Advancing Women: Help People ‘Get It’ in Four Steps: Here are the First Two

 

Flip a switch. The light goes on. dimbulb

Now what?

The 2015 Accounting MOVE Project focused on moments of inspiration – ‘lightbulb moments’ in which both men and women ‘got it’ about why it’s so important for the profession to advance women. Change happens one person at a time at all organizations. But for most people, it happens in the same way: first, they get it. Then, they act on it.

How can you convert inspiration to action? Follow these four steps and you’ll convert insight to momentum no matter where you work.

The 2015 Accounting MOVE Project report included one of my all-time favorite quotes. It’s from Darin Goehner a partner with Moss Adams, the Seattle firm that (full disclosure) is the MOVE Project’s founding sponsor.

Moss Adams is doing great things to advance women, but it still has its holdouts. Privately, men complain that women are getting an unfair advantage when there are programs designed just for them. Some of these men complained to Goehner – probably because he has been a vocal advocate of the firm’s women’s initiative.

“When do we get our men’s initiative?” they asked him.

And here’s what Goenher said: “Look at the numbers. When women are 51 percent of the partners, that’s when you get your men’s initiative.”

Oh! Suddenly, they got it.

Suddenly, the numbers weren’t abstract. Men still outnumber women at Moss Adams by nearly three to one. (That’s better than the industry average of four to one.)

Oh. It’s not a majority on paper. It’s a majority of us standing here. Oh. 

So what next?

At the 2015 national conference of the Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance, which is a partner of the MOVE Project, we built out the ‘what next.’

Here are the first two steps to converting those ‘a-ha’ moments to real culture change.

  1. Realization.

Suddenly, out of the blue, a fact, an expression, an emotion, someone else’s reaction, hits you. The curtain is pulled back, the mute suddenly is released, or something comes into focus. Suddenly you see something you haven’t before.

Often, these moments come when we are observing or listening to others. Or, you might notice a change – maybe a woman you like working has disappeared. She quit. That’s right, you went to the party. You ate the sheet cake. But now it’s Monday, and the usual suspects are in the usual status meeting. And she’s not there. And you get it: we can’t keep losing midlevel women. If we lose any more like her, we won’t have enough partners, in ten years, to keep this place open.

For the left-brained, realization can click into place through a single number that seems to summarize the situation. For the CPA profession, the most compelling number is 19%. That’s the current proportion of women partners and principals. The MOVE Project firms are doing better, with an average of 22% women partners and principals, for the 47 firms that participated in 2015. (2016 numbers will be even better. MOVE firms have been telling us over the summer about all the women they’ve been promoting.)

2. Relevance.

Ok, you’ve been struck with a realization.

What does it mean? Your brain starts clicking. You start to realize that this realization means something to:

  • You
  • People you work with
  • Your company
  • Your clients or customers
  • Soon
  • In specific ways

Let’s go back to that meeting in which you are fixated on the empty chair. You’re going to have to take on some of the work abandoned by your former co-worker, the rising woman who left for a better future elsewhere. Your firm is going to have to explain her defection to clients. And replace her, somehow, in a hyper-competitive market for financial services talent. If her friends leave…then what? Yikes.

See the accompanying post for the final two steps.

See the whole AFWA presentation at Slideshare.

If you’d like the accompanying handouts – an infographic of the four steps from inspiration to action, plus a worksheet that you can use with small group or one-on-one discussions, email me at jycleaver@wilson-taylorassoc.com and it’ll be in your inbox pronto.

For more lightbulb moments, and subsequent change, read the 2015 Accounting MOVE Project report. It’s full of personal stories about how CPA firms are finding new ways to advance women.

Pay Equity Just Got Sexy

 

 

 

It just got real.

When Vogue magazine ( Vogue magazine!) is writing about pay equity, you know the tipping point is in the rear view mirror.

Vogue. 

brad cooper

Of course, it took a public discussion between two movie stars to wrench this fusty issue from the disco era to today. Jennifer Lawrence, famous for playing take-no-prisoners Katniss in the huge “Hunger Games” franchise (final installment opens Nov. 20. I can hardly wait) posted a stream-of-newly-raised-consciousness post on a relatively obscure ezine in which she said, essentially, ‘no more Ms. Nice Gal” when it came to pay negotiations. Because thanks to the Sony data hack, the whole world now knows that Cooper and Christian Bale, her co-stars in “American Hustle,” made a LOT more money than Lawrence and her co-star Amy Adams.

Lawrence and Adams won awards for their performances. Cooper and Bale did not. So much for the myth that the pay gap is explained by a performance gap.

Lawrence’s rant was picked up by the mainstream media, starting with the Washington Post and rippling outward and upward from there. Vogue!

Cooper rose to the occasion by publicly promising to share pay information with female co-stars from now on so they aren’t at a negotiating disadvantage.

And with that, he shows that he gets it. Because nothing changes unless women have the information they need to negotiate.

That’s the rationale behind the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.  It makes it illegal to force people to shut up about pay. But of course most people keep their salaries to themselves on their own. Until Bradley Cooper made it cool to share what you’re paid with co-workers who are doing equal work. For which they should get equal pay.

Employers are just starting to wake up to the pay equity monster. Even accounting firms aren’t as on top of pay equity as you’d think. According to the 2015 Accounting MOVE Project, which I manage, only 25% of CPA firms analyze employees’ pay levels by gender.

Companies need to get ahead of this. They can start by manning up and doing the work to see if they actually have a pay gap and if they do, by fixing it. Besides the Accounting MOVE Project, which has insights that all employers can use, the Department of Labor offers a short pay equity guide for employers.

Ignorance is no defense. Just ask the 10,000 businesses that the federal Office of Federal Contract Compliance has ‘evaluated’ for pay equity since 2010.

If your company has a government contract, you should know that the OFCCP might come around to see if you are paying women and men equitably. “I don’t know’ is not an answer.

If you’re stuck, just think: WWKD? What would Katniss Do? And do that.

Hello, We Can See Right Through You

Transparency builds trust, and trust pays off. Companies on Fortune magazine’s “Best Companies to Work For” delivered annualized stock returns of 11.07% from 1997 to 2014, compared to 6.48% for the S&P 500.

Firms in the Accounting MOVE Project are building employer reputation by sharing not just their results in advancing women, but how they achieve those results.

  • Moss Adams publishes an annual report on its Forum W women’s initiative, outlining its goals and achievements in a straightforward format.
  • Dixon Hughes Goodman set up a separate website for its WomenForward initiative.
  • Plante Moran spells out the mission and progress of its Women in Leadership initiative at its website.

Rehmann has a terrific template for its internal report on its women’s initiative and has graciously provided the Accounting MOVE Project team with a version approved for sharing with other firms. Contact MOVE Project manager Joanne Cleaver(at jycleaver@wilson-taylorassoc.com) for a copy.

Personalities That Pay

It might be time to haul out the results of the Myers-Briggs personality test you took way back when.

If you thought the results were only relevant for learning how to tolerate co-workers on the opposite side of the trait matrix, think again: Truity Psychometrics has analyzed Myers-Briggs results by income and gender and has discovered that two types earn the most.

Women with ENTJ (extroverted, intuitive, thinking, judging) and ESTJ (extroverted, sensing, thinking, judging) profiles earn the most, pulling in $80,000and $68,000 annually, respectively, in Truity’s analysis. That seems to be because extroverts tend to be leaders, and leaders usually are paid more.

On the other end of the spectrum are the INFP (Introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving) and ENFP (extroverted, intutitive, feeling, perceiving) profiles, which each earn about $39,000 annually. That is, if they work at all: these profiles, it seems are most likely to be stay-at-home moms.

Please don’t conduct a conference call from the blanket fort: How to find and vet great freelancers, Part 2

Once you’ve found your amazing freelancer, whose work you love and whose attitude is cheerful, collaborative and efficient, how do you onboard her for long-term success?

First, understand your company’s culture regarding freelancers. Are freelancers and contractors, such as for the IT department and graphic designers, considered ‘warm bodies’ to keep basic operations going if everybody else has the flu? Or do you consider freelancers and contractors to be a ‘talent halo’ that enhances, expands and amplifies staff expertise?

Smart content marketers actually promote the experience and credentials of top freelancers to get approval for projects. For example, if you are building out client case studies and related white papers, you gain credibility when you can show that you’ve already got on board a freelancer who has written the same type of material that won new business. Or, a freelancer whose work has appeared in widely respected publications and online outlets proves that you are investing in top-quality writing and content.

Experienced freelancers can pick and choose clients. (An ongoing topic of conversation among freelancers is how to fire clients. Don’t be that client.)

Here’s how you can get off to a great start with the freelancers who will make your content project a success.

  • Pay market rates, on time. Market rates start at $1 a word for writing web content and articles; $400 per blog post of 300 – 600 words; $40 an hour for copyediting; $90 an hour for line editing; and $800 a day for communication coaching and consulting.
  • Offer assignments that support the freelancer’s own professional development goals. Get to know your freelancers. How do they want to grow? Do they want to branch into new topics or new forms of writing, such as writing scripts for videos? Give them opportunities.
  • Collaborate on concept and assignment development. As your freelancers become familiar with your needs, your company and your industry, they’ll have ideas. Pull them in for planning and you’ll all be smarter.
  • Respond promptly to the freelancer’s status updates and questions.
  • Refer & recommend the freelancer to new clients, internal and external. Don’t hoard your freelance list. Likewise, remember that your freelancers probably have their own networks of accomplished freelancers in complementary fields, such as graphic design, photography and video production.
  • Bring the freelancer consistent work; this gives you the right to ask for emergency work.

Please don’t conduct a conference call from the blanket fort: How to find and vet great freelancers, Part I

When I told my longtime freelance clients in February 2004 that I had taken a full time job at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as a deputy business editor, most of them told me that I’d soon find how hard it was to find and hire great freelancers like me.

How hard could it be? I had plenty of great freelance friends who were always happy to take on new clients.

Very hard, it turned out. I had flaky freelancers who took assignments and disappeared, never again responding to phone calls or emails. I had arrogant freelancers who took assignments and turned in what they wanted, and who wouldn’t change anything about their barely publishable copy.

My favorite freelance nightmare story happened just a couple of years ago. I hired a mom of young children who said she loved the research topics and who definitely needed the work. So I agreed to pay her by retainer and asked her to log her hours and progress in a cloud-based collaborative workspace.

She was always “on it!’ but somehow, ‘it’ never really got done. For two whole months, she didn’t even log in to the online system, while reassuring me that she was “on it!” (To be fair, that was over the Christmas holidays, but still..Christmas doesn’t last for two months. Yet. )

With the deadline approaching and no copy or work materializing, we had a status call. She allowed that she was behind and needed to really ‘get on it!.” I told her that needed to happen, indeed, posthaste.

After the call I checked my Facebook account. And there was a fresh post from her, stamped with the exact time we’d been on the phone: “Nothing like talking to a client from the blanket fort in the living room!”

Ha, ha.

Let’s just say that she’s not working with me any more.

This freelancer was, fortunately, the exception. Since I toughened up my process, I’ve found freelance researchers, writers and editors who are smart, organized, responsive, and great collaborators. Oh, yeah: they’re terrific at writing and editing, too.

Here’s how to find great freelancers, excerpted from the handout that accompanied the Content Marketing World panel I participated in on September 9, 2015.

Go where smart, experienced freelancers hang out online. They stick together, so you can find them here:

  • American Society of Journalists & Authors Freelance Search service – contact Alexandra Owens, director, at director@asja.org; ASJA also offers one-on-one meetings with writers and editors at its annual and regional conferences. ASJA is where I’ve found my best freelancers. And, I’m a member, too.
  • Society of Professional Journalists, Society of American Business Editors & Writers; and other specialized sources.
  • Journalism school alumni online forums.
  • Specialty sources such as ProBlogger.net.
  • Content management firms that integrate freelance sourcing with copy flow, such as Ebyline.com, Scripted.com.

One caveat: lots of former staff journalists are going freelance because their jobs don’t exist any more. Unless that former staffer has a significant portfolio of freelance work separate from her staff job, you’ll want to proceed with caution.

Staff journalists often are terrible time managers, getting their work done only because a mean managing editor is standing over them. As well, the traditional (often mythical) wall between ‘church and state’ – i.e., advertising and the newsroom – means that many journalists look down their nose at dirty business functions like corporate approvals for copy; working with marketing staff; managing clients; and not operating under cover of the First Amendment.

Just because you’re familiar with someone’s byline and just because they’ve covered your company in what you believe to be a positive light doesn’t mean the relationship can successfully transition to freelancer-client. Hire freelancers who are experienced as writers, editors and project managers and in the business of freelancing.

Equity Analysts Are Looking for Diverse Pipelines

At June’s Morningstar Investment Conference, financial advisors learned that the latest research proves that when women are part or all of a management team, a company’s returns are just a bit better. Now, money managers are looking at companies’ talent pipelines through a pink lens. It’s not enough any more to have lots of smart people coming up. A decent proportion of those people need to be women, and ethnic minorities, too, to ensure that the company has managers who reflect emerging markets.

Something has shifted. Last year, you could say that your company was all for women employees, women in leadership, women customers, women investors.

Now, those women want you to prove it. Men want you to prove it, too, because the evidence that women reap better results just keeps piling up and up. More women means more money, because women tend to buy and hold, not buy and then sell for a quick win.

Panelists at the Morningstar conference reported that they look at companies’ presence (or absence) on ‘Best Place to Work’ lists as at least a rough validation of their workplace culture. Increasingly, analysts are analyzing company results from a gender and diversity perspective. Managers, it seems, must be prepared to explain not why they do have a diverse pipeline, but why they don’t.

Why news stories might present a false image of how well a company treats women

You’d never go into a job interview without reading up on recent news about the company. As you scan the news, your antenna are up for the presence and prominence of women at that company: how do women represent the company’s operations? Do they seem to be in positions of power? Would you like to work with the women quoted in stories about the company?

In fact, you might even get the impression from the women quoted in the company’s news stories that it’s a terrific place for women. They’re happy, aren’t they?

Here’s why that impression might be misleading. Women are chronically under-represented in news stories about business and technology. Even when women are quoted as expert sources in a story, it’s usually in the company of men.

News decisionmakers (editor, producers, reporters and so on) are keenly aware of the fact that women are scarce in business and tech coverage, even though women are half the American workforce and nearly half of all management and professional workers. And news decisionmakers want to have stories that engage women readers, women representing a rather significant demographic.

Thus, women have an edge in getting picked to be quoted in news stories. Faced with equally qualified experts – one man and one woman – a smart news decisionmaker will think, ‘I’ll quote the woman because our coverage needs to better reflect reality – and women need to see themselves in our coverage.’ “

Smart companies know this. They prepare key women executives and experts through media training and introduce them to news decisionmakers. When these women are quoted, it not only speaks to the topic of the story itself, but also helps create the impression that the company is hospitable to talented women – after all, here’s one woman who did well enough to get quoted…right?

Don’t make assumptions about a company’s culture regarding women based on what one or a few women say in news stories. Look at the company’s overall statistics as well.

Facebook is a great example on both points. Who hasn’t heard of chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and her terrific book Lean In, which has become a movement?   Facebook has been great for Sandberg and vice versa.

But what are your chances of doing well at Facebook? How do women fare overall at Facebook?

Fortunately, Facebook has set a strong example by disclosing key diversity numbers. (Many companies don’t.) At Facebook, women comprise: 31% of all employees; 15% of tech employees; 47% of non-tech employees; and 23% of senior executives.

What that means to you depends on the kind of job you want, your skills and your goals. As you size up your opportunities at a potential employer, look beyond the women that the company wants you to see and look for the numbers that provide context for your potential future there.

 

How Does MOVE Know What’s ‘Best’?

‘The best:’ not just good, not just better, but actually The. Best.

If you say it, you’d better mean it. So how does the MOVE Project methodology define ‘best’ when compiling its 2015 Best CPA Firms for Women list, which is the industry standard for public accounting? (Track the CPA Move Project @MOVEProjectCPA)

It’s a blend of demographics and qualitative data. First, firms need to be at least even with the MOVE average (over 47 participating firms, for 2015) of 22% women partners and principals. (Overall, women comprise 19% of CPA firm partners, according to the AICPA, the profession’s biggest association, and that proportion is eroding.)

MOVE also looks at excellence in the four categories of workplace practice and culture that are essential for advancing women: M (money, or pay equity); O (opportunities, or leadership & professional development); V (vital supports for work-life) and E (entrepreneurship & supplier diversity). It’s not enough to have loads of policies filling up manuals. MOVE looks for evidence that the policies turn into strong practices, and that accountability translates those practices into actual cultures that pave the way for women to move up.

If those practices and cultures really work, then more women stay at those firms, and more women should be promoted…right? That’s exactly what we see at firms where the MOVE factors are hitting on all cylinders: more women stay. That bumps up the number of women partners and principals at those firms. More women in leadership means that there are more women positioned to advocate for rising women. As women gain power and influence, workplace policies, practices and culture evolve.

That’s the cycle that MOVE accelerates. Most firms start out with something good happening. Joining the MOVE Project helps them get better. And as they reap the rewards of gaining more women at all levels, their numbers and cultures achieve the best.

Could this work for your industry? Let us know!  @MOVEProjectCPA

3 Ways to Craft Your Career Story to Inspire & Lead

Every senior woman in accounting has been asked how she did it. How did she manage work and family? How did she crack the code of business development? How did she speak up when she felt she was being overlooked?

move smallWith women comprising only 20% of partners at public accounting firms, according to the 2014 Accounting MOVE Project report, the personal history of each senior woman resonates more powerfully than the individual stories of male leaders.  Men’s experience is helpful, but only to the degree that women can translate the context of male success to their own situations.  Women crave insight and empathy from other women.

Your personal career history – your story – becomes part of the history of your firm and of the women you mentor, sponsor, guide and inspire.

Your history is more than your resume with some verbs thrown in. Here are three ways to build a lasting impression with a few short, energetic stories about career pivot points.

Give them what they want, not what they ask for. Listening between the lines is essential for good client service. Do the same when choosing a couple of stories that address often-asked questions.

At nearly every women’s conference (across all kinds of industries) that I’ve attended, a young woman from the audience has asked a high-powered woman presenter not about career strategy, but a nuts-and-bolts question about how she managed family and work.  Until a couple of conferences ago, this annoyed me. Why ask an industry leader about how she handled carpool, diapers and tax season? Then I realized: these young women are not after parenting advice. They crave reassurance from someone who’s now past the parenting-young-children-stage: are you at peace with your decisions? Did it turn out ok, now that you are looking at those years in your rear-view mirror?  When you craft a story that addresses deeper issues, you build rapport.

Throw open closed doors.  When you become a partner, you suddenly join the club. Until then, you have wondered how decisions are made behind closed doors. To the extent that you can, tell rising women how things work in the meetings they can’t yet attend.  Men often get glimpses in casual settings that don’t include women.  So call out the impenetrable to those on their way. Explain how decisions are made, what kind of give-and-take happens among partners – and help them envision themselves as part of the story.

Be the heroine. One woman partner recently told me how she braved a skeptical panel of male colleagues when she advocated for her firm’s first-ever women’s initiative. “I told them, what if all the women leave? Who’s left? People who aren’t as bright, and it will take us longer to get the work done and we’ll make less money,” she said.

You can picture the surprise on their faces when she showed up wearing her Superwoman cape.  And you won’t be surprised to hear that she walked out with six-figure funding for the initiative.

Take center stage in a few key stories that illustrate pivotal moments in your career. Show yourself in action. Sketch the reaction. And tell what you did to convert that moment to real change. That’s how you convert career history to career legend.

This post was also published on March 12, 2015, by the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance.