In a business environment where competition, employees and teams are becoming more global, and stakeholder groups are more diverse, what are the characteristics of an effective business leader in the 21st century? And where do women fit into this picture?
Catalyst, the non-profit group that aims to expand opportunities for women in business, has published a new study on October 13 that looks at the obstacles male and female high-potential employees experience as their careers advance.
On October 12, the Financial Times published the next Women at the Top page as part of its flagship project on female business leadership.
Last week, 31-year-old Chelsea Clinton joined the board of internet giant IAC/InterActive Corp, the parent of Match.com and CitySearch. This has sparked a lot of interest from right-leaning op-ed columnists, bloggers and tweeters, who have been quick to throw up their collective hands in horror. Her appointment is easy prey to accusations of cosiness: Barry Diller, high-profile media mogul and IAC senior executive, is known to have supported both Bill and Hillary Clinton’s independent runs for the US presidency.
Kristin Forbes has experience at the top of two professions: academia and policy. She is a tenured professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and used to serve as a member of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, where she was the youngest person to ever hold that position. The mother of three has also recently been honoured as a “Young Global Leader” as part of the World Economic Forum at Davos.
So another tribute to women: the first Nobel peace prize for any woman in seven years goes to three women. It seems the Nobel committee in Oslo has done a broad sweep of female achievement since it gave the prize to another African woman in 2004.
A new study by Hay Group, the management consultancy, reports that male non-executive directors in Europe’s largest companies are paid an average of 7 per cent more than female non-execs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, last year, women made up less than a third of personal financial advisors, 35 per cent of financial analysts and 39 per cent of workers in the securities, commodities, and fund management business. Similarly, the 2010 Catalyst Census of Women Executive Officers found that women comprised less than a quarter of all senior officers in the financial services and insurance industries. It is an imbalance that many companies are keen to rectify.
How does a woman respond when she’s being recruited for a top job that may prove to be just too much of a stretch? And how is that different from how a man reacts in the same circumstances?
Meg Whitman, who was appointed chief executive of Hewlett-Packard on 22 September 2011, last week announced that she would be drawing a salary of only $1. Her severance package, meanwhile, is just $1.50. Contrast this with outgoing boss Leo Apotheker’s severance package, which is estimated at $13.5m. This is a man who has presided over a fall of 46 per cent – worth about $40bn – in his company’s share value during his 11-month tenure.