Good News! MBA Programs Focus on Sexual Harassment Prevention for Future Leaders

The #MeToo era continues to have a positive impact on our culture, including on the training of future corporate leaders in MBA programs. Katie Johnston of the Boston Globe writes that “As the #MeToo movement continues to reveal how ingrained sexual harassment is in corporate culture, business schools have started taking steps to teach future leaders how to deal with, and eradicate, such behavior.” Johnston cites a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Business as saying, “People are waking up in business schools and realizing we’ve had a blind spot.” Johnston writes that while MBA programs had begun putting more focus on ethics and values after recent corporate scandals, such as the one at Wells Fargo last year, it was not until the Weinstein scandal that business schools began to add sexual harassment to the curriculum. In fact, in some cases the MBA students themselves took matters into their own hands before programs got the message. At MIT, the MBA students organized their own improvisation workshops about how to deal with sexual harassment. MIT now acknowledges that leadership must include being able to address both systemic and behavioral changes to eradicate sexual harassment. David Gelles and Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times quote Leanne Meyer of Carnegie Mellon as stating, “up until now, business leaders were largely responsible for delivering products. Now, shareholders are looking to corporate leaders to” take a stand on moral and social justice issues. MBA programs have started training leaders to do just that. Johnston, Gelles, and Miller describe some of the changes business schools are incorporating into their programs and curriculums:

  • New courses at MIT Sloan are dedicated to advancing equity and inclusion in the workplace.
  • A new ethics course at Stanford teaches how to create a workplace environment where people are comfortable reporting sexual misconduct.
  • Several schools are adding case studies, such as one on harassment at Uber.
  • Some students are forming male ally groups to support gender equity.
  • More courses show how leaders can create a workplace culture where sexual harassment isn’t tolerated.
  • At the Northeastern School of Business, a curriculum overhaul currently underway will weave issues facing working women into the fabric of its coursework.
  • Stanford Business School students study psychological research showing that people are more willing to challenge authority if at least one other person joins them.
Gelles and Miller note that the Forté Foundation is working with a number of business schools to help more women advance into leadership roles. More than two dozen schools have started groups based on the Forté model, including a group called the Manbassadors “for men committed to gender equity in business.” One male participant in the Manbassador program at Dartmouth explained that the goal is “making sure that as men we’re very aware of some of the privileges we’re afforded simply because of gender.” I don’t know about you, but I feel hopeful that because of these changes corporate cultures may really change one day to become equitable, inclusive, and safe places for women to work. The next generation of leaders appear to be taking the gender blinders off. Hopefully the corporate cultures they create will be equitable and inclusive for all currently disadvantaged groups.   Photo courtesy of Paul Lowry (CC BY 2.0)]]>

Single Millennial Women Feel Pressure to Downplay Ambition

I am surprised by the findings of a recent study showing that single millennial women who are MBA candidates in an elite program feel they must downplay their professional ambitions when in public in order to attract a marriageable male mate. I realize I should not be surprised, given the support for traditional heterosexual relationships reported by voters for Donald Trump in the recent presidential election. Joan C. Williams, writing for the Harvard Business Review, describes the strong feelings about traditional gender roles that still exist in large segments of our society. She explains, “Trump promises a world free of political correctness and a return to an earlier era, when men were men and women knew their place.” With these attitudes still deeply embedded in our society, it is no wonder that many young women feel they have to minimize their goals in public settings. An article by Valentina Zarya in Fortune reports findings from a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. These findings show significantly different responses for single millennial women when compared to the responses of female peers in long-term relationships and to both single and partnered male peers. When they believe men are watching, single women:

  • Are noticeably less assertive and speak up less in meetings
  • Minimize their goals and lower their desired annual salary expectations from $131,000 to $113,000
  • Lower their willingness to travel from fourteen to seven days per month
  • Lower their ambition for leadership roles in the future
While the study only analyzed and reported data based on gender and relationship status, it seems likely that there are racial differences for single women that are not reflected in this report. Yes, we have come a long way, but it seems we still have a long way to go. Society still teaches that it is not acceptable to be ambitious and assertive as a woman. While I’m sure that many women will say they are not impacted by these traditional attitudes, many women are still getting the message that they must tamp down their ambitions if they want to be acceptable to men. What role models and societal influences have shaped you?   Photo courtesy of COD Newsroom. CC by 2.0]]>

CFO: One Role Where Women Make More Than Men

The recent focus on the gender-wage gap has raised awareness for several young women in my life who are clear that they do not want to be paid less than men for doing the same work. Do you know a young woman who is looking for a career where women make more than men? According to Sarah Skidmore Sell of the Orange County Register there is one: CFO (chief financial officer). The high pay for women CFOs is not due to women outnumbering men in the position—a recent survey found only 60 female CFOs at S&P 500 companies compared to 437 men. Sell reports that “the median pay for female CFOs last year rose 11 percent to $3.32 million. Male CFO pay rose 7 percent to $3.3 million.” Sell also acknowledges that the high median pay for female CFOs is partly a result of their small number and tendency to work for the largest companies, where compensation is higher than at smaller companies. Nonetheless, with all the emphasis these days on encouraging girls and women to consider training for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, focusing on a finance career is another good option—and why aim for the top as a CFO? The CFO role has risen in importance since the financial crisis, when companies became aware of the need for a high-level role focused on both day-to-day operations and the long-term strategic view as the right-hand person to the CEO and the board. The CFO role is also now considered an excellent training ground for advancement to CEO.

Tips for Becoming a CFO

Carol Lippert Gray of the Journal of Accountancy notes that “there is no clear-cut path to the CFO suite,” but you can acquire skills and experiences to become CFO-qualified. Robert Half, of Robert Half Finance and Accounting, recommends the following steps to prepare yourself for a CFO role:
  1. Become a CPA (certified public accountant) or earn an MBA—or do both. A CPA license will give you training in a wide range of skills, including forensic accounting and compliance. An MBA will increase your understanding of business operations.
  2. Widen your customer service experience.
  3. Broaden your understanding of technology.
  4. Position yourself as a team builder and consensus seeker, which will encourage people to trust your judgment.
  5. Consider comptroller and treasurer positions, both of which can increase your experience with funding and strategy execution in preparation for CFO duties.
CFOs report high levels of satisfaction with their role. The journey to get there is long, but CFO could be a great career goal.   Photo courtesy of Financial Times (CC BY-SA 2.0)]]>