Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Go Sponsor Whom?

Janet McFarland of the Globe and Mail reports, #GoSponsorHer social media campaign aims to put more women in senior roles:
Canada’s business leaders are joining a new social-media campaign aimed at promoting more women in senior roles, publicly pledging to champion a woman in her career and challenging other executives to participate.

The #GoSponsorHer campaign asks top executives to name a woman they will help support publicly, post the pledge on a social media site such as Twitter or Facebook and then publicly “tag” two or three other senior leaders they know, challenging them to become sponsors to women of their choice.

McKinsey & Co. consultant Laura McGee, who helped launch the program with colleague Megan Anderson, said the public challenge works similarly to the popular “ice bucket challenge” campaign, but with a goal to help more women find powerful sponsors who will support their advancement into senior leadership roles.

Most sponsors choose women within their own company or industry, where they have the ability to make a meaningful impact in their careers, she said.

The campaign aims to highlight the critical differences between mentoring and sponsorship, she said. Leaders are urged to go beyond mentoring, in which they offer advice and support to women about their careers, and instead embrace sponsorship, which requires a more active effort to encourage advancement. There are no specific things sponsors must do, but they typically help women by making introductions, inviting them to work on key assignments and championing them for promotion.

“A sponsor will really stick their neck out and create opportunities – this is somebody who is personally committed to advancing your career,”Ms. McGee said.

Mark Wiseman, senior managing director at global investment firm BlackRock Inc., Ms. McGee’s sponsor in the program, said many top executives have benefited from sponsorship earlier in their careers, but those relationships have been socially easier for senior men to navigate with other men.

“The reality, especially in the investment industry, is that men have tended to have better sponsorship in their careers than women because it’s generally comfortable for men to sponsor other men, rather than for men to sponsor women,” he said.

Frank Vettese, chief executive officer of Deloitte Canada and a sponsor in the program, said women need sponsors not just talking to them about their careers but “leaning in on an unprecedented scale, putting their personal leadership on the line.”

“Research shows that women are over-mentored and under-sponsored,” he said in a statement.

The #GoSponsorHer hashtag on Twitter and Facebook reads like a who’s who of executives and politicians in Canada.

For example, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce chief executive officer Victor Dodig was an early supporter and challenged veteran businesswoman and corporate director Gail Cook-Bennett to participate. Microsoft Canada president Janet Kennedy challenged General Electric Canada CEO Elyse Allan. McKinsey global head Dominic Barton challenged three others, including Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and Teck Resources Ltd. CEO Don Lindsay.

Mr. Wiseman said the social-media aspect of the program is a simple way to spread the word about sponsorship to more senior people in business. He is participating, he said, because the investment industry has too few women in top roles and needs to draw the best talent from the widest pool of candidates.

“Quite simply, the industry has done a terrible job of that to date, and if we can crack that code, we’ll be better investors and put up better results,” he said.

Ms. McGee said research shows women are 46 per cent less likely than men to have an identified sponsor. They hold 33 per cent of senior management jobs, and fewer than 1 per cent of CEO positions.

The statistics suggest many senior men in leadership roles have an “unconscious bias” about who they really champion for advancement, she said.

“It’s really bad, and has been despite a number of policy and corporate changes over the past 20 or 30 years – the pipeline is not getting better,” Ms. McGee said. “Something is not working.”
I sent this article to my girlfriend, a grade school teacher, whose first reaction was "the picture is creepy and suggestive" and the article is "demeaning and counterproductive to women seeking senior roles." Then she read the article again and was blown away by the statistics, especially that fewer than 1% of women hold CEO positions, and said obviously there is a huge problem and the problem is much more perverse in the finance industry where sexism is rampant.

She thinks this initiative, however, is silly and doubts it will make a big difference apart from making a few people feel better that they're part of a movement highlighting gender inequality in the corporate world.

Now, I assured my girlfriend Mark Wiseman isn't a "creep" (quite the opposite) but I get her point, this picture above was not well thought out (much like Trump's executive order on immigration). My girlfriend could be a little tough at times (said my "psychotic love affair with Gordon Fyfe" resurfaced in my last comment on bcIMC. Umm, no!), but she's spot on in terms of this picture and her comments.

Statistics are a funny thing, they can be used in all sorts of ways, to inform and disinform people by stretching the truth. Let me give you an example. Over the weekend, I went to Indigo bookstore to buy Michael Lewis's new book, The Undoing Project, and skim through other books.

One of the books on the shelf that caught my attention was Daniel J. Levitin's book, A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age. Dr. Levitin is a professor of neuroscience at McGill University's Department of Psychology and he has written a very accessible and entertaining book on critical thinking, a subject that should be required reading for high school and university students.

Anyways, there is a passage in the book where he discusses the often used statistic that the average life expectancy of people living in the 1850s was 38 years old for men and 40 years old for women, and now it's 76 years old for men and 81 for women (these are the latest US statistics which show life expectancy declining for the first time since 1993. In Canada, the latest figures from 2009 show the life expectancy for men is 79 and for women 83, but bad habits are sure to impact these figures).

You read that statistic and what's the first thing that comes to your mind? Wow, people didn't live long back then and now that we are all eating organic foods, exercising and have the benefits of modern medical science, we are living much longer.

The problem is this is total and utter nonsense! The reason why the life expectancy was much lower in 1850 was that children were dying a lot more often back then. In other words, the child mortality rate heavily skewed the statistics but according to Dr. Levitin, a man or woman reaching the age of 50 back then went on to live past 70. Yes, modern science has increased life expectancy somewhat but not nearly as much as we are led to believe.

Here is another statistic that my close friend, a radiologist who sees all sorts of diseases told me: all men will get prostate cancer if they live long enough. He tells me a 70 year old man has a 70% chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, an 80 year old man has an 80% chance and a 90 year old man has a 90% chance."

Scary stuff, right? Not really because as my buddy tells me: "The reason prostate cancer isn't a massive health concern is that it typically strikes older men and moves very, very slowly, so by the time men are diagnosed with it, chances are they will die from something else."

Of course, the key word here is "typically" because if you're a 50 year old male with high PSA levels and are then diagnosed with prostate cancer after a biopsy confirms you have it, you need to undergo surgery as soon as possible because you might be one of the unlucky few with an aggressive form of the disease (luckily, it can be treated and cured if caught in time).

Now, what does this all have to do with the article above and the statistics cited? Anyone reading those statistics with half a brain realizes there is rampant gender discrimination in the corporate world and it's especially alarming in the financial world. 

True but there could be other factors explaining why women are not in the most senior roles of corporations, like personal decisions to balance their work and family life. Of course, if this is the case, then modern corporations should do more to adapt and recognize their needs for balancing work and their family life, not overlook highly qualified and capable women for positions they most certainly merit based on their qualifications and experience.

On this topic, Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reports, How to Close a Gender Gap: Let Employees Control Their Schedules:
The main reason for the gender gaps at work — why women are paid less, why they’re less likely to reach the top levels of companies, and why they’re more likely to stop working after having children — is employers’ expectation that people spend long hours at their desks, research has shown.

It’s especially difficult for women because they have disproportionate responsibility for caregiving.

Flexibility regarding the time and place that work gets done would go a long way toward closing the gaps, economists say. Yet when people ask for it, especially parents, they can be penalized in pay and promotions. Social scientists call it the flexibility stigma, and it’s the reason that even when companies offer such policies, they’re not widely used.
I will let you read the rest of this interesting article here but it confirms my point, there may be more to the statistics than just blatant sexism.

Nonetheless, there's no question it's a man's world, especially in finance where an abundance of testosterone and "big swinging dicks" still think women are not capable of handling the pressure that goes along with managing big money (even if studies show women are better with money than men, including investing money). 

Yes, we are 2017 and things have changed a lot in the financial industry since Michael Lewis wrote Liar's Poker but some things, like rampant sexism, are still alive and well. It's just that nowadays lawyers rule the world and senior executives are taught how to properly mask their prejudices so nobody gets slapped with any lawsuit.

I am cynical but the reality is there's a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done in all industries in terms of promoting women and other minorities to senior roles. I myself have openly criticized the lack of diversity in the workplace, especially for people with disabilities where the unemployment rate hovers at a staggering 70%. 

Of course, there are many factors explaining this shocking statistic too, not just blatant discrimination, but I cannot convey to you how wrong this is on so many levels. 

What I can do is share with you many horrific stories from when I visit my neurologist at the Montreal Neurological Institute from patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) who lost their job after their employer found out they have MS and were treated in the most inhumane way after disclosing their disease.

In fact, I will challenge all CEOs and senior executives reading this comment to not only donate to cure MS but go visit the MS clinic in your city, talk to some patients in the waiting room and then talk to the neurologists to gain some perspective in terms of the disgusting and shocking discrimination many MS patients routinely experience all because they were diagnosed with a disease that is quite treatable in most cases if caught early.

[Note: I should start my own social media campaign targeting senior corporate executives to bring attention to the plight of people with disabilities struggling to find work and call it #Get Out Of YourLittleBubble!!!]

But people are so prejudiced, so ignorant, that the first thing that comes to their mind when someone tells them "I have MS" is "oh, poor you, tough disease, are you going to end up in a wheelchair?".

I'm speaking from personal experience. I've had plenty of ignoramuses talk to me that way and let me educate them and the rest of you that most people with MS don't end up in a wheelchair, and these statistics were based on large scale studies before the explosion of treatments in the last 15 years.

Through proper diet, exercise (weight training in particular), vitamin D, great sleep and some lifestyle changes, most MS patients can live a normal life even without medication, and their life expectancy is just as long as the rest of the population.

And even if someone ends up in a wheelchair or is in a wheelchair for other reasons, so what? Are you going to discriminate against them because they're in a wheelchair? Apart from being illegal, it shows that your organization has the wrong values in terms of being inclusive and focusing on real diversity.

"But Leo, people with disabilities or neurological diseases or other diseases require some adaptation on our part to help them feel safe and secure." And, so what? If someone needs to be close to a bathroom because they need to pee often, or if someone else needs access to a special elevator "only reserved for the CEO" because they have mobility issues and cannot walk far, then do whatever it takes to allow them to work and be independent like other employees.

Importantly, the onus of responsibility lies on the employer to make sure every aspect of their organization is promoting real diversity at all levels, not just junior roles, and that senior managers take real diversity very seriously for all minorities, including people with disabilities.

[Note: Go visit the offices of major corporations and even large Canadian public pension funds, put yourself in the shoes of someone in a wheelchair and ask yourself just how accessible are these offices to people with a disability. You would be astonished. In fact, I challenge any CEO to sit in a wheelchair for one day and try going about their daily routine at their offices to see what I am talking about.]

As far as the #GoSponsorHer campaign, I'm concerned that we need to "sponsor women" or any minority group in 2017 so they can occupy senior roles they rightfully deserve. Are people in power that stupid to openly or unconsciously discriminate against someone because of their gender, race, color of their skin, religion, sexual preference and disability?

If that is the case, then many people in power need a hard lesson in life and they should take my advice and go talk to patients struggling not only with a disability, but more worrisome, with the disgusting and shameful prejudices of their employers who make their lives a living hell instead of helping them adapt to their workplace, espousing the values of diversity and inclusiveness.

In terms of women in finance, it's worth noting on Friday when I went over whether quant hedge funds are taking over the world, I stated this:
I also found it interesting that he [George Soros] recently hired a woman, Dawn Fitzpatrick, a senior exec at the asset-management arm of UBS, to be his next CIO (click on image):


Soros didn't hire Ms. Fitzpatrick for her good looks or quantitative skills, he hired her because she's damn good at what she does, managing and allocating money:
A spokesman for Soros confirmed the hire. Bloomberg earlier reported the news.

Fitzpatrick replaces Ted Burdick, who left the position last fall but remained at the firm. While her start date is unclear, Fitzpatrick would be Soros' seventh CIO at Soros Fund Management since 2000.

At UBS, Fitzpatrick oversaw more than 500 billion Swiss francs across investment teams, according to her UBS bio. She previously was the head and CIO of a multibillion-dollar hedge fund owned by UBS. Fitzpatrick started her career in 1992 with O'Connor & Associates as a clerk on the American Stock Exchange.
Soros is also sending a clear message to his testosterone-challenged peers that if the king of hedge funds isn't scared to hire a woman for his top investment position, maybe they too should open their minds and start diversifying their workforce at all levels of their organization.
I was even more blunt on LinkedIn where I stated this:
"Soros hiring a woman to be the CIO of his fund shows me he's more progressive than his testosterone-challenged peers who would never in a million years hire a woman to be the CIO of their fund and that maybe he's sick and tired of "big swinging hedge fund dicks" who think they're the next Soros. I'm sure Dawn Fitzpatrick is more than qualified for this coveted role and I hope she succeeds beyond her and Soros's expectations."
Fitzpatrick isn't the first woman to work at or run a hedge fund but she was chosen among a select few to run the king of hedge fund's assets, which tells you she really knows her stuff or else there is no way Soros would have hired her to be his CIO.

But for every Dawn Fitzpatrick, there are thousands of women out there dealing with sexism in the workplace and they can't do much about it unless a better opportunity somewhere else comes along so they can jump on it.

That is just sad, truly sad and infuriating. Is the #GoSponsorHer campaign the answer to widespread gender inequality in the corporate world? Maybe it will increase awareness but unless it's followed with concrete actions and reports with hard public statistics showing us that organizations aren't just talking the talk, they're walking the walk on workplace diversity at all levels, then it will be a monumental failure.

I know that some Canadian pensions are finally taking diversity seriously. CPPIB is focusing on gender diversity and others are not only looking at gender diversity but all diversity at their organization. And they are practicing it by placing women in key investment positions (look a Jane Rowe and Nicole Musicco at Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan or Julie Cays at CAAT Pension Plan or Debra Alves, the Managing Director and CEO of CBC's Pension Plan).

Clearly there has been some progress on diversity but while I welcome these initiatives, sadly, there is a lot of work left to do on this front at large Canadian pensions and other large Canadian public and private organizations (even the federal civil service is terrible at diversifying its workforce!).

Lastly, the CBC recently reported the CIBC bank plans to hire 500 workers with disabilities in 2017:
"When was the last time you went into a bank and you ever saw a person with a disability working behind the counter?"

It's a question that both David Onley, the province's special adviser on accessibility, and CIBC have been asking.

They seem to have come up with a similar answer.

"You probably have never seen one," Onley said — a fact that's reflected in many different workplaces, according to an Angus Reid survey commissioned by CIBC.

The survey involved 1,002 Canadians with disabilities; 37 per cent of those respondents of working age said they were unemployed.

Of those who did have jobs, roughly a quarter said they were working in a role that did not reflect the breadth of their qualifications.

500 new jobs

CIBC responded to the results by announcing it would hire 500 people with disabilities this year.

In a press release, however, the bank said it wanted its workforce to reflect "our diverse clients [and] communities."

"We want to let job seekers with disabilities know that at CIBC we focus on the abilities and personal strengths of people," said Laura Dottori-Attanasio, a senior executive vice-president and chief risk officer at the bank, in a press release.
Front-line staffers

About 1.8 million Ontarians identify as having a disability — and the province's accessibility adviser says seeing a bank draw from that talent pool is long overdue.

Onley suggested CIBC turn the majority of new positions into front-line staffers so that "people can see [that] this is [their] practice of hiring."

​Jamie Burton, vice president at an IT consulting firm that helps companies be accessible to its employees, said there's an advantage to hiring people with disabilities.

This untapped talent pool can help "solve their turnover rates, to increase innovation, [and] to have their employees reflect the communities that they serve," the Dolphin Digital Technologies executive said. "We don't give opportunities to see what [people are] capable of doing because our assumptions are in the way."
As you can see, when it comes to people with disabilities, it's not a matter of being "sponsored" for a senior role, they aren't even being hired in the first place, and if they are, it's for low level jobs..

Having spoken with people at wonderful non-profit organizations like AIM Croit, which has a mission "to help persons who have a physical, sensory or neurological disability develop their full employability potential" (it's not a placement agency), I realize just how pathetic things truly are for people with disabilities looking for work. If they are lucky, they will be placed in some low level job paying them a subsistence wage (if they are lucky).

This is an unjust and inhuman world, period. I don't care what you think, unless you have experienced and seen things through the eyes of people with disabilities struggling to find work or dealing with gross prejudice and discrimination at work simply because they have a disability or been diagnosed with a chronic disease, you simply cannot fathom how little society has progressed in terms of our moral fabric (I'd argue we have regressed in many ways).

I wish I was wrong folks, I really do, but go talk to the people working at AIM Croit, go talk to patients with a neurological disease, go talk to their neurologists and you will be shocked to learn that what I'm complaining about above is only the tip of the iceberg. It's actually much, much worse than I can convey in a blog comment.

"But Leo, we have 'diversity teams' and recruiters in our organization and take diversity, including hiring people with disabilities very seriously." You do? Just peachy!! In that case, where's the beef? Show me hard facts backed up by reports, not some silly campaign slogan that is a bunch of hot air people will forget about once they are done with their feel good social responsibility good deed of the year.

I better stop here, I'm getting agitated and extremely cynical and would rather end this rather long comment on a positive note. One president of a large Canadian pension fund who is blind in one eye recently told me he takes diversity very seriously because he's living with a disability and believes it's important to have different perspectives in any organization to counteract "group think".

There are other presidents at large Canadian pensions who just like Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, the CEOs of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, went through their own personal battle with cancer and realize that life often throws your curve balls and you can't control illness when it strikes you. All you can do is cope as best as possible and make due with the time you've got left.

The point I'm trying to make is nobody is immune to illness. Trust me, I'm surrounded by doctors and they tell me that every day they see people of all ages being diagnosed with all sorts of mental and physical illnesses.

So while I understand the motivation behind the #GoSponsorHer campaign, I personally think we need a much bigger social awakening to ask ourselves some tough questions about the way we treat one another and the way we view social justice. Because from where I'm sitting, there is still a lot of work to do on gender and other equality issues and corporate leaders need to stop talking and start acting, taking diversity in the workplace seriously at all levels of their organization.

As far as sexism, racism, ageism, bullying, or other forms of aggressive or even tacit discrimination, there simply should be a zero tolerance policy for it at the workplace and instead of kicking people while they're down, companies should support them and help them when they're confronting hardship or coping with an illness.

All organizations can also do a lot more to hire people with disabilities and help them adapt at the workplace so they can earn a living and be independent and productive citizens. It is their right to know when they check that box disclosing they are a person with a disability or when they roll into an interview in a wheelchair that they will be treated fairly just like any other candidate, not openly and shamefully discriminated against.

As always, I welcome your views on this topic even if you vigorously disagree with me, just email me at LKolivakis@gmail.com.

As I finish writing this comment, my girlfriend called me from her school where I can hear kids screaming in the background as they come in the classroom. She tells me: "Yeah, the girls are helping the boys take off their snowsuits. The boys are lost without them."

One day, those little girls are going to be leading those little boys and they deserve to work for an organization that values them for their skills, capabilities and experience, and will not pass them over for a promotion they rightfully deserve.

Below, Sallie Krawcheck, one of the most high-ranking women on Wall Street and author of a new book, Own It: The Power of Women at Work, wants corporations to know something important: Diversity is healthy for the bottom line.

Krawcheck, the former president of the wealth management division for Bank of America Corp, recently revealed her personal struggles with love and money and talked about the unique skill women bring to the workplace on CNBC. Smart lady, she knows how to "own it".

And meet Haben Girma, Harvard Law’s first deaf-blind graduate. Girma's extraordinary story highlights her courage and determination despite physical challenges, and she is living proof that disability is certainly no barrier to achieving academic excellence.

Watch the BBC Africa clip below with her story and when she met with President Obama at the 25th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act and typed him a message to which he responded by typing back. This young lady is an inspiration to all of us, quite an incredible individual.

Lastly, read this Fortune article on how Google is finally taking diversity more seriously and changing the way we all see the world. Watch the clip  here and the clip below, both are excellent.



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