one seemed to consider asking the white guy next to me who was my [same] age and level,” recalls Rezvani, now VP of Consulting & Research at Be Leaderly, and author of Pushback. “The silent agreement in the room was unnerving.”

The women of color whom I interviewed for this story shared similar experiences: situations where white coworkers displayed an unwavering conviction that it was the woman of color’s duty to do less-important tasks around the office. One woman told me: “I’m often asked to shut the door in a meeting, even if I’m sitting far

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Women Experience More Incivility at Work — Especially from Other Women

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Hayon thapaliya for hbr

Most employees, at one point or another, have been the victim of incivility at work. Ranging from snarky comments or rude interruptions to being disrespected in a brusque email, organizations can be breeding grounds for this type of behavior. Compared to more egregious forms of workplace mistreatment like sexual harassment, incivility — which is classified as low-intensity deviance at work — may seem minor. Yet, the costs of incivility can add up.

Estimates from a large-scale study indicated some astounding statistics: in response to incivility experiences, 48% of employees intentionally decreased their work effort, 47% intentionally decreased their time at work, and 38% internationally decreased the level of quality in their work.

Even more shocking, 80% of employees indicated that they lost time at work due to merely ruminating about experienced incivility, with 66% indicating that their performance declined, and 78% indicating that they lowered

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If You Fire Someone for Sexual Harassment, What Do You Say If You’re Called for a Reference?

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yangleephoto/Multi bits/Getty Images

Many victims of workplace sexual harassment tell the same frustrating story: Their harasser got fired, but then he landed a plum new job in the same industry. In 2016 Reuters terminated a senior editor after his subordinate filed a sexual harassment complaint. Not long after, that editor was hired as an executive at Newsweek. In 2012 the Red Cross asked an official to resign after it investigated allegations that he had raped one of his subordinates and sexually harassed another. Nonetheless, that official received “very positive references” and went on to a top job at another nonprofit, Save the Children. After these stories hit the news in the wake of the #MeToo movement, both accused harassers lost their new jobs.

Cases like these raise sticky legal and moral questions. Does a former employer have any duty to disclose allegations of sexual misconduct to a

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How Black Women Describe Navigating Race and Gender in the Workplace

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A few years ago I started attending classes for my part-time MBA. What I noticed almost immediately was that my experience in the classroom largely mirrored my experience of close to a decade in corporate America: I’m consistently one of very few black women and black people in the room.

In September, Ellen McGirt published an article in Fortune exploring why there are zero African-American women running Fortune 500 companies. This lack of female leadership is important to explore, but what are the experiences of black women in the workplace before they make it to the c-suite? I wanted to find out how other black women navigate the intertwined barriers at the intersection of race and gender.

Over the course of a year I worked with Professor Elizabeth Morrison, Vice Dean of Faculty at NYU, to interview 10 women of color in order to

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Is the Confidence Gap Between Men and Women a Myth?

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Paul Garbett for HBR

How working women are kept from positions of influence and power is by now well-documented by scientists and journalists alike. While the research has not been specifically remedy-directed, where gender-based bias has been discovered some have sought to counter it with HR policy changes, training, awareness campaigns, equal opportunity legislation, and more.

No small part of these countermeasures have been directed at women themselves. One especially pernicious message has been unchallenged for years: that female workers lack the self-confidence of their male peers and this hurts their chances at success. If they were less hesitant and sold themselves better, this logic goes, success would be theirs. Popular business writers thus advise women to “visualize success,” “take the stage,” “rewrite the rules,” and “think differently.” Famously, in 2013, Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook and a billionaire, published a book in which her advice

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Emergency Responders and the Dangers of “Masculinity Contests”

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Petr Svarc/Getty Images

During the horrific school shooting last month in Parkland, Florida, one of the sheriff’s deputies on the scene did not enter the building to confront the attacker. The internet, Parkland officials, and politicians reacted swiftly. The deputy was criticized by his boss for his supposed inaction and was called a “coward” by the president of the United States.

The use of this specific word was not accidental. More than just failing to act as a first responder, “coward” implies a much greater transgression: failing to act as a man. As Alex Kingsbury writes in the Boston Globe, it plays into a timeless American narrative: “the idea that real men dispatch bad men with a pull of the trigger.” Because the bonafide requirements of first responders’ jobs closely align with traditional ideals of heroic manhood (“strong,” “brave,” “risk-taking”)—ideals deeply rooted in culture and psychology—men in

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Emergency Responders and the Dangers of “Masculinity Contests”

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Petr Svarc/Getty Images

During the horrific school shooting last month in Parkland, Florida, one of the sheriff’s deputies on the scene did not enter the building to confront the attacker. The internet, Parkland officials, and politicians reacted swiftly. The deputy was criticized by his boss for his supposed inaction and was called a “coward” by the president of the United States.

The use of this specific word was not accidental. More than just failing to act as a first responder, “coward” implies a much greater transgression: failing to act as a man. As Alex Kingsbury writes in the Boston Globe, it plays into a timeless American narrative: “the idea that real men dispatch bad men with a pull of the trigger.” Because the bonafide requirements of first responders’ jobs closely align with traditional ideals of heroic manhood (“strong,” “brave,” “risk-taking”) — ideals deeply rooted in culture and psychology

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Book: Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley

I read Emily Chang’s book Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley the day it came out. Yes – I stayed up until after midnight (way past my bedtime) reading it.

It’s powerful. I bought a bunch of copies for different people and I recommend every investor and entrepreneur in the US read it. While there are a handful of salacious stories (some of which were covered in excerpts that were pre-released), the overall arc of the book is extremely strong, well written, and deeply researched. Given Emily’s experience as a journalist, it’s no surprise, but she did a great job of knitting together a number of different themes, in depth, to make her points. She also uses the book to make clear suggestions about what to do to improve things, although she holds off from being preachy, which is also nice.

Interestingly, I’ve heard criticism, including some

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How to Use Employee Referrals Without Giving Up Workplace Diversity

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Martin Harvey/Getty Images

More than a third of U.S. workers landed their current job via an employee referral. In a tight talent market, it’s tempting for organizations to rely even more heavily on employee referrals to fill open positions, but a new study from PayScale shows that doing so could lead to pay inequities and a less-diverse workforce.

Between April and August 2017, PayScale asked approximately 53,000 U.S. workers how they came to apply to their current job  and if they had landed their job based on an employee referral. Other demographic, job, and employer details were also collected as part of the survey.

Holding everything else constant, from job title to industry to location, female and minority applicants were much less likely to report receiving an employee referral than their white male counterparts. More specifically, white women were 12% less likely to receive a referral, men of

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VC Stereotypes About Men and Women Aren’t Supported by Performance Data

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Male entrepreneurs are the beneficiaries of the overwhelming majority of venture capital investments. But are their ideas really better investment opportunities for VCs than those pitched by women?

According to our research, the answer is “not necessarily.” In a two-part study, we observed that venture capitalists adopt markedly different stereotypical notions of female and male entrepreneurs during their decision-making processes. These stereotypical notions, which cast men as having traits better suited to starting successful companies, don’t hold up when compared with venture performance data from annual reports. In other words, there is no statistical evidence that a host of myths about female entrepreneurs is true.

Before presenting our study, some context is helpful. For several years, Sweden has been ranked number one in the EU Gender Equality Index. Nonetheless, statistics show that women-owned businesses, which account for one-third of Swedish businesses, are not granted the corresponding proportion of government venture

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Mentoring Women Is Not About Trying to “Rescue” Them

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We know that male mentors and sponsors are essential for helping talented women get ahead. When women are mentored by men, they make more money, receive more promotions, and report greater satisfaction with their career trajectories. Although advantageous for all employees, mentoring is particularly helpful to women for addressing the myriad barriers to career advancement. But in the wake of the #MeToo Movement there are growing whispers among some men that it just isn’t safe to mentor women. We’ve also heard from some men who are having the opposite reaction, determining to mentor and “save” more women. While we applaud their good intentions, this attitude is also unlikely to have the results they want.

Let’s just start by saying the obvious: of course men should mentor women. It’s wrong (and illegal) to exclude half the population. But taking a save-the-day approach won’t work very well, either.

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Leaders Can’t Shy Away from Sensitive Topics, Even When It’s Awkward

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Jorg Greuel/Getty Images

We are living in times when it’s increasingly difficult — if not impossible — to go into the office and leave what’s going on outside behind. We are reckoning with difficult and emotional issues in our society — sexual harassment, racism, and deep political divides — that don’t get checked at the door. We are only human; it’s impossible to think we can come to work and not continue to feel angry, hurt, or disappointed by issues that don’t originate with our companies or our colleagues.

As the dean of a business school, I have many conversations with business leaders who are telling me they feel increasingly challenged by how outside issues are affecting their team members. For many people, topics involving politics or social issues have been considered taboo at work. How do you handle them? What if you say the wrong thing? What if you sound stupid?

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Is #MeToo Backlash Hurting Women’s Opportunities in Finance?

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Cláudio Policarpo/EyeEm/Getty Images

When my mother graduated from college in 1972, she interviewed at an investment bank where a manager told her that for certain positions, women were interviewed but never hired. Even in the late 1980s, she went on interviews with headhunters who would explicitly tell her, “They want to interview a woman,” with the emphasis on “interview”— as in, not hire. Through the decades, as she’s climbed the ranks to become a CFO of publicly traded company, I’ve often told these stories to show how much more opportunity exists in the workplace today.

In the aftermath of the MeToo movement around sexual harassment, I wonder how much progress we’ve really made; recently, several men have privately told me that they have no intention of hiring women for open roles, or of managing young women if they can avoid it. I now worry that the movement has already sparked

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The Advice We Get and Give

From the Women at Work podcast:

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Negotiate harder. Don’t be such a perfectionist. Get more sleep. Professional women get all kinds of advice — some of it helpful, some of it really unhelpful, and some of it nice-sounding but pretty impossible to use.

In this episode, we share some of your best and worst advice, and we question a few classic pieces of advice women get (and give) on asking for more money, achieving more by doing less, and not burning out.

We talk with Duke University management professor Ashleigh Shelby Rosette about negotiating, Thrive Global CEO Arianna Huffington about sleep, Levo Chief Leadership Officer Tiffany Dufu about dropping the ball, and New Yorker writer Susan Orlean about confidence. We also brought in HBR senior editor Alison Beard to help Amy answer a

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Working as a Prison Guard Convinced Me That Bosses Should Never, Ever Date Subordinates

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My first job out of college did little to prepare me for my future career, but it did teach me something about power — and that all companies should adopt a black-and-white policy when it comes to sexual contact between supervisors and their employees.

At 22, I was lonely, living in a new city, and handling the transition from college to the real world in a reluctant fashion. I had applied for jobs largely at random and soon found myself working in the library of the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility.

As a young man surrounded by female prisoners, I often received flirty attention. Occasionally it was for nefarious reasons, but it mostly came from frustrated women in horrible situations looking for comfort.

Inevitably, I felt flattered by the attention, but that flattery also terrified me. I realized — in large part due to the training I received at the start of

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