12:00 P.M. EDT
MODERATOR: Okay, we’re going to begin the roundtable. Just as an introduction, I’d like to welcome everybody to the New York Foreign Press Center on the record briefing: A Shortage of Women in Top Leadership Roles and Executive Education as a Part of the Solution.
Today’s presenters are Clark Callahan, Director of Executive Education at the Tuck School of Business, and Iris Newalu, Director of Smith Executive Education for Women. Without further ado, I’m going to turn over – the program over to our guests. And please remember, when you do ask a question, to state your name and media organization first.
Thank you, and – oh, and just for the people who are at the table, we do have the – some water and some sandwiches, and this is from our guests who have brought it with them for you.
MR. CALLAHAN: Please do feel free. Mark, thanks very much.
MS. NEWALU: Thank you.
MR. CALLAHAN: So, great introduction. In fact, we really had in mind and we’ve been told that your way of working is to have this as a dialogue, a roundtable. And we thought we might share just a couple of comments by way of background and context, but then truly open it up to what you want to discuss.
But on this question of a global shortage of women in the senior executive ranks of large companies, we’re coming at this from a very specific perspective. We’re coming at this from the perspective of educators, executive educators, of senior and what we call high potential – so high potential for senior management – women. And I run Executive Education at the Tuck School. Iris – and we’re counterparts – runs Smith Executive Education for Women.
So Tuck is – you’ve heard of it, perhaps, or not – is amongst the top U.S. and global business schools. We define ourselves by our size and by our focus. So we are amongst the top schools, by far the smallest, with a MBA class around 250 target size. And then we run executive education programs that are modeled on that scale and that kind of focus. So where some of the other top schools are looking to grow very large programs, large numbers of people coming through the school, Tuck is very much focused on find a few activities, do those things well, do them with a few companies, build those relationships in a deep way. And that’s worked well for us.
So in keeping with that, when we got interested back in – oh, I guess it was around probably 2001 and 2, when the – our organizations started to talk about this idea for a program to address this same question, we looked to another world class institution – in this case, it’s a liberal arts school – that also has an executive education program. And it’s – and that in its own right makes Smith unique to say something about.
MS. NEWALU: Sure. Have any of you heard about Smith College? Do you know – does that ring a bell?
QUESTION: Oh, yeah.
MS. NEWALU: You’ve heard? Okay. So we do have a very international reputation as really one of the top liberal arts schools for women. We are the largest all-women’s liberal arts school in the country. And – but what’s interesting from my point of view, being Director of Smith College Executive Education, is that we have actually been in this business of developing women executive leaders for 35 years. This is our 35th year. And it all started back in – 35 years ago when the then-president, Jill Conway, Jill Ker Conway, who was the first woman president of Smith College – actually, her vision was that Smith be a premiere educational opportunity for women at all ages and stages of their lives. So her vision was to create something – she felt the need to give back to women who were climbing the ladder on their career. She herself has sat on about 16 boards in her career. And so she started what was then known as the Smith Management Programs. And then in ’99, we changed the name to Smith Executive Education.
So I’ve been at the college for 10 years. And as Clark said, it was in about 2002 that we joined with Tuck to start this particular program. But we run a – we have developed a portfolio of programs for women at all levels of the organization.
MR. CALLAHAN: So I should have said too that we’ve actually been in this business about the same amount of time. We have just a few more years, I guess, that we’ve been doing executive education at Tuck. And Tuck has the one of the claims to being first in business education. It’s the first graduate school of business. So it was founded in 1900. And that history is something that’s important to us, just in terms of doing things first that we think are important in the field of management education. But that’s who we are; that’s our perspective.
So a bit of broad context on how we look at this question of the shortage of women at the top of organizations. So the numbers speak for themselves. And we put together – we chose not to project, but we have a PowerPoint deck, and we’ll be glad to share it with you – but we’ve selected some statistics that we thought were telling. There is a really good report out just recently by Joanna Barsh at McKinsey on – that makes really the argument from a global economics perspective and says if you were to engage women in the workforce, here’s the potential economic impact. And I think there is something to be said for that, that you can – we can look, and we will, at data in very specific geographies and try to explain why they are what they are. But if you step back a little bit, at the end of the day from a businessperson’s perspective and as an executive educator’s perspective, this is about economic impact and doing what’s right in these organizations, but there’s a very real economic opportunity that’s missing.
The other thing is that there are – and they – these writers acknowledge it, from McKinsey, and others do that we’ve seen – there are good intentions. This isn’t about bad intentions on the part of companies, on the part of executives, men or women. In fact, there are lots of initiatives, there are lots of efforts. People are trying to look at, understand the data. But they – again, they speak for themselves. So a few of those data points, and I’m sure you either know these or have access to these. But of the Fortune 500, 11 percent of chief executives are women.
MS. NEWALU: (Inaudible) actually only have 11.
MR. CALLAHAN: And back in – even back in the year 2000, there were 15. Is that significant? I have no idea, but that number is telling.
The U.S., by some counts, actually does relatively well, so – especially if you’re looking just at women in the workforce and in the corporate workforce. Fifty three percent of new hires in the U.S. are women. The problem is as you get – as you work your way up in the organization, it drops by this count, by one count. You go to the next tier, you’re less than 40 percent. And as you work your way up, then you get to 26 percent of vice presidents and senior executives at the Fortune 500 are women. So very quickly, clearly, the – as you work your way up the pyramid, you see the challenge. That’s the U.S.
If you look at the EU, there’s been some – it’s being – so first of all, it’s in the news now, which is interesting, right? It’s being studied. There are journalists who are interested in this. In Norway, it was back in ’03, the law that said 40 percent of board members have to be – of publicly traded firms have to be women, right? And so there’s some dialogue. In Italy, you can speak to the awareness and the intentions with respect to do we legislate that here’s what you have to have. So there are laws in France and England and Germany. Interestingly, there isn’t a law in the U.S., even though it’s, at the moment, sort of the relatively stronger player.
So whatever data set you use – and we’ve chosen some here, but I think most of the organizations that you would find that study this would come up with similar data sets that speak for themselves. But the question is why, because if we can answer why, we’d know something more about solutions. And when it comes to understanding the why, it’s really – the evidence that we see is much more anecdotal, some good anecdotal evidence that’s been studied, but it’s anecdotal. And so we are left then to draw our own conclusions.
In the McKinsey – so, the consulting firm – says look, we have a organizational health index. And if you look at organizations and how they rank as – in terms of their overall health – including financial health, including the strength of management, et cetera – companies that have three or more women in the top ranks, the top tier of that organization, will score higher. And similarly, Catalyst, another organization that does a lot of research on women in business, says that – and this was very recent – that there’s a 26 percent difference in return on invested capital between companies that are in the top quartile of board representation – so that’s board of directors representation, U.S. definition – versus the bottom quartile. So they’re showing, look, there’s a difference in economic return in the organizations. I don’t think anybody would argue that, and I don’t think anybody would argue the McKinsey study findings. What gets interesting when we come to – so –
QUESTION: Sorry to interrupt you just for a second.
MR. CALLAHAN: Yeah.
QUESTION: Those numbers refer to the U.S. companies, or it’s global?
MR. CALLAHAN: So I’ll confirm, but Catalyst, I believe, is going to be U.S. numbers. And since it’s board representation, and they mean the U.S. definition, corporate boards – but we’ll give you the references to all of these. Even just the – each of these organizations have just tremendous bodies of research. Catalyst is one at Tuck that we have worked very closely with.
So – but that begs the question, right? So what are the barriers? Why? Why does this happen? And Iris will jump in here because she is very much of an expert in this. But if you sort of made a laundry list of what are the things that are preventing women from advancing their way up, so that when we get to the top of the pyramid we have a much more gender-balanced picture, one is a lack of role models. So there aren’t women there, so they’re not modeling the way for other women, so there aren’t more women there.
Some of these, by the way, are very tangible. And that’s a tangible example of women can tell you that that is their experience. That’s different from the sort of perceptual and intangible things like “I’m exclude from a network,” whether it’s called the boys’ club or whatever it’s called – even more formal networks that exist, but “I’m not part of the network” is a commonly understood reason and barrier.
Sponsorship from senior management. So, in a lot of executive programs you’re sponsored to come to the program. It may be a formal thing, but it’s often informal. It’s mentoring, it’s coaching that happens from senior execs. And for whatever reason – and I think you’ll offer some reasons why – there is a lack of that kind of sponsorship from upper management for women. It may be a – it may just be a vicious cycle, but there could be other explanations as well.
And then you get into things like – and this, I think, is largely perceptual; I’m sure you can find actual examples of it – but there’s the hypothesis that says, look, a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week, on-call schedule doesn’t work as well for as many women as it does for men. We’ve heard people say it, we’ve heard some women say it. I think the question is: Is that a perception that is driving decisions that are made? So there’s some evidence – and I don’t remember how well this is documented, but the – there’s evidence that says that whereas men are promoted based on the likelihood, their potential to do a job, women are promoted based on their performance – have you done the job – and that would be a very real barrier, if that’s true.
Getting even more perceptual: beliefs. Even in companies and companies’ cultures, that this will create an issue of work/life balance, of willingness to relocate globally – increasingly part of a requisite for a senior management role, is having some kind of a global assignment. And we have clients that we work with who – that is actually explicitly stated: You will have a global assignment, it’s very likely it will be in a rapidly developing economy – it doesn’t have to be – before you will move to, call it the global officers group or some such designation. And if the perception is, well, women aren’t as suited for that, and so we won’t even identify them for that. Then that becomes a barrier.
And one that’s really interesting – and I might use this as a segue, Iris, to some of your thoughts on these and our solutions – but one that gets really interesting is: So what are the beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes of the women who would be, should be, could be high potential for senior leadership? Are there beliefs they have that actually hold them back? Is there a difference in confidence? Is there a less – and we often say in executive education, is there less willingness to take the time to invest in yourself, because you’re more likely to feel guilty of taking that time away from your team, away from your family, et cetera. And to those – actually, those beliefs by women even become barriers and limiting forces.
Should I turn it to you for –
MS. NEWALU: Sure.
MR. CALLAHAN: -- comment on that and –
MS. NEWALU: Yeah, just –
MR. CALLAHAN: -- maybe move us toward then so how do we think of solutions.
MS. NEWALU: Sure. I think that last part you said is very true. We hear it all over the place, is that women have a lot of guilt about this and the amount of time that they’re going to be work-identified. So that guilt perception is very much about the women. We’ve been talking about a lot of cultural assumptions and structures that kind of go against women or become barriers to women, but let’s talk a minute for what the women’s own limiting beliefs are. And number one is that – I think the studies showed also that women believed that they need to have more skills, whereas what Clark said about men are promoted or given more assignments based on their potential, women are still thinking, “I’ve got to perform better. I’ve got to build my skill set.”
Or they’re sitting around waiting to be asked. Women don’t ask. So that’s still an issue. Men tend to ask more. We had a senior exec on a panel last year, and she said when somebody comes to you with an offer or an opportunity, just say yes, because while you’re thinking about it, the guy down the hall is already on the plane. And then he’s going to think about it later; can I do this job? Men jump in, right? And they say, “I can do this,” before they even really know. Women: “Let me think about it. Let me prepare myself. Let me really find out. Can I do this?” And get all the securities in line and affirmations, and then they’ll say it. And in the meantime, they lose out. So I think those two things, that they’re still thinking they need to build their skills set and waiting to be asked is one of those barriers.
However, in the McKinsey report, there is no lack of confidence, there is no lack of ambition, with women. They have that. They actually believe that themselves. So it’s almost like a contradiction. They believe – they have incredible ambition, incredible confidence, but they’re still waiting and kind of caught up in that cultural conditioning of waiting to be asked. So I just wanted to throw that in because I thought that last point was really good.
So we’ve talked about the structural barriers that women can face because of lack of role models and being excluded from those informal networks, the so-called old boys’ club or whatever it is, going to a sports bar after work when they have to go home and actually take care of the family and get the meal on the table and all that. They are excluded, either consciously or unconsciously, from much of where it happens. And that mentoring that you were talking about happens in those informal networks. So women are excluded from that in almost an unconscious way.
So one of the ways that we feel there’s an unparalleled kind of opportunity that can happen for women at all levels is to expand their network. And frankly, women are still learning how to do this. Men are better at it than we are. We haven’t had to do it as long. We haven’t had to really focus on building our own network. We’re too good at putting our nose to the grindstone and doing the hard work, and we forget to get up from our desk and walk down the hall and meet so-and-so, who could be a good connection for us. We don’t give it the time and space. So women are learning that now. And in our programs that are created for all women, that’s where it happens. They actually can learn to be more strategic about the kind of networking that they need to do on a very professional level.
So building that network and meeting other female models who have taken this step and are a little further ahead than they are – one of the things we always offer in our programs, we bring in a panel of very, very senior women execs, so then they have the opportunity to talk to them in a very informal way and tell them how they got to where they are today and the barriers they’ve faced and how they overcame that. And I always find that really a high point of the program, because women want to hear – they are just hungry for that kind of mentoring from – so.
I also want to make a distinction between mentoring and sponsoring. We’re finding that mentoring is almost an educational kind of experience, somebody being brought in to be informed more about how politics works, how to navigate the organization. But what we’re finding is that doesn’t always lead to the promotion, to the advancement. It’s actually a sponsorship, somebody really at a higher level taking you on and really putting your name forward and really promoting you and pushing you along. And this is what men and women need, really. But this is what we’re seeing, that women have to get established. And companies can do a lot more around that, and some are actually building that into their performance reviews, of how many managers actually really did sponsor women along the way.
So there’s that. And then, of course, as – we’ve talked about the limiting beliefs that women have themselves. One of the things I feel we bring to that is an opportunity for women to be self-reflective in our programs. We actually create – we think reflection is very important, really having that opportunity to step back away from the fray of life and the busyness of their projects and their demands and everything to think about their careers, think about where they are, think about what they actually want, and what ideas, what notions they might still be operating out of that are limiting themselves from going forward.
So we try to give them a roadmap for how to really go in there and question themselves. Can’t blame it all on the culture. We’ve got to look at ourselves for women of what’s holding us back. And so I’m very interested in that piece, because I think when you engage with women and they really start asking – and we have some dynamic faculty who (inaudible) and really get them to question that in themselves, then it kind of blows it all away. And they realize, “Wow, I don’t really have to think this way.” So that’s one thing I wanted to say.
I think the self-reflection piece and particularly taking a program – signing on for a program like executive education, which is really a full immersion kind of experience where you’re with your troop peers – it’s not a K-to-12 classroom; you’re really with your real peers, where you can sit across the table and ask this other woman, “How do you deal with this at your company? Give me some ideas, and I’ll share with you what my ideas are and what works and everything.” That’s what really, really helps women to develop a lot more strategies than they came with. So when they meet their true peers, and it’s like a mirror reflection of themselves – our programs are very global, they are very cross-industry, and you – they sometimes sit down and say, “Hmm, I’m in pharmaceutical and you’re in financial services. What do we have to do with each other?” But very quickly, we get to the meat of it, that we’re all women and we’re dealing with the same kinds of issues, and business is business. So it all comes out on the table in very informal way and is so rich. It’s so rich. Everybody goes away with much more of a – strategies and understandings, and a network that they can call on for the rest of their lives, basically, which is a big part of it.
MR. CALLAHAN: What’s really interesting about this is to listen to Iris talk about – again, with a point of view that says we’re going to do executive education for women, bring together groups of women, and we have this one initiative where we partner together. But then we have other things at Tuck that we do. She has other all-women’s programs, we have other mixed-gender programs, right?
If you were to leave gender out of it and just draw a sort of map of what’s the intention of an executive development experience – right? – regardless of for men or for women, the idea that – a long-held idea – that while there’s knowledge – right? – there’s a thought leadership, there’s a body of knowledge that’s useful. That’s always been out there. It used to be kind of the primary thing that people were coming for. Today, though, there are two other things. And this is what Iris, I think, is speaking to. There’s – one is it’s about the network and relationships that you build, and you should build them during your executive development experience and you should carry them on after that. So it’s part of having that sponsor. It’s part of getting that mentoring.
And another facet to this is what are – your development as an executive is about the experiences you have, and we want you to come and have an experience which is – changes your mindset, that you think differently about things. Okay? So – and the way you do that, by the way, is – we encourage this – just broadly in executive education now, it’s all about reflection. It’s about getting really busy people – aggressive, smart, busy people – to step back, just pause and think about what we did today, and what are your reflections? What might you do differently? Come in in the morning, you do that, you do that by the end of the day – and by the way, it would be a good habit as an executive to make some time for that.
We’re telling that to men – I’m going at length here to say we tell that to men and to women. What’s interesting is there’s an argument that it’s going to be a different environment when you do that just for women. And there’s an argument that Smith would put forth that we should do this just for women. Everyone should have at least one executive development experience – every woman should – that is just an audience of women, because that’s going to be a different environment, even though there are some similar objectives, from a mixed audience.
And in fact, we have examples of that, where we’ve worked with women who are now senior executives, where they’ve come to an experience that we’ve had at Tuck, and they’ve come to Smith. And they would reflect on those very, very differently. What was the impact? What was the willingness to have a dialogue about, and even – I’ll just say I’ve seen this – to kind of sit around with the group and cry about here’s what I’ve faced; here are the challenges I’ve faced. You put on a different face when you’re in this other program. There’s value to both, but how you structure those experiences is really important.
Sorry. It was a long path to go down. Just --
MS. NEWALU: No. It’s really great what you’re saying because, I mean, it’s really true what Clark is saying. There is something different that happens when women are learning with women in that classroom. And in fact, one of our Tuck faculty was one of the first to bring that. We’re kind of used to it at Smith College. We’re surrounded by it all the time. I mean, obviously I’m aware of it, but he brought it and he said, “There’s something that happens here. There’s something that happens here that’s almost like magic.” And I really questioned him about it, and I said, “Well, what’s different?” And he said, “Well, for one thing, I think the women – they really jump in. They’re more engaged. They really ask a lot of questions, and they take over the conversation.”
And just to bring a little example to that, a couple of years ago we were at Tuck, and this program is for very senior-level global leaders, very senior. So there was a woman in the class, 22 years with her company. She was an MD and head of her lab, right? She oversaw about 40 scientists. She asked a question to the faculty in the morning. And this faculty usually doesn’t go off on many tangents, but this question kind of opened up a whole discussion, and he went into it and it was beautiful. It was great. And at lunchtime, I was sitting next to her and I said, “That was such a great question. Look at – you’ve created such a buzz in here. Everybody’s still talking about it.” And she looked at me. And she was a woman probably in her, I don’t know, late 40s or so, in her career, and she said, “You know, Iris, I’ve been wanting to ask that question for three years.” And I’m thinking, wait a minute, this is a very accomplished, very high achieving woman. “And why haven’t you asked that question?” And she just – she said, “Well, the same old thing. Fear of looking stupid. Fear of not having the answer when I’m with the mixed group.”
So that is one thing. Now, I’m not saying that’s true for all women, and we do see a generational difference. The younger women coming up are more willing to stick their necks out there and everything. But there are women who just will not really put their voice out there yet until they really feel comfortable. And this was a highly accomplished woman in her career. So it was just interesting – example of why there is a place for that as – and there is a place for the other too.
We often have women come to our programs who pull me aside the first day and say, “And why did my company send me to an all-women’s program? I work on Wall Street. I mean, do you know I work on – ” And I say, “Right.” And I used to sit down and explain it to them and say, “Well, these are the reasons.” Now I just say, “You know what? Just sit with it for a day or two and then let’s talk.” And inevitably they get it. It’s the trust, it’s the openness, it’s the willingness to take risks, it’s the sharing and the bonding that happens. And by the end of the program, they’ve made this close network of colleagues that they know they can call on again and again. So there is something that happens. But by all means, I think – and there’s a place for every woman to have that experience at least once. But then there’s so many opportunities in a coed executive educational program where she can really excel and learn things from the men.
In fact, we have actually started –we specialize in all women’s programs. That’s not – the coed’s not our specialty. However, in some of my custom programs with some of the leading companies today, they want the men to get the same that the women are getting. So I actually, in this past year, have run an all men’s program, which was really new for us. So it was a module program over the course of a year, and we would have one month, two or three days with just the women, the next month we’d come back and have two or three days just with the men, and we would offer the same programming. So the core curriculum is very robust. It’s the same thing for both.
But the gender issue comes in a little differently in each of them. And the men loved it. They loved actually being alone and just having just their kind of conversation of discovering what does it mean to be a man today in corporate America. And we brought in one of the leading experts on masculinity, a professor, Michael Kimmel from SUNY Stony Brook, who spent 34 years of his career studying what does it mean to be a man today. And he’s very, very concerned about this question. And he says – his latest book was very much about what’s happening to boys 16 to 26, because we’re kind of losing them, they’re off track. The education rate we were just talking about – 58 percent of college graduates in 2010 were women. We are the most educated in the workforce right now. And so what’s happening to the guys in this early – late teen, early 20s segment? And it’s a real issue. So he spent his career – so he came in and led a whole day retreat with 60 high-level scientists in R&D, and it was fascinating. It was really fascinating to what they discovered about themselves.
And one of the big discoveries was, at the end of the day, they said, “I learned so much about my own preconceived notions about women as a result of looking at myself. I will not be able to go back and lead in the same way.” And one even went so far to tell me, “This has changed the way I will be a father from now on, to my sons as well as my daughters.” So it was really transformative when men actually start to look in a very guided way at their notions of who they are and how they should be a leader, and how that impacts women and all the women in their lives, and children and how we’re bringing up our boys and our girls.
So we’re kind of going in that direction, too. We’re not just – and I also just want to throw out here too that it’s not about fixing women. There’s nothing to fix. Like I said before, they have the confidence, they have the ambition, they have the education. There’s nothing to fix. It’s not remedial.
MR. CALLAHAN: Does that phrase resonate? That’s one that we use a lot in our business, so we used to say just broadly about – again, not gender-specific – we used to say if you need coaching, mentoring, if we’re going to assign someone to you, you need to be fixed; there’s something wrong. Well, we’ve kind of evolved to a point now in our business where we say it’s a good thing. The fact that we have identified you as someone who would benefit from coaching means that we see a lot of potential in you and we want to develop that potential. So it goes from being bad, to have to be working on things, to being good to work on things. And now you’re making that as a gender-specific issue of let’s remember what we’ve learned is developing people is not about fixing them; developing people is about understanding and getting them to take ownership of their own progression, right?
MS. NEWALU: Right. And many of you are from Europe, and I just wanted to say that Avivah Wittenberg-Cox – I don’t know if that name rings a bell for you, but she wrote a book a couple of years ago called Why Women Mean Business, and then in this year she came out with this book of How Women Mean Business. Now, she has an independent consulting company that is actually going in and studying the culture of corporations around Europe. And one of the points she made to me a couple of years ago when I met up with her was executive education for women, if done incorrectly, does not work.
And what did she mean by that? She meant just what we’re talking about, that some programs are set up with the mindset of we need to go in and fix women, we need to be remedial in nature, we need to bring them up to a certain level. And I totally agree with Clark that it’s not about that. And I think, really, one of the reasons we’re so successful at what we do is that we don’t take that approach, that we actually started a whole other level. You’re not here to be fixed; you’re already smart, we’re just going to make you smarter. So – in many ways. So I think that’s just an important point.
And when you analyze different results of different programs, that’s where you have to look. What’s the result? What’s the impact? When they go back to the company, do they actually bring something back that has an impact? That’s what we’re seeing. We do post-program surveys six months, nine months, ten months later, and 100 percent of managers have told us that the programs have either met or exceeded their expectations, and that this – the women coming through the programs, two to three times more promotions and two to three times more are retained in the companies. So there is a benefit there.
MR. CALLAHAN: Which over time, we hope, moves the needle, right?
MS. NEWALU: Yes, yes. That’s the point.
MR. CALLAHAN: It is interesting. You sort of bring us back to – so what about the data? If we’re doing all these things –
MS. NEWALU: -- right –
MR. CALLAHAN: -- then why isn’t it improving? I didn’t mention, by the way, up front that there is another whole sort of interesting question here for schools, business schools like Tuck, about women entering the MBA class. So it’s typical to have a target now of about one-third women to two-thirds men, and actually, you’re thought to be doing sort of the best you can if – there may be a few exceptions out there to that, but generally, you’re thought to be doing – I think those numbers are current. I can get them, but I’m pretty sure that’s a high of probably 35 percent, maybe.
So again, you ask why is that? This could connect, by the way, to this question of why aren’t there women at the very top of organizations. It could. I don’t think there’s any proof. I think all of this is anecdotal. But if you look at a decision by a woman, in all likelihood in her late 20s, according to the way we do things right now – right? – thinking about an MBA degree, making a career choice, and that might be comparing it to other professions. So if I’m looking at business school, first of all, business school expects me to get some experience before I come back for my degree, so I probably took, usually five years, maybe now it’s a few less, but you put me in my late 20s, which just simply biologically that may not be a great time to take an education break. It actually would have been better to do it earlier, like law school, medical school, actually encourage you to do, right? So that’s one.
Two, then I look at the numbers – and this is the vicious cycle. I look at the numbers. So when I get out, what’s the likelihood – what are my options for flexibility when I get down the road? So it’s really clear in – certainly in medicine there’s all kinds of flexibility to how many days you work, what kinds of jobs you’re in, right? You see these different paths. Even in law, law firms are really good at having project work available. It can be high-level work, highly-paid work; you can do it five days a week, four days a week, three, two, one. You name it, and you can kind of step in and step out.
Businesses are much less – or much more rigid in this is how we do it, you get your MBA, you get on this path, and if you step off that path, well, you’re probably not going to get back on. There’s a whole body of research around this that’s really well done by a woman named Sylvia Ann Hewlett, at the – here in New York at the Center for Work-Life Policy. But the reason I’m saying it’s interesting to look at is I think it’s related. I think the numbers that we see of even what’s the interest in going into business to how many women are there in senior levels of these businesses is related. It’s not just that they aren’t being promoted. I think there’s also this – the pipeline effect of they’re not coming in, and those numbers aren’t getting better either.
I meant to point that out early on.
MS. NEWALU: I think there is – yeah.
MR. CALLAHAN: Add to that, if the research is saying, by the way, men are in trouble, the next generation, then who’s going to run these companies?
MS. NEWALU: Well, there’s another thing to say about that too, and it came out in the study. When you read it, you’ll see that they interviewed – I think it was 1,300 college graduates, men and women, and the men overwhelmingly want the same thing as women. We see this younger generation coming and saying we don’t want 24/7, we want to have a family, we want to have a life, we want to have that also.
MR. CALLAHAN: Right.
MS. NEWALU: So I think that’s the hope myself, is that if the guys come along and – because I wish – I guess my wish would be that we reach a point where work-life balance issues, all of that, isn’t just a women’s issue. And I think we’re getting there. I think we really have to put to rest that that is not just a women’s issue anymore. Men – everybody wants a life. So what we’re talking about is really a culture change, and that’s a big, steep mountain to climb.
I like to say that we’re creating a quiet insurgency in corporate America, to kind of go in and start to break down and change that culture that got built and founded in the ’50s. Who founded it? White men who had wives and support and didn’t have to think about the family because their wife stayed at home and did that. Eighty-eight percent of American women are in the workforce. That’s pretty high. Nobody has time. Nobody wants to drop out; they need the money, they have to work. So it’s not an option anymore.
MR. CALLAHAN: Iris, I’m thinking we – it’s been a two-way dialogue, but I wonder if – would it help if we were to open it up to all of you?
MS. NEWALU: Yeah. I’d love to hear. Sure.
QUESTION: I would like to get back to one thing that you mentioned in the beginning with a, like, two-part question, if I may. You mentioned that you’re seeing that many European countries are establishing legal or company-wise things that fix a certain percentage of women who have to be on the boards or on the executive level.
MR. CALLAHAN: Sure.
QUESTION: So my first question would be, I’ve heard from many politicians here that it’s totally inconceivable to have legal things in America, and I would just like a quick quote on your perspective on that.
And the more important question is do you, as educational institutions, see that as some kind of market niche that you could push your students or your graduates into, to say, like, listen, there will be a great demand of women soon in Europe if they all come up with, like, 30 percent on board.
MS. NEWALU: If they do. Right.
QUESTION: Are there any programs or any moves on your side to get people into the European market?
MS. NEWALU: Well, the second part I’m not sure I can address, but the first part is very interesting because I think the U.S. private sector is never going to go for a legal mandate. I wish they would. This is my feeling. I don’t know. I wish we would, but we were founded on the basis of, like, affirmative action and equality and things like that, so a lot of people are kind of in denial that there is even an issue here in a way. So I’m not sure if we’re going to get to the point where that will be really mandated.
I do think, though, that a stronger voice here is the consumer issue of – they say, what 80, 85 percent of all consumer products are bought by women. The market is going to drive it. The smarter organizations are going to see that we need to have more women making these decisions to influence our market. So that, and also a corporate social responsibility, I think. The writing is on the wall, and the studies that are coming out now – what we’re so excited about is The Wall Street Journal took part in this study with McKinsey. They’re very invested in it and they’re really giving a lot of attention to it. So the more attention we give to it and the more conversations and dialogues like this internationally even that can happen, I think will benefit that.
So I just don’t – I don’t see us kind of moving towards that. I don’t see any indication of that. Do you have any thoughts on that?
MR. CALLAHAN: I don’t think I’d be as – to me, the data have to speak for themselves. I don’t consider myself an expert in why they are what they are.
MS. NEWALU: Yeah. I mean, we don’t even get parity on dollar-per-dollar. So I think it’s just got to really come from the individual. And one of the things that we find in the programs – the corporations that we work with sent cadres of women, they send groups of women, teams of women to the programs. That’s where you’re going to see an impact. It’s not with the one single person who comes and goes back with a big idea. That’s going to be really hard. But when you send a group in year and after and year – we’re in to our 35th year – of developing that team in the companies that can actually go back and strategize and actually navigate that kind of change that’s needed, then we might get there.
As far as the other part of your question, I think it’s a really good one and I have hope that our Smith students are going to go out there and do something to change like that. I see a lot of energy in the younger generation coming up that they really want change in a big way.
So I don’t know specifically what they’re doing. I don’t know if this completely relates, but I wanted to say that Secretary Hillary Clinton has just started an initiative through the State Department where she’s engaged the five women’s colleges – Smith being one of them; Wellesley, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, and Mount Holyoke being the others – and we’re going to be taking part with her to develop a worldwide initiative to develop international women for public – for the public sector – leaders, leaders. So that came out about a month and a half or so ago, and we’re all really excited about that.
But it is on a broader kind of mandate in a way to really bring international women in and educate them and bring them up to be very strong leaders internationally. So I think there’s so much potential for change. Where it’s going to come from specifically, it’s going to be everywhere.
MR. CALLAHAN: I may have another idea for you. I’ll give you the name of someone who might be very happy to be quoted on that, somebody who did some of that research.
QUESTION: I wanted to know two things. One, when you say you wish you see some affirmative actions, like quotas, why do you think they’re good, and what do you think could be the impact in terms of – there’s very few example around, but for example, in Italy they’re debating, and there’s a lot of pro and cons. And so –
MS. NEWALU: Right.
QUESTION: -- an opinion on –
MS. NEWALU: Right.
MR. CALLAHAN: Were you saying they’re good?
MS. NEWALU: I wasn’t totally. I was just saying I don’t think it’s going to happen here.
MR. CALLAHAN: Right. No. I just – I assume because you said “I wish”(inaudible).
MS. NEWALU: Well, yeah. While I was in Norway last year, for instance, and I know they have this 40 percent – I think they’re up to 44 percent now on the boards. And I was talking to some women who actually engage with developing women to be on boards. And it’s just like what you just said. There is a diverse opinion going on, whether that’s working or good or bad or whatever. And I just think they have to start somewhere. It’s probably not perfect right now, but they have to start somewhere. And if it’s working in those countries to get more women there by mandate, and the right women are getting there, they’re going to have an influence, they’re going to have an impact.
So I guess I would say yes, I do think, on one hand, it would be great if we had those kind of laws. Interesting in the McKinsey, there was one point where they were – actually, it wasn’t in McKinsey. It was in Avivah Wittinberg-Cox’s information here, where she says – let me just find this for you –
MR. CALLAHAN: Which point are you looking for?
MS. NEWALU: Well, the point about – yeah, the U.S. Because we have been – basically have a stronger history on gender in North America than in Latin America, Europe, or Asia, it makes getting started in a gender initiative somewhat easier.
MR. CALLAHAN: Right.
MS. NEWALU: Right? So when I was reading the report and thinking about – especially, like, Latin America, like Brazil, the emerging economies, Brazil and India and China, but Brazil and India – they’re working really hard, working really hard. And some of the – another report that I was just reading on the train down here called Men and Work-Life Integration Study that came out just yesterday from a consulting firm in Boston – it’s a global study and there’s – what I’m gaining from that is that the emerging economies, men and women, are showing a much higher degree of overload, work, and everything. And I don’t know exactly why, but maybe it’s because they’re still struggling to come up. And that U.S. men and women were taking more opportunity for the work-life opportunities that companies have come up with.
MR. CALLAHAN: Yeah. That’s the maturity of the economy.
MS. NEWALU: It’s the maturity. But it’s really having an effect, and it’s kind of interesting.
QUESTION: Another thing I wanted to know if, in your experience particularly with these scores that you do, that the issue of family comes up and what’s the impact. I mean, when these women probably from their experience – I mean if the changing role of the family itself or women in the family has an impact, and which way?
MS. NEWALU: Oh, that’s interesting. Well, just one thing – one thing I could say about that was I am definitely seeing more and more in recent years a one-income family, and that being the woman, and the man is staying home. Now, five years ago, six years ago, we didn’t have much discussion about this. In the last few years, more and more women are talking about how do I deal with this, my husband is staying home all the time; he doesn’t mind right now, but I know it’s not going to last forever.
MR. CALLAHAN: And flipping. And so it’s not unusual to go through phases and even have deals. I have a – we have family friends who have a deal that she – and it’s not – they both work, but there are a couple of years when her career drives things, and then it’s his turn, and there’s actually a very fairly deliberate understanding.
But I think your question was also about – so what about the – don’t let me put words in your mouth, but what about the relative importance of the nuclear family and impact on the nuclear family.
QUESTION: Yeah. We’re shifting. Yeah.
MR. CALLAHAN: Yeah. So again, this is strictly anecdotal, but I’ve had conversations with senior women executives who say – sure – and I haven’t asked that question quite that way, but sure, you could – we could ask, “What’s the impact on my family?” But I could also ask, “What am I modeling for my children and what do I want to model for my children?” So it’s the whole quality time versus sheer volume of time. And I found that compelling as a response.
The other thing is, if you – it would be interesting to look at that question geographically, both for – in terms of how will that be viewed. You might be able to say, for example, pan-Asia or in a specific country in Asia, where I think it’s probably safe to say there’s a very strong attachment to the importance of nuclear family and extended family, right?
So how is that – how is gender, then, in those geographies? And to our whole interest, how do you develop solutions to the question that are different for those geographies? Just – if that makes any sense, just one example with the – we think of, in our business, we are – we’re developing people for – that are high potential for senior-level assignments. So that means – increasingly, that means they’re global assignments, right? You need to be ready to take on a global job.
Well, it’s been suggested that you may need to have – take steps toward those people who want global assignments and have regional programs that are – that you might need in one region, not another. In Asia, we might argue you should have Pan Asia leadership development so that you’re keeping a majority of those people close enough to home, right? And then there will be some number who decide if they want to be at the very top echelon, then here’s the path there. But instead of this sort of wholesale approach that says, “Well, beginning – early on, we identify you as high potential, we want to bring you to the U.S. and come participate in this program.” It just requires thinking about it very differently.
QUESTION: But still thinking --
MR. CALLAHAN: I don’t know if that connects back.
QUESTION: Sorry for the interruption. Still thinking geographically, isn’t it reasonable to think that many leaders in big companies, due to the globalization, would think that it would be more complicated to have women in top positions due to the fact that certain countries, emerging economies – Latin America, Asia – are notably more, I would say, misogynistic than the West or in the Nordic countries, for instance? Is this something that you guys work as well, in due course, that kind of idea?
MS. NEWALU: So are you saying is it – is it just more accepted there that the women are going to leave the job when they get married or have children?
MS. NEWALU: Yeah. I think that’s what she pointed out in her book, like particularly in Asia. She – and I’d love to hear from you. She’s saying in Japan and South Korea, where it’s more conservative, fewer than 10 percent of managers are women, and marriage generally means the end of the career.
QUESTION: It’s true.
MS. NEWALU: It’s true?
QUESTION: Yeah, I hear from even like – for some newspaper media companies, like some foreign correspondents, they’re women and they’re supposed to be able to work 24/7. And then, for example, they find out they’re pregnant and they were sent back to Tokyo, even though their husbands – they’re saying they want to come with her to take care of children, but still like many, many – like that – it’s just like --
MS. NEWALU: It’s just the end.
QUESTION: So like giving birth or pregnant means for many positions of one company, that’s the end of their career for them, so they choose not to have kids or – it’s really true.
QUESTION: Yeah. And I was wondering if this regional aspect that you can relate to both Asia and Latin America, for sure Brazil – it’s a little bit different, but it’s pretty much – it’s close to what happen in Japan and China – if the other side of the coin is not true (inaudible) here when you have to promote someone to deal now with the globalized economy, but someone – a counterpart in Brazil or in China, would it be more reasonable to think that a man would be more relatable to those other companies in Brazil and China, which your counterpart – than an American women or European women to deal with them and talk like management positions?
MS. NEWALU: Oh. So you’re saying just because there will be more men over there than they should men to deal with them?
QUESTION: Not just about that, but the –
MR. CALLAHAN: And receptivity.
QUESTION: But the – exactly. The receptivity. Yeah. The fact that culturally –
MS. NEWALU: Culturally --
QUESTION: -- both Asia and Latin America – we are – it’s more common for us to deal with men than –
MS. NEWALU: Sure. Yeah.
QUESTION: -- business then women.
MS. NEWALU: Right. No. That is a barrier for women, definitely. There’s something to – one of the aspects we teach is intercultural relations, so that we really have to understand how to do that business interculturally. It’s a very big topic. So – yeah. I think so.
MR. CALLAHAN: There may be another force at work in our favor in providing solutions, which is geographic culture, country culture, is certainly strong and important. So is corporate culture. And global companies have strong cultures that they bring to the places where they do business. And I think that helps – that creates opportunities to move the needle as well, maybe slowly. And the more closed the economy in Japan – right? – the less impact it’s going to have.
MS. NEWALU: Yeah.
MR. CALLAHAN: But I think you do see some of that. So if you’re company is going to be in, say, Brazil, well, to some extent they want to have – respect the culture you’re in, right? And to some extent, here are the things that are simply our values, our approach to business, and that can influence attitudes.
MS. NEWALU: I have some statistic, just again taking from Avivah’s book. Columbia, which has the highest percentage of female managers in the region among leading nations by any measure of the world, 75 percent are management positions, and 38 percent of top management positions are held by women, and it’s very similar in Brazil, actually.
So we’ve got them, but how many are married, how many have children? We have a lot – as I was telling you earlier, we do have a lot of women from Brazil come to the programs from multinationals. And I agree with Clark, that that corporate culture is what’s really helping them to kind of move ahead right now. And – but I haven’t seen too many with family obligations.
MR. CALLAHAN: You just reminded me of one I wanted to look for and didn’t find, is I heard – and I don't know. Please, this is a research question for you. (Laughter.) In China are women – the role of women in leading large companies, is that changing rapidly? And I read something recently, and I’d have to find it. I’d be glad to try. But that it might be a real exception to some of what the rest of what you see in Asia. Does anyone see or read – there was something there that –
MS. NEWALU: I think there are more at the very top.
MR. CALLAHAN: Yeah. It was related to CEOs.
MS. NEWALU: And then there’s a big gap, and it comes down to middle management, again. So it’s similar, kind of falls off very similar to the U.S.
MR. CALLAHAN: Yeah.
MS. NEWALU: There’s a broad base here at mid-management that we’re trying to get up. So moving from director to VP is a very big step. And that’s the potential right there that we’re trying to develop.
MR. CALLAHAN: Yeah.
MS. NEWALU: Once they’re into VP, then they’ve overcome a lot of obstacles, and then they can really go into (inaudible) suite from there. But I think that’s what I’ve seen. We did a very small study a couple of years ago on China, and we’re planning to go to China – Tuck already goes there – to do an all women’s program. And they were all at the director level, but they want to move. And there were lots of them, lots and lots. So they’re very much wanting to develop them further.
What else? What else has been on your minds around these issues? Or what have you been seeing out there? Maybe you know of studies that we don’t know about. We’d love to hear.
QUESTION: Talking about solutions, I don't know if you – on the table – I mean, you obviously believe a lot in education, I suppose. And so would you kind of prioritize that solution against other, say like, affirmative actions or any other which not really well known and that might be out there? Could it be this, the most – I mean, I know you have a bias on this, but it’s their worth. I mean it’ s – do you think that could be the best way to change a culture and way to move forward?
MS. NEWALU: Well, I would just say it’s one way and it’s an important way to give cutting-edge skills. Executive education is different from even an MBA program, which you might have – many of our people have gone through MBA programs, five, ten years ago or more. But when they come to exec ed, it’s all about what’s happening right now in the world. And so our professors are not just academics; they are consultants to industry, who are in there every day, finding out what the latest is and bringing that forward. So I think bringing those kind of skills to women and men too is very important for the development. And I think the companies would – corporations would all agree on that.
But it’s only one way. It has to be a top-down and a bottom-up kind of a pursuit. You have to have top sponsorship, top endorsement of these kind of things. It has to come down from the top. And it also has to be a grassroots kind of an effort. So you find in a lot – in the case of women, a lot of women’s leadership initiatives going on in companies and networks.
And there are some that are truly great models of this, and I will say that Johnson & Johnson started one of the earliest and – back in the early ‘90s – and it is truly something that works. They had a very clear mandate for what this was. It wasn’t just to go in and talk about what’s wrong with the guys. It really was a clear mandate of learning and development and internal and external, and it has worked for them, and other – many other great companies have initiatives like that that build those kind of things in.
So my feeling is it’s a top-down and it’s also a grassroots kind of initiative that has to happen to solve this, and exec ed is just also a great complement to what’s being done internally to develop people. So (inaudible) --
MR. CALLAHAN: I might be a little bit more categorical just on your question. So if this – can we move the needle by, whether it’s through an initiative like the Smith-Tuck Program or any executive development that we do? I think we absolutely can. This is a finer point, but it might be – it could be worth making. So broadly in our business, we have two types of programs. We have open programs, where executives come from many different companies and are probably sent by someone, and then we have custom programs, which are designed for a group of executives from one company. Smith-Tuck is kind of a hybrid. We try to get teams of companies from a select group of companies.
But the point is this: When we’re working with companies on custom programs, where they design the curriculum with us and it’s about their business and driving key business issues as well as learning something from faculty, doing that in combination, they will select women, they will select people based on geography, their passports, their – all kinds of things, and very purposefully put that group together. And that does move – and then when you bring them together and you address issues of so how do we deal with cross-cultural issues, how do we deal with gender issues, how do we deal with – that absolutely is an opportunity. It’s a huge opportunity to accelerate the pace of that change.
QUESTION: Would you say that the programs, specifically the Smith-Tuck Program, is – focus on the private sector, or it’s also related to the public sector as well?
MR. CALLAHAN: So we have done some work in public and third sector NGOs. The – our primary purpose is working in the private sector, and then specifically, it’s working with large global organizations in the private sector. But we’ve worked with the National Health Service in England, we have military and other government executives come to programs. But yeah, business school and primary audiences, right.
MS. NEWALU: There’s the need.
MR. CALLAHAN: There’s absolutely a need. Yeah.
MS. NEWALU: There’s absolutely a big need in the public sector.
MR. CALLAHAN: Sure.
MS. NEWALU: And the nonprofits and NGOs are really – I hear a lot, “We need to develop our leadership,” and they need to approach it almost like business, because it is business, really. So we’re starting to kind of move in that a little bit too.
MODERATOR: We have time for one more question.
MS. NEWALU: Okay.
QUESTION: I have another question (inaudible). You earlier explained the different effects of mentoring versus sponsorship, and I’m wondering, can you really tell people, “You’ve got to sponsor this person,” or is that more something that might evolve of a mentoring program?
MS. NEWALU: Well, I have read that there are some companies that are incorporating it into the performance review of managers, and it’s in this report if you read it, that some companies are actually asking that, “How many people did you sponsor?” and “How many were women and how many were men?” and “Did you really pursue that?” So I don’t have any exact numbers on that. But yes, I think that’s going to probably be a trend. And that will answer kind of the balance of the legal issue – rather than making it a legal, build it into somebody’s performance review. That’s a good question.
Well, you’ve been a great group. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation with you all. Thank you so much.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CALLAHAN: Thanks.
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