October 17, 2013
Lean In, Part II
My post about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In a couple months ago created some great dialog internally at Return Path. It also yielded a personal email from Sheryl the day after it went up encouraging me to continue “talking about it,” as the book says, especially as a male leader. Along those lines, since I wrote that initial post, we’ve had a few things happen here that are relevant to comment on, so here goes.
We partnered with the National Center for Women & IT to provide training to our entire organization on unconscious bias. We had almost 90% of the organization attend an interactive 90 minute training session to explore how these biases work and how to discuss these issues with others. The goals were to identify what unconscious bias is and how it affects the workplace, identify ways to address these barriers and foster innovation, and provide practice tools for reducing unconscious biases. While the topic of unconscious bias in the workplace isn’t only about gender, that’s one major vector of discussion. We had great feedback from across the organization that people value this type of dialog and training. It’s now going to be incorporated into our onboarding program for new employees.
Second, as I committed to in my original post, we ran a thorough gender-based comp study. As I suspected, we don’t have a real issue with men being paid more than women for doing the same job, or with men and women being promoted at different rates. That’s the good news. However, the study and the conversations that we had around it yielded two other interesting conclusions. One is that that we have fewer women in senior positions than men, though not too far off our overall male:female ratio of 60:40. On our Board, we have no women. On our Executive Committee, we have 1 of 10 (more on this below). On our Operating Committee, we have 8 of 25. Of all Managers at the company, we have 32 of 88. So women skew to more junior roles.
The other is that while we do a good job on compensation equity for the same position, it takes a lot of deliberate back and forth to get to that place. In other words, if all we did was rely on people’s starting salaries, their performance review data, and our standard raise percentages, we would have some level of gender-based inequality. Digging deeper into this, it’s all about the starting point. Since we have far more junior/entry level women than men, the compensation curve for women ends up needing to be steeper than that of men in order to level things out. So we get to the right place, but it takes work and unconventional thinking.
Finally, I had an enlightening process of recruiting two new senior executives to join the business in the past couple of months. I knew I wanted to try and diversify my executive team, which was 25% female, so I made a deliberate effort to focus on hiring senior women into both positions. I intended to hire the best candidate, and knew I’d only see male candidates unless I intentionally sourced female candidates. For both positions, sourcing with an emphasis on women was VERY DIFFICULT, as the candidate pools are very lopsided in favor of men for all the reasons Sheryl noted in her book. But in both cases, great female candidates made it through as finalists, and the first candidate to whom I offered each job was female – both superbly qualified. In both cases, for different reasons I can’t go into here, the candidates didn’t end up making it across the finish line. And then in both cases, when we opened up the search for a second round, the rest of the candidate pool was male, and I ended up hiring men into both roles. Now my resulting exec team is even more heavily male, which was the opposite of my intention. It’s very frustrating, and it leaves us with more work to do on the women-in-leadership topic, for sure.
So…some positives and some challenges the last few months on this topic at Return Path. I’ll post more as relevant things develop or occur. We are going to be doing some real thinking, and probably some program development, around this important topic.