The week@work – gender gap @ the BBC, on Broadway & the C-Suite, plus four work/life questions while staring @ the ocean

This week@work the BBC published the salaries of top earners, and the gender pay gap at the broadcaster became the latest global headline news on the topic. Turns out the folks who work in theater and aspire to the corporate C-suite are finding the same barriers. Maybe it’s time to review your work/life view ‘from the beach’.

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality party in the UK shared her opinion ‘It’s not just the BBC that must come clean about underpaying women’.

“When the BBC published the salaries of its top earners, the results were not surprising, but they were shocking. They even managed, momentarily, to silence the gender pay gap myth-busters: the trolls who daily patrol social media challenging any mention of a pay gap with supposedly hard facts about the “choices” women make.

Here is the real hard fact: women are paid less because we are considered to be worth less. The gender pay gap is a symptom of the structural barriers that women face, which can be seen at every level of working life and across every industry. It thrives on the unconscious bias that goes unchallenged by the surplus of white men in decision-making roles, and is magnified by occupational segregation, unequal caring responsibilities and pervasive stereotypes that intersect with class, race, age, sexuality and disability.”

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In an open letter to BBC director general Tony Hall, over 40 high profile presenters made a case for immediate action to remedy the inequality.

“The pay details released in the annual report showed what many of us have suspected for many years … that women at the BBC are being paid less than men for the same work.

Compared to many women and men, we are very well compensated and fortunate. However, this is an age of equality and the BBC is an organisation that prides itself on its values.

You have said that you will “sort” the gender pay gap by 2020, but the BBC has known about the pay disparity for years. We all want to go on the record to call upon you to act now.

Beyond the list, there are so many other areas including production, engineering and support services and global, regional and local media where a pay gap has languished for too long.

This is an opportunity for those of us with strong and loud voices to use them on behalf of all, and for an organisation that had to be pushed into transparency to do the right thing.”

Mr. Hall responded “…that the move to close the gender pay gap at the public broadcaster will be “accelerated” and that there would be a “marked difference” when salaries were published next year.”

The BBC story was not unique last week as Laura Collins-Hughes reported ‘When Women Won’t Accept Theatrical Manspreading’.

times sq“In theater as in life, there is a lot of manspreading: Men get more jobs, more money, more prizes, more stories told about them onstage than women do. The numbers are grim nearly everywhere, but especially on Broadway, where an Actors’ Equity study released last month showed female and minority actors and stage managers at a gross disadvantage to white men.

A recent tally on HowlRound, a theater industry website, documented the staggering lead men have over women as designers, directors and artistic directors in American regional theaters. Men dominate every area but costume design, where women traditionally hold sway.”

The third story on women@work this week was Susan Chira’s exploration of ‘Why Women Aren’t C.E.O.s, According to Women Who Almost Were’.

IMG_9129.jpg“More than 40 years after women began pouring into the workplace, only a handful have made it all the way to the top of corporate America. The percentage of chief executives of Fortune 500 companies who are women just passed 6 percent, creeping up (and occasionally dropping back) at a glacial pace.

The impact of gender is hard to pin down decisively. But after years of biting their tongues, believing their ranks would swell if they simply worked hard, many senior women in business are concluding that the barriers are more deeply rooted and persistent than they wanted to believe, according to interviews with nearly two dozen chief executives, would-be chief executives, headhunters, business school deans and human resources professionals.

What they say: Women are often seen as dependable, less often as visionary. Women tend to be less comfortable with self-promotion — and more likely to be criticized when they do grab the spotlight. Men remain threatened by assertive women. Most women are not socialized to be unapologetically competitive. Some women get discouraged and drop out along the way. And many are disproportionately penalized for stumbles.”

Which brings me to a constructive response from Art Markman, ‘Four Work-Life Questions to Ponder on Vacation This Summer’.

mb fog.jpg“It’s true that vacationing can hold some unexpected career benefits, in addition to letting you recharge your batteries and do some self-reflection about your working life, your personal life, and your overall goals. But musing on these big-ticket themes isn’t something many of us have a lot of practice doing. When you finally get a chance to do it, you might find your thoughts a little unfocused. That’s fine—mind-wandering is sort of the point here. But in case you need a little more structure, these are four questions to let your mind wander over.”

“Am I happy at work?”, “Where am I headed?”, “Who don’t I know?”, and “What’s Missing?”

This week@work consider your answers and once you have a sense of your ‘work identity’, use your voice@work to advocate on behalf of all and equality@work.

Photo credit: Cartoon – The Telegraph, MattCartoon July 20, 2017

The Friday Poem: ‘Today’ by Billy Collins

Spring arrived earlier this week. Time to take a break from your week@work and venture out beyond the confines of your work space. Cited by the Guardian as one of the ten best about spring, The Friday Poem is ‘Today’ by former Poet Laureate of the United States, Billy Collins.

“There is a delightful playfulness here – a sense of being, in spring, a mini-God within the kingdom of one’s own front room.”

Today
If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Billy Collins  Poetry Magazine, April 2000

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The week@work: innovative companies, Mark Zuckerberg’s global community, famous writers attend a security conference, and a design idea for a friendlier office

This week@work Fast Company announced the ‘World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies’ and Mark Zuckerberg shared a template for the future of Facebook – ‘Building Global Community’. In a first, the Munich Security Conference included literary panels on their agenda. And, we found a simple ‘office design hack’ to encourage communication.

Amazon was named #1 on the 2017 Fast Company ranking of the world’s most innovative companies “for offering even more, even faster and smarter”. Noah Robischon reported on Jeff Bezos’ ever-accelerating world of ‘continuous evolution’.

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“Unlike Apple, Google, and Microsoft, Amazon is not fixated on a tightly designed ecosystem of interlocking apps and services. Bezos instead emphasizes platforms that each serves its own customers in the best and fastest possible way. “Our customers are loyal to us right up until the second somebody offers them a better service,” he says. “And I love that. It’s super-motivating for us.” That impulse has spawned an awesome stream of creative firsts…

Bezos’s strategy of continuous evolution has allowed the company to experiment in adjacent areas—and then build them into franchises. The website that once sold only books now lets anyone set up a storefront and sell just about anything. The warehouse and logistics capabilities that Amazon built to sort, pack, and ship those books are available, for a price, to any seller. Amazon Web Services, which grew out of the company’s own e-commerce infrastructure needs, has become a $13 billion business that not only powers the likes of Airbnb and Netflix, but stores your Kindle e-book library and makes it possible for Alexa to tell you whether or not you’ll need an umbrella today.”

On Thursday Facebook CEO and Co-founder Mark Zuckerberg set out his vision for his company in a 5,000 word post on Facebook.

“On our journey to connect the world, we often discuss products we’re building and updates on our business. Today I want to focus on the most important question of all: are we building the world we all want?”

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Josh Constine reported on the ‘evolution’ of Facebook’s strategy.

“Mark Zuckerberg never saw Facebook as just a business, and so never accepted his role as just a businessman. 

Five years ago, in Zuckerberg’s pre-IPO letter to Facebook investors, he wrote, “There is a huge need and a huge opportunity to get everyone in the world connected, to give everyone a voice and to help transform society for the future.”

Now with Facebook reaching 1.86 billion users and building technology to expand internet access everywhere, his constituency exceeds that of any nation. He’s made monumental strides toward steps 1 and 2.

Today, Zuckerberg offers a vision and rallying call for working toward step 3 — to “develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us.”

Not everyone is sipping the magic elixir. From ‘across the pond’, Carole Cadwalladr shared her opinion for The Guardian.

“But here’s another response: where does that power end? Who holds it to account? What are the limits on it? Because the answer is there are none. Facebook’s power and dominance, its knowledge of every aspect of its users’ intimate lives, its ability to manipulate their – our – world view, its limitless ability to generate cash, is already beyond the reach of any government.

Because what Zuckerberg’s letter to the world shows is that he’s making a considered, personal attempt to answer… the wrong question. He is wrestling with the question of how Facebook can change the world. Whereas the question is: do we actually want Facebook to change the world? Do we want any corporation to have so much unchecked power?”

The annual Munich Security Conference included a literature panel, ‘The Cassandra Syndrome’. Madhvi Ramani considered the significance, asking the question, “Why are famous writers attending the world’s most important security conference?”

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“With the rise of illiberalism, post-truth politics, and transatlantic uncertainty, the very pillars of the West are being shaken. In times of turmoil, people often look to literature for illumination.

Like Cassandra, who warned of disaster during the Trojan War, writers often take a longer view of issues. They are uniquely placed to examine and critique society from a removed perspective—as Don DeLillo once said, “The writer is the person who stands outside society, independent of affiliation and independent of influence.” All three writers involved in the MSC talks are known for their incisive, often critical, engagement with the politics, history, and cultures of their milieus.

Literature can help untangle the complexities of people’s lives and emotions and, as studies have shown, foster empathy: books are a key ingredient in an open, pluralistic, democratic society.”

Cari Romm shared the results of recent research from designer Daniel Krivens ‘The Design Hack That Makes for Friendlier Offices’ – eliminate “elevation segregation” by resetting the seating to ‘bar level’.

“…so many workplaces are designed to be a divided plane between those sitting, standing, and walking. When someone is sitting down, they are roughly 12 inches below the eye height of someone walking by—and this elevation segregation means everything to workplace productivity and conviviality.

What it means, essentially, is the difference between intentionally seeking someone out for a chat and just happening to fall into conversation.”

Finally this week@work, @YosemiteNPS, the annual phenomenon of ‘firefall’ as sunset reflects on the national park’s Horsetail Falls.

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Photo Credits: Amazon drone photo/Amazon, MSC photo of author David Grossman  MSC/Koch, Yosemite firefall/ NPS Yosemite

The week@work – the value of cross-functional experience, empowering introverts, economic recovery, and a new leader @librarycongress

It turns out that the path to leadership is paved not just by elite MBA degrees, but also with experience across a range of business functions. Once you arrive in the ‘C Suite’ it’s to your advantage to pay attention to the introverts in the room.

In other stories this week@work, evidence shows an increase in middle class incomes, there’s a new Librarian of Congress, and can you remember Oprah’s first book club pick 20 years ago?

Generalize or specialize? That is the question Neil Irwin answers in ‘A Winding Path to the Top’ for The New York Times.

“How does a person get to be the boss? What does it take for an ambitious young person starting a career to reach upper rungs of the corporate world — the C.E.O.’s office, or other jobs that come with words like “chief” or “vice president” on the office door?

The answer has always included hard work, brains, leadership ability and luck. But in the 21st century, another, less understood attribute seems to be particularly important.

To get a job as a top executive, new evidence shows, it helps greatly to have experience in as many of a business’s functional areas as possible. A person who burrows down for years in, say, the finance department stands less of a chance of reaching a top executive job than a corporate finance specialist who has also spent time in, say, marketing. Or engineering. Or both of those, plus others.”

Many corporations, in the past, had institutionalized ‘rotational assignments’ in a variety of business functions under the aegis of ‘leadership development programs’. When ‘shareowner’ value became the primary measure for CEOs, these internal employee development initiatives were shut down. But the need for cross-functional expertise never went away.

“To be a C.E.O. or other top executive, said Guy Berger, an economist at LinkedIn, “you need to understand how the different parts of a company work and how they interact with each other and understand how other people do their job, even if it’s something you don’t know well enough to do yourself.”

Developing multiple areas of expertise provide a pragmatic workplace foundation for the aspiring entrepreneur, the Fortune 500 CEO, and the variety of public and private leadership opportunities in between.

You learn the language, make life-long career connections, and maintain contact with your customer.

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Location seems to influence opportunities as well. Take note, all you folks who hesitate to relocate.

“Beyond the results on job functions, the data from LinkedIn shows some trends for which the explanations aren’t completely obvious. For example, former consultants who lived in New York or Los Angeles had higher odds of ending up with a top job than people in other large cities like Washington or Houston. A former management consultant with 15 years of work experience in six different functions and an M.B.A. from a top school had a 66 percent chance of becoming a top executive if he lived in New York compared with a 38 percent chance in Washington.”

Bottom line, moving out of you career comfort zone, whether that means function or city, holds long-term implications for career success.

The second story this week@work comes from the print edition of The Economist, ‘Shhhh! Companies would benefit from helping introverts to thrive’.

Most companies worry about discriminating against their employees on the basis of race, gender or sexual preference. But they give little thought to their shabby treatment of introverts.

The recent fashion for hyper-connectedness also reinforces an ancient prejudice against introverts when it comes to promotion. Many companies unconsciously identify leadership skills with extroversion—that is, a willingness to project the ego, press the flesh and prattle on in public.

What can companies do to make life better for introverts? At the very least, managers should provide private office space and quiet areas where they can recharge. Firms need to recognise that introverts bring distinctive skills to their jobs. They may talk less in meetings, but they tend to put more thought into what they say. Leaders should look at their organisations through the introverts’ eyes. Does the company hold large meetings where the loudest voices prevail? That means that it is marginalising introverts. Does it select recruits mainly on the basis of how they acquit themselves in interviews? That could be blinding it to people who dislike performing in public.”

Jim Tankersley reported for The Washington Post Wonkblog, ‘Middle class incomes had their fastest growth on record last year’.

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“Middle-class Americans and the poor enjoyed their best year of economic improvement in decades in 2015, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, a spike that broke a years-long streak of disappointment for American workers but did not fully repair the damage inflicted by the Great Recession.

Real median household income was $56,500 in 2015, the bureau reported, up from $53,700 in 2014. That 5.2 percent increase was the largest, in percentage terms, recorded by the bureau since it began tracking median income statistics in the 1960s.

In addition, the poverty rate fell by 1.2 percentage points, the steepest decline since 1968. There were 43.1 million Americans in poverty on the year, 3.5 million fewer than in 2014. The share of Americans who lack health insurance continued a years-long decline, falling 1.3 percentage points, to 9.1 percent.

“The highest income growth was in the bottom fifth” of workers, “which is very welcome news,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute think tank. Furman, of the White House, credited wage-boosting policy initiatives for some of that increase: “The fact that millions of workers have gotten a raise, as states have raised minimum wages, has definitely had an effect there,” he said.

All told, the gains brought median incomes nearly back to their levels before the recession, after adjusting for inflation, though they remain below 1999 levels. Bureau officials said the 5.2 percent growth rate was not statistically distinguishable from five other previous increases in the data, most recently the 3.7 percent jump from 1997 to 1998.”

On Wednesday, Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress“Hayden, the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library, was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama on February 24, 2016, and her nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 13.”4532.jpg

Baynard Woods covered the appointment for The Guardian, ‘Carla Hayden: new librarian of Congress makes history, with an eye on the future’.“Even though librarianship is one of the four what they call feminized professions – social work, education nursing, and librarianship – where 85% of the workforce is female, there haven’t been an equal amount of women in the leadership positions,” Hayden said in an interview.

Hayden is also only the third Librarian of Congress to actually have training as a librarian.

“There have been lawyers and politicians, historians, scholars, librarians, and I think at this time it’s not a detriment to have a librarian be librarian of Congress,” she said.

The librarian of Congress oversees the world’s largest library system. As the name indicates, one of the main roles of the library is to assist Congress in the research it needs in order to pass bills. It also oversees the US copyright system, names the poet laureate, and preserves historical documents and books.

Hayden first came to national prominence in 2003 when she spoke out against certain elements of the Patriot Act as the head of the American Library Association. Attorney general John Ashcroft attacked Hayden for sowing “hysteria” about the provision of the act that would allow the government to search library and bookstore records.

Hayden shot back.

“We are deeply concerned that the attorney general should be so openly contemptuous of those who seek to defend our Constitution,” she said. “Rather than ask the nation’s librarians and Americans nationwide to ‘just trust him,’ Ashcroft could allay concerns by releasing aggregate information about the number of libraries visited using the expanded powers created by the USA Patriot Act.”

At the time, there was political risk in such statements, but Hayden said she never considered that.”

In history@work this week, September 17 marked the 20th anniversary of Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club. Do you remember the first pick? Jacquelyn Mitchard‘s ‘Deep End of the Ocean’.201603-ep521-own-watn-9-949x534.jpgOprah’s Book Club quickly became a hugely influential force in the publishing world, with the popular TV host’s endorsement capable of catapulting a previously little-known book onto best-seller lists.

When Oprah’s Book Club first launched, some in the publishing world were skeptical about its chances for success. As The New York Times noted: “Winfrey’s project—recommending books, even challenging literary novels, for viewers to read in advance of discussions on her talk show—initially provoked considerable skepticism in the literary world, where many associated daytime television with lowbrow entertainments like soap operas and game shows.” However, the club proved to be a hit with Winfrey’s legions of fans, and many of her picks sold over 1 million copies. (She earned no money from book sales.) Winfrey’s ability to turn not just books but almost any product or person she recommended into a phenomenon came to be known as the “Oprah Effect.”

Celebrate this week@work with a selection from Oprah’s long list of book recommendations.

 

Photo credit: Carla Hayden by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The Saturday Read ‘New York Fashion Week: An Oral History’

‘The Saturday Read’ this week is an online interactive feature from the September 8, 2016 New York Times ‘Thursday Styles’ section, capturing a multi-media moment in fashion history as the baton is being passed to the next generation of designers. Ruth La Ferla brings us ‘Our Stories’, an oral history from fashion icons Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors, Issac Mizrahi and Alexander Wang.

This one is for all of you who are first to the newsstand for the September issues of Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, hoping to find a few classical wardrobe elements to update your look for fall. Designer outlets may be the closest most of us get to the runway, but many aspire to a career in one of the global capitals of fashion.

“As New York Fashion Week approaches its 75th year (the first official shows, massed under the heading of Press Week, were held in 1943), with 151 shows spread over nine days, many designers are questioning the future of this semiannual gathering. “We are facing the end of an era,” the designer Diane von Furstenberg said in a recent interview. “But there is nothing nostalgic about that. The future will be more exciting.”

The future may well be exciting, but for many in the industry, the past is one to savor and celebrate. Here, a crowd of fashion notables reflect on their experiences: the good, the bad, the awkward and the forever memorable.”

From their “first shows”, through the “unforgettable moments”, “growing pains”, “the glamour girls” and the “dark days” as AIDS devastated the industry, the top designers, models and fashion commentators share their success, and the mistakes along the way to being installed as icons. If you believe we learn from the wisdom of others, this interactive experience is required reading/viewing.

Here’s a sample.

ZAC POSEN

“In February 2002, when I showed my first collection, I did the setup preshow in my parents’ living room. I had done the collection with small seed money that was generally lent by friends, family and with my savings from the lemonade stand that I had started as a kid on Spring Street.”

ALEXANDER WANG

“Our first fashion week show, for fall 2007, was in a Chelsea warehouse. It was hectic backstage. I remember our casting director freaking out because all the models and dressers (who also happened to be my best friends) were eating greasy pizza, and the director was like, “Where’s Alex?” I was right there eating pizza, too. I guess I didn’t know any better.”

DONNA KARAN

“The turning point came in 1985 when I left Anne Klein. At the time I said to my bosses, “I have this vision for a little company.” Women in those years were wearing shirts and little ties to the office. I asked myself: “Where is the sexuality? Where is the comfort? Where are the clothes that go from day into night? How do you travel with your wardrobe in one bag?” And that’s how the Seven Easy Pieces came about.”

ALEK WEK
Model in the 1990s

“When I started modeling, people kept saying, “Oh, she’s so different, she’s bizarre,” like I wasn’t quite normal. Of course there was a racist element to those conversations. People were beating around the bush. But if I focused on that, I don’t think I would have stayed in fashion. Being viewed as different only gave me more incentive. I wanted people to know that your features or your color don’t make you less beautiful. My motivation was deeper than me just putting on makeup and clothes and doing shows.”

SIMON DOONAN

“All those people perished, and now many young people maybe don’t even know that Perry Ellis was an actual person. Many young African-American designers would be inspired to know how many great African-Americans had careers at the time.

These people didn’t all just get on a bus and drive off somewhere. They died excruciating deaths, some in the hallways of hospitals without help or support. In many instances, their families rejected them. I distinctly remember people who didn’t have a funeral or memorial. I had a friend who was buried in an unmarked grave.

It’s always troubled me that these supertalented original thinkers weren’t adequately memorialized.

They were Patrick Kelly, Angel Estrada, Isaia, Clovis Ruffin, Halston, Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, Tina Chow, Tim Hawkins, Robert Hayes and Laughlin Barker. And the photographers: David Seidner, Barry McKinley, Herb Ritts, Bill King and so many more. They were window-dresser friends: Bob Currie, Michael Cipriano, Bob Benzio, Stephen Di Petrie. The list goes on.”

 

 

The week@work – Olympic stories, author salaries, “what a feminist looks like” & the July jobs report

This week@work the athletes who go to work every day to pursue an Olympic dream are in Rio, Forbes announced their list of top earning authors, President Obama penned an essay on “what a feminist looks like”, and the U.S. labor market grew by 255,000 positions.

The major story of the next two weeks will take place in Brazil as the athletes of the world gather to compete in the XXXI Olympics. Journalists covered two athletes who have travelled diverse paths to reach Rio 2016.

 Kianoosh Hashemzadeh introduced us to equestrian, Lauren Kieffer, ‘An American Rider Trying to Beat the Boys in Rio’, for The New Yorker

“There are two Olympic-level athletic endeavors in which men and women square off head to head: sailing and equestrian sports. Eventing, an equestrian sport in which horse and rider compete in three phases—dressage, cross-country, and stadium jumping—has been called the most dangerous competition in the Olympics. That danger has never deterred female riders: they have competed alongside men since the field became open to them, at the 1964 Games, in Tokyo. Women do well in the sport, but they have struggled to reach its uppermost echelon: the current top-ten list of the Fédération Équestre Internationale, the sport’s governing body, is made up of eight men and two women. There are, however, six women in the following ten spots—and sitting at No. 12, eager to crash the old guard, is the top female eventing athlete in the United States, twenty-nine-year-old Lauren Kieffer.”

lauren kieffer.jpg“No woman has ever won an individual gold medal in the sport, and, while Kieffer’s focus is to bring home a team medal, an individual victory would be particularly sweet. Women are contenders in eventing, but few have made it to the very top. As Kieffer told me, “Someone has to beat the boys.”

If you’ve seen the Visa commercial that has been running during the NBC Olympic coverage, you may recognize the name Yusra Mardini, a member of the refugee team competing at the Olympics.

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Charly Wilder profiled her heroic story from her training facility in Berlin for The New York Times, ‘She Swam to Escape Syria. Now She’ll Swim in Rio’.

“Yusra Mardini, an Olympic swimmer, was an hour and a half into her first training session of the day, butterfly-kicking down the length of a pool with a yellow rubber duck balanced on her head.

Last August, Mardini and her sister Sarah fled war-torn Syria and embarked on a harrowing, monthlong journey through Lebanon, Turkey and Greece, up through the Balkans and Central Europe, to Germany, narrowly dodging capture and death. When their crammed dinghy broke down between Turkey and Greece, she and her sister, also a swimmer, jumped into the water and helped guide the boat to safety.

Mardini’s story came to public attention in March when she was identified by the International Olympic Committee as a candidate to compete on a new team of refugees, made up of athletes who are stateless or would otherwise be excluded from the Games. She was thrust into the spotlight, celebrated by the news media as a fresh-faced example of Germany’s so-called welcome culture — a story of uplift at the center of the global refugee crisis.”

Robert Kitson updated the story from Rio after the first day of Olympic competition, ‘Yusra Mardini delights with butterfly heat win for Refugee Olympic Team’

“For those minded to complain about minor irritations in Rio such as humidity in the aquatics centre or a few nibbling insects, the 18-year-old’s story should serve as a timely reminder of life’s more pressing issues.

The venue may have been far from full and her heat loaded with competitors entertaining nil hope of reaching the final but Mardini was the most popular of winners in a time of 1min 9.21sec, just over a second faster than her nearest heat rival. Afterwards she could scarcely contain her joy: “Everything was amazing. It was the only thing I ever wanted was to compete in the Olympics. I had a good feeling in the water. Competing with all these great champions is exciting. I’ve only been back swimming for two years so we’re only now getting back to my levels of before.”

The next story this week@work is for all of you commuting to work, considering a career change. Forbes announced their annual ranking of the world’s highest paid authors this week and new to the top ten was commuter, former journalist and ‘near broke’ novelist, Paula Hawkins.

Natalie Robehmed reported on ‘The World’s Highest-Paid Authors 2016: James Patterson, Jeff Kinney and J.K. Rowling Top Ranking’.

“These well-heeled wordsmiths earned a combined $269 million over the last 12 months, proving that the written word isn’t dead–although television and movie adaptations often help drive sales.

Patterson topped our list for the third straight year, earning $95 million pretax, while children’s author Jeff Kinney placed a distant second, earning $19.5 million.”

hawkins.jpgThe only newcomer to the ranking: Paula Hawkins. After “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Gone Girl,” her novel “The Girl on the Train” is the latest literary phenomenon with a calculating female character to hit the bestseller list. It sold 11 million copies worldwide; a movie version hits theaters in October.”

President Barak Obama wrote an essay linking his upbringing by strong women, his role as a father of two girls, and the nomination of Hillary Clinton, to describe “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” for Glamour magazine.

“In my lifetime we’ve gone from a job market that basically confined women to a handful of often poorly paid positions to a moment when women not only make up roughly half the workforce but are leading in every sector, from sports to space, from Hollywood to the Supreme Court. I’ve witnessed how women have won the freedom to make your own choices about how you’ll live your lives—about your bodies, your educations, your careers, your finances. Gone are the days when you needed a husband to get a credit card. In fact, more women than ever, married or single, are financially independent.

malia-sasha-obama.jpg…the most important people in my life have always been women. I was raised by a single mom, who spent much of her career working to empower women in developing countries. I watched as my grandmother, who helped raise me, worked her way up at a bank only to hit a glass ceiling.

So I’d like to think that I’ve been pretty aware of the unique challenges women face—it’s what has shaped my own feminism. But I also have to admit that when you’re the father of two daughters, you become even more aware of how gender stereotypes pervade our society. You see the subtle and not-so-subtle social cues transmitted through culture. You feel the enormous pressure girls are under to look and behave and even think a certain way.

…we need to break through these limitations.” 

Finally, this week@work, the U.S. Labor Department released the July 2016 jobs report. Jeff Cox covered the news for CNBC.

“Job creation crushed estimates in July as the economy added 255,000 positions, according to the Labor Department.

The headline unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent, though a more encompassing measure that includes those not actively looking for work and those working part-time for economic reasons moved up a notch to 9.7 percent. Though still mired near generational lows, the labor force participation rate ticked up one-tenth to 62.8 percent as those counted as not in the labor force decreased 184,000 to 94.3 million.

Hourly wages also moved higher, increasing by 8 cents or an annualized pace of 2.6 percent, while the average work week edged up to 34.5 hours.”

Photo credits: Lauren Kieffer – Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post, Yusra Mardini – Michael Sohn/AP, Paula Hawkins – The Daily Beast, President Obama – The Daily Mail

 

 

 

The generational divide – #wearehere and #Brexit

A collection of amateur photos taken by ordinary British citizens, on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, served to bridge a century, and punctuate the generational divide that led ‘the lost generation’ to war, and ‘the millennials’ to #Brexit.

The topic #wearehere started trending early Friday morning as British citizens headed to work and encountered young men clad in the uniforms of World War I. For a few hours, in London, Aberystwyth, Birmingham, Sheffield, Salisbury, and Plymouth, the ghost soldiers of the Somme walked among their contemporaries.

Many of those first encounters were recorded on Twitter and Instagram, as commuters received cards from these ‘soldiers’.CmRNYS-UkAUqr3d“Thousands of volunteers took part in a UK-wide event on Friday 1 July 2016, as a modern memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. 19,240 men were killed on the first day of the battle in 1916 – the bloodiest day in British military history.

‘we’re here because we’re here’ saw around 1400 voluntary participants dressed in First World War uniform appear unexpectedly in locations across the UK. Each participant represented an individual soldier who was killed on that day one hundred years before.”

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Charlotte Higgins reported on the day for The Guardian newspaper. “The event, which unfolded without advance publicity, can now be revealed as a work by Jeremy Deller, the Turner prize-winning artist…Deller worked with Rufus Norris, the artistic director of the National Theatre in London, and theatres throughout the UK to train the volunteer army.

Deller was approached to devise an artwork to mark the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme by 14-18 NOW, the body responsible for art commissions commemorating the war. “I quickly realised that what I didn’t want was a static memorial that the public went to to be sad,” he said. “In the 21st century I felt we had do something different. So I thought about the memorial being human, and travelling round the country. It would take itself to the public rather than the public taking itself to the memorial.”

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“And also the public wouldn’t know in advance that there was this thing happening – they would encounter it in the shopping centres and carparks and outside schools and in everyday British life. And I wanted to avoid heritage places – churches, war memorials. I wanted to take it to the public.” His key idea, he said, was to “avoid sentimentality”.

Look at the photo of the finale at Waterloo Station. A group of soldiers at the center are surrounded by their contemporaries, telegraphing the moment to social media. Two generations, a century apart facing unknown fates @war, and after #Brexit.

CmcwkjWWcAAb1sy.jpgThe politics of the early 20th century led to over a million British, French and German casualties in the Battle of the Somme between July 1 and November 18, 1916.

The rhetoric of current political leaders called into question today’s younger generation’s European identity.

So what have we learned in 100 years?

Someone thought it would be a great idea to preserve the peace and form a European Union. For all its frailties, its crowning achievement was replacing nationalism with an overlay of a ‘European’ identity; a multilingual, multicultural generation that travels freely across the continent to study, work, live and love.

Francesca Barber, a self-described ‘transnational’, gave voice to this dilemma of altered identity in the wake of #Brexit.

“I was born in Washington in the late 1980s, grew up in Brussels, moved to London and then returned to the United States, where I lived in New York City; Providence, R.I.; and San Francisco.

My parents are English. My first language was French. I went to a Belgian school and the European School in Brussels, where my classmates almost always spoke at least three languages.

My childhood was defined by endless car journeys across Europe. And as an adult, I have enjoyed the benefits of cheap deals on low-cost European airlines. Most of my friends have gone to school and worked in at least two European countries. I am part of the Erasmus generation. My friends and my roots are everywhere — and only now do I realize how much I took that for granted.

The “Brexit” vote on June 23 was the most serious geopolitical event for Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall. But lost in all the geopolitics is another important message: It was a resounding vote against globalization from a country that has for so long been a proud champion of globalization.

But this vote was also a rejection by my fellow countrymen, from my parents’ generation to mine, of everything I cherished about Europe, Britain and my own childhood: the sense that our differences were less important than our shared experiences.”

Maybe it’s time for a ‘we are here’ for the European millennials – a ‘counter Brexit’, public art project.  What if, on a Friday morning, all over Britain, young workers approached commuters with CV profile cards, each participant representing a dream lost to Brexit? Mr. Deller, Mr. Norris we could use your help here.

 

 

The week@work – guaranteed basic income, college grad stats, internet trends and the world’s longest tunnel opens

This week@work the Swiss electorate rejected a ballot measure to provide a guaranteed basic income for citizens, the college graduate unemployment rate is 2.4%, with history majors matching mid-career salaries of business school grads, Mary Meeker projected her 2016 internet trends and 2,600 workers completed 17 years of work to open the world’s longest tunnel under the Alps.

On Saturday Swiss voters rejected a proposed plan to provide an unconditional monthly income of 2,500 francs by a margin of 77% to 23%.

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Philip Oltermann surveyed the growing economic trends toward guaranteed basic income, ‘State handout for all? Europe set to pilot universal basic incomes’.

“Universal basic income has a rare appeal across the political spectrum. For those on the left, it promises to eliminate poverty and liberate people stuck in dead-end workfare jobs. Small-state libertarians believe it could slash bureaucracy and create a leaner, more self-sufficient welfare system.

In an increasingly digital economy, it would also provide a necessary injection of cash so people can afford to buy the apps and gadgets produced by the new robot workforce.

Crucially, it is also an idea that seems to resonate across the wider public. A recent poll by Dalia Research found that 68% of people across all 28 EU member states said they would definitely or probably vote for a universal basic income initiative. Finland and the Netherlands have pilot projects in the pipeline.”

The New Yorker contributor, Mark Gimein summarized recent discussions on the topic, comparing U.S. views to European counterparts.

“…when they look further into the future, Americans talk about a national minimum income in the context of a jobless future, an employment apocalypse in which workers compete for fewer and fewer good jobs. Robert Reich, the former labor secretary, sees a national guaranteed income as the most likely endgame in an economy with “more and more people getting pushed out of the middle class into the personal service sector of the economy getting lower and lower wages.” When the Swiss talk about basic income, they’re talking about a utopian vision. When Americans like Reich talk about it, it’s a last bulwark against national impoverishment.”

‘The Upshot’ analyzed the May unemployment numbers and drew a positive spin on disappointing results. “A better gauge of the underlying rate of jobs growth is to take an average over the past three months. By that measure, the labor market is creating around 116,000 jobs per month. This is a notable slowdown from jobs growth in the 150,000-250,000 range over most of the past five years. But it’s a slowdown and not a sudden stop.”

Here’s the good news for college grads. In a separate post, the folks @UpshotNYT posed this question: “What do you think the unemployment rate is for 25-to-30-year-olds who graduated from a four-year college?”  Most folks guessed high. The actual rate is 2.4%, without a four-year college degree it’s 7%.

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While we’re on the topic of debunking ‘value of college myths’, let’s turn to a story about the much maligned history majors. (Full disclosure, I was one)

Writing in the LA Times, James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association lamented the decline enrollment in undergraduate history programs and countered with new research that suggests undergrads might want to reconsider their choice of major.

“Over the long run, …graduates in history and other humanities disciplines do well financially…after 15 years, those philosophy majors have more lucrative careers than college graduates with business degrees. History majors’ mid-career salaries are on par with those holding business bachelor’s degrees. Notably these salary findings exclude those who went on to attain a law or other graduate degree.

The utility of disciplines that prepare critical thinkers escapes personnel offices, pundits and politicians (some of whom perhaps would prefer that colleges graduate more followers and fewer leaders). But it shouldn’t. Labor markets in the United States and other countries are unstable and unpredictable. In this environment — especially given the expectation of career changes — the most useful degrees are those that can open multiple doors, and those that prepare one to learn rather than do some specific thing.”

On Wednesday The New York Times announced ‘the Internet is over’. They are changing their style rule to join the rest of the world to lowercase the word ‘internet’.

The same day, venture capitalist Mary Meeker presented her 2016 internet trends report. Inc. contributor, Jessica Stillman cited five ‘take-aways’ from the deck of 200 slides.

“Internet growth is slowing dramatically. Advertisers aren’t spending enough on mobile. Privacy concerns are “a ticking time bomb.”Search is about to be revolutionized…and so are messaging apps.”

Moving from technology trends to engineering marvels, BBC News reported on the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland, culminating 17 years of work by 26,000 workers.

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“Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner first imagined it in 1947: a massive tunnel, unprecedented in length, buried a mile and a half under Switzerland’s symbolic Gotthard mountain range.

Nearly seven decades later, after redesigns, political disagreements and the long, slow work of drilling beneath the Gotthard massif, as it’s called, Gruner’s dream is complete.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel — a record-setting 35.4 miles long, and farther below ground than any other tunnel — was inaugurated Wednesday. The occasion was marked with a celebration that promoted “Swiss values such as innovation, precision and reliability…”

Now the completed tunnel, delivered on time and within budget, will create a mainline rail connection between Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Genoa in Italy.

When full services begin in December, the journey time for travellers between Zurich and Milan will be reduced by an hour to two hours and 40 minutes.

About 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains will pass through the tunnel each day in a journey taking as little as 17 minutes.”

The week@work: terror on the way to work, a factory fire anniversary, values-based leadership@Starbucks, a millennial workplace, & a new job benefit

 

How do you share work thoughts when so many were killed and injured on their way to work on Tuesday morning? Apparently, we go on. I have to agree with the sentiment expressed by writer Pamela Druckerman in today’s New York Times ‘Je Suis Sick of This’.

“To Europeans, Brussels was supposed to be a dull place that you didn’t have to think much about until you had to change planes there. There’s a parlor game in which you stump people by asking them to name 10 famous Belgians. “Brussels, the anti-fanatic attacked by the fanatics,” French journalist Laurent Joffrin wrote in Wednesday’s Libération. “Brussels, a cousin whom one is content to know is there.”

Right after an attack it’s easy to say that everything feels different. People are horrified. Parents keep their kids home from school. Newspapers run headlines like “Europe at War.” There is the sad, familiar search for a slogan: This time, I prefer the Belgian frites arranged to make a rude gesture resembling a finger, and the banner reading, “Je suis sick of this” followed by an expletive.”

We don’t stop working. Maybe we are a bit more vigilant, the slogan ‘If you see something, say something’, temporarily gets more attention.

Journalist Druckerman continued, “Despite the inevitable false positives, it’s hard not to be on guard. I’m constantly making a series of mundane existential calculations: Is it worth it to risk going to a movie? Should I let my kids ride the metro to soccer practice? Daily life has a chiaroscuro quality: One minute you’re riding a bus and enjoying a view of the river; the next you’re wondering about the fellow with an unusually large backpack.”

There were other stories this week@work.

Friday was the 105th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. It resonates with workers today because it was a story of immigrant workers, and led to changes in U.S. factory regulations and safety.

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Joseph Berger summarized the events in a 2011 article.

“A block east of Washington Square, not far from the neighborhood’s boutiques and chic restaurants, was the site of one of the nation’s worst industrial disasters. Many New Yorkers might be unaware of this.

Some labor advocates are trying hard to change that. They have organized an effort to build a memorial to the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, in which 146 workers died. Most of them were young immigrant women from Eastern Europe and Italy, and more than 50 jumped to their deaths from the factory’s ninth floor.

Two years ago, Tom Marshall posed the question, “Can disasters make life better for future generations?”  He went on to draw a parallel between the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire and the 2013 garment factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

“In both cases, inspectors visited and filed critical safety reports, but scores of people still died while making clothes for others. The American disaster is now hailed as a turning point that led to safer workplaces and broad support for a minimum standard of workers’ rights, while the Bangladeshi disaster’s impact is less certain.”

This week@work Starbucks chairman and CEO, Howard Schultz spoke at the annual shareholders meeting, and expanded on a conversation begun two years ago on the role and responsibility of a for-profit corporation. “What is the role and responsibility of all of us, as citizens?”

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“Viewing the American Dream as a “reservoir” that is replenished with the values, work ethic and integrity of the American people, Schultz said, “Sadly, our reservoir is running dry, depleted by cynicism, despair, division, exclusion, fear and indifference.”

He suggested citizens fill the reservoir of the American Dream back up, “not with cynicism, but with optimism. Not with despair, but with possibility. Not with division, but with unity. Not with exclusion, but with inclusion. Not with fear, but with compassion. Not with indifference, but with love.”

“It’s not about the choice we make every four years,” Schultz said. “This is about the choices we make every day.”

One of the ‘most read’ articles last week, ‘What Happens When Millennials Run the Workplace?’, provided one more illustration that work issues are people issues, and it really doesn’t matter how you generationally identify.

“Joel Pavelski, 27, isn’t the first person who has lied to his boss to scam some time off work.

But inventing a friend’s funeral, when in fact he was building a treehouse — then blogging and tweeting about it to be sure everyone at the office noticed? That feels new.

Such was a recent management challenge at Mic, a five-year-old website in New York that is vying to become a leading news source created by and for millennials.”

The workplace is changing and the 80 million millennials @work will make a significant impact on work/life and the global economy. As a group, the 40 million with college degrees enter the workforce taxed with student loans that are the equivalent of a mortgage. Fidelity Investments announced a new employee benefit last week to address student loan repayment.  Tara Siegel Bernard provided the details.

“Fidelity will apply up to $2,000 annually to the principal of its employees’ student debts.

Fidelity is one of the more prominent employers to announce the student loan repayment benefit in recent months, a policy that seems likely to gain traction. The benefit helps address what some employers describe as a challenge attracting and retaining younger workers, many of whom can’t see beyond the burden of their student debt. Most employers that are offering the new perk also cap their costs at, say, $10,000 total per employee.”

At the end of a difficult week, spring wishes and Happy Easter!

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The week@work: ‘idea debt’, interview questions & women@work: #pledgeforparity & the downside of being a trailblazer

‘Idea debt’, emotional intelligence, International Women’s Day, and lessons from the ‘girl next door who loved sports’, headline our survey of stories this week@work .

Are you a ‘wantrapreneur’? Journalist Oliver Burkeman debunks the belief that thinking about doing something is doing it.

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“I hadn’t seen the problem clearly until the other day, when I encountered the illustrator Kazu Kibuishi’s term for it: “idea debt”. You run up an idea debt, Kibuishi’s fellow artist Jessica Abel explained, when you spend “too much time picturing what a project is going to be like, too much time thinking about how awesome it will be… and too little time actually making the thing”.

Just as the accruing interest on a credit card makes it harder and harder to get back on your feet financially, idea debt impedes action. The more glorious and detailed the pictures in your mind, the more daunting it feels to start making them real.

As Gregg Krech writes in his book The Art Of Taking Action, external reality remains exactly the same after your decision to ask someone out, to write a book, or leave your job. What matters is “creating ripples”, as he puts it – actions, however tiny, that alter things in the world outside your head.”

What are the questions employers ask to determine if a job candidate possesses a solid set of ‘people skills’?  With her article, ‘7 Interview Questions That Determine Emotional Intelligence’, Carolyn Sun not only provides tips for interviewers, but explains the rationale behind the questions for potential hires.

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Here’s one example:

“Can you teach me something, as if I’ve never heard of it before? (It can be anything: A skill, a lesson or a puzzle.)
A job candidate’s answer to this question can reveal several qualities:

Whether the person is willing to take the time to think before speaking.

If the candidate has the technical ability to explain something to a person who is less knowledgeable in the subject.

Whether the candidate asks empathetic questions to the person being taught, such as, “Is this making sense?”

On March 8, International Women’s Day, the Economist “created a glass-ceiling index”, to show where women have the best chances of equal treatment at work. It combines data on higher education, labour-force participation, pay, child-care costs, maternity rights, business-school applications and representation in senior jobs. Each country’s score is a weighted average of its performance on nine indicators.

purple-woman.jpgTo no one’s surprise, Nordic countries come out well on educational attainment and labour-force participation. Women are also relatively well represented in their parliaments; Finland and Sweden were among the first countries to allow women to vote and stand for election. Yet even there women are paid less than men for similar work. In Finland and Sweden the gap is close to the OECD average of 15%, though in Norway it has fallen to 8%.

At the bottom of our index are Japan and South Korea. Too few women there have jobs, few senior managers or board members are women and pay gaps are large—in South Korea, at 37%, the largest in the OECD. If, in the UN’s words, “equality for women is progress for all”, both countries have a long way to go.”

If you are interested additional reporting on #pledgeforparity and IWD,  Washington Post journalist Danielle Paquette wrote two stories this week for Wonkblog:

‘It’s 2016, and women still make less for doing the same work as men’

‘Pay doesn’t look the same for men and women at top newspapers’

The next story falls into the category of ‘you should be safe when you pursue your dream job.’

When sports journalist Erin Andrews graduated from the University of Florida in 2000, she began a career that eventually brought her to sidelines of college football at both ESPN and Fox Sports, and the dance floor; first as a finalist and now as the co-host of ‘Dancing With The Stars’.

Sarah Kaplan, reporting for The Washington Post summarized what happened next.

“In 2008, Michael David Barrett, who served 2 1/2 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to interstate stalking — said he chose to target her because she was popular and trending on Yahoo.”

“Erin Andrews wanted to be “the girl next door who loved sports,” she said.

“And now I’m the girl with a hotel scandal,” the Fox sportscaster tearfully told a Tennessee courtroom Monday.”

The trial and jury verdict in her favor last week is just one story of ‘The Dangers of Being a Female Sportscaster’ described by Richard Sandomir and John Branch for The New York Times.

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“Female sportscasters have unparalleled reach in an age of round-the-clock sports broadcasting and the widespread dissemination of their work across social media. There are more of them now than ever, across multiple channels and websites.

The stories Sandomir and Branch recount serve as a guide for all women@work, not just those with a high profile in social media.

“I’ll try to avoid ever being in the hall of a hotel by myself,” said Kim Jones, a reporter for NFL Network. “And I’ll allow whoever is behind me to pass me before I put my card or key in the door. You have to be so aware because unfortunately that one time out of 10,000, something can happen.”

Alyssa Roenigk, a reporter for ESPN the Magazine who also appears on the air, primarily covering action sports like the X Games, said she had rarely given her security much thought. For years, she usually walked from venues to her hotel, even late at night. But as she began to do more television and was recognized more often, she was told by her bosses to start taking the courtesy car provided by the network.

“At first I thought I was getting special treatment, and I don’t want special treatment,” Ms. Roenigk said. “It’s not special treatment. It’s being safe.”

Stay safe this week@work, create some ripples and start reducing that ‘idea debt’.