Friday, February 24, 2012

The NAFE 50 Report Signals a Stall for Female Executives

JP Morgan Chase towerImage via Wikipedia

My copy of Working Mother magazine arrived this month, with a report on the NAFE 50 – the National Association for Female Executives Top 50 companies. The list, which includes technology giants HP, Cisco, Intel, and IBM, also includes financial services firms (20%) such as Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase.

Companies are selected based on female representation at key levels – and especially roles with profit and loss responsibility. Key programs for advancement of women and company culture are also considered.

It’s important to note that this list is meant to represent the top companies for females pursuing executive roles – and does not necessarily represent the top companies pursuing technical careers.

Earlier this year, I posed the question – was 2011 a good year for female leaders? Because I’m a data junkie, I always like to look at the numbers, so let’s take a look at the data in the NAFE 50 report, to see if it can help us answer that question:

53% of the employees across these companies are women. 33% of senior managers are women.

22% of the corporate executives in these companies are women (compared to 14% of Fortune 500 companies), but 37% of the profit and loss executives are women.

The boards are comprised of 23% female directors (compared to 16.1% at Fortune 500 companies).

10% of the NAFE 50 companies have a female CEO (compared to 3.6% of Fortune 500 companies). That is a drop from 14% in 2011.

When I look at the data presented, I am able to see a clear connection between focus on the advancement of women, and the impact that programs like mentoring, leadership training, and coaching have on the company gender profile. That’s good news.
And yet, I still feel like it’s not enough. While 10% of women as CEO sounds great – more than double the Fortune 500 – keep in mind that the numbers we are looking at here are for the top companies – the ones who do the very best in identifying and promoting women leaders.

If we look bottom to top, 53% of the employees at the NAFE 50 companies are women, 44% of the managers are women, 33% of the senior managers are women, 22% of the executives are women, and 10% of the CEOs are women.

Lest you think I only care about the women, let’s take a look at the men in these same companies. 47% of the employees are men, 56% of the managers are men, 67% of the senior managers are men, 78% of the executives are men, and 90% of the top executives are men.

Now, how do you feel about that? You can find the entire report here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Nuggets of Intelligence From a Cookbook Conference

English: Gwyneth Paltrow at the 2011 Venice Fi...
This post is a bit different for me. Usually I pick an issue or a work related topic to dive into. But since most of the readers here are writers, pursuing second careers, or thinking about pursuing second careers, I thought you might be interested in what I learned at a cookbook conference last weekend.

In case you are wondering what the heck I was doing at a cookbook conference, I will remind you that my first book (a cookbook) will be coming out shortly. I love to take advantage of conferences in New York City because it's just a short train ride for me to attend.

The Roger Smith Cookbook Conference was very unusual in that a truly diverse set of people came together to talk about cookbooks. Of course, there were authors in attendance. But there were also publishers, agents, bloggers, editors, public relations reps, educators, historians, and independent bookstore owners. (Yes, there are still independent bookstore owners.)

And there was a great deal to talk about – far more than I could have imagined. The speakers had fascinating information to share. Here is just a little bit of what I learned:

Celebrity Sells.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that six out of ten of the top selling cookbooks in 2011 were written by celebrities (Paula Deen, Guy Fieri, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman), and Lisa Lillien (Hungry Girl).

Big collections sell.
Of the remaining top sellers in 2011, three were what I would call big collections by trusted sources, including Weight Watchers, Cook’s Illustrated, and America’s Test Kitchen.

What was the number one selling cookbook of 2011? drumroll please…

Cake Pops! Looking back over the top sellers for the past three years, cupcakes (and now cake pops) do seem to rule.

Cookbooks still sell.
And by that I mean physical books, books you can touch and put on a shelf. While all books provide an experience, cookbooks seem to provide a lasting experience. There were 500 cookbooks published in 2011.

People still want and buy cookbooks.
Cookbooks are the #1 genre of books checked out from libraries. Cookbooks are the #1 genre of books stolen from libraries. Cookbooks are the only genre of book unaffected by the recession.

What about electronic cookbooks? People want cookbook apps – and they want them to be full of recipes, but they aren’t willing to pay for them. I saw some examples of fabulous cookbook/recipe apps. None of them are making money.

If you are promoting a book, readers want a personal touch. Readers still love book signings. But, even the authors with the most extensive out-reach said that book signings do not sell enough books to justify the expense.

So there you have it – the ins and outs, ups and downs, good and bad of cookbooks in 2012! What’s your take on cookbooks?

Friday, February 10, 2012

What’s In a Name – Is Big Better?

New York Giants logoImage via WikipediaThe Poughkeepsie Journal landed at my door on Saturday, February 4th – the day before the super bowl – with a front page article titled The Big Blues: How the Giants and IBM Got Their Nicknames. Of course, such a story could only be considered news in New York’s Hudson Valley, where it would be flirting with danger to admit that you prefer the Patriots to the Giants, and where if someone in your family doesn’t work for IBM, one of your neighbors surely does.

It’s interesting to note that the writer of the article could not determine how either the 2012 Super Bowl champs or the tech giant actually did get tagged with the “Big Blue” moniker, although many theories were floated. What I found even more interesting is not the color blue (which is arguably a favorite among many) but pairing it with the adjective “big.” It’s almost as if the New York Giants weren’t able to communicate their massive power with the word “giants” alone, and IBM weren’t able to communicate their world presence with the “international” in their official name. Instead, each of them also needed a nickname to communicate their size, scope, and power – a nickname that included the word “big.”

Big. It’s a tiny word, but it communicates so much, especially in the world of sports. Consider Big Ten, Big East, Big West. If a conference has big in its name, then it must be powerful, right? And individual teams that append "big" to their team names seem to indeed strike it big. Consider Big Orange (Syracuse).

But big isn’t reserved for sports. There’s London’s Big Ben, the Big Island in Hawaii, and The Big Apple (New York City). There are the Big Four accounting firms, the Big Four consulting firms, and the Big Four banks. (If you are going to attach to a number to further modify the adjective “big,” four seems to be quite a popular choice.)

We even seem to like our food names big; anyone for a Big Mac or a Big Gulp?

If you were to choose a name for a book, “The Big Book of Anything,” would surely be preferable to, “The Little Book of Anything,” and if you are going to a choose a nickname for a product, I strongly suggest you think big!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Politics In (and Out of) the Boardroom

politicsImage by Asoka G M via FlickrPolitics. The word is commonly used to describe posturing, maneuvering, and lobbying, in addition to the traditional meaning of “activities associated with government.” The dictionary also adds, “power relationships in a specific field,” and, “calculated advancement,” to that classic definition.

We’ve all seen politicking on the national stage at it’s best worst lately – candidates who previously were on the same team pulling out all the stops to make the other guy look bad. But it’s impossible to drag someone else through the mud without jumping into the mud bath yourself. Yes, everyone looks bad. Everyone gets hurt. And the mud slinging can’t be taken back.

It happens in the boardroom too. A big job has opened up and (especially when it’s a top job) there are many qualified candidates who have been waiting for the job for years. But, regardless of readiness, ability, and desire, only one person can fill the job. And yes, the posturing, lobbying, and even backstabbing begins. It’s not just about why Sam should have the job, but why Sally shouldn’t. Any and all dirty laundry is aired.

The difference between politics in the boardroom and politics for government office is that the blood, dirt, and grime stays behind closed doors. Clients and the rest of the world usually don’t know what’s being said. The most visible damage is contained.

But the underlying damage – the scarred working relationships, trust, and even loss of interest in the work, linger. It’s quite impossible to stab someone in the back and expect him or her to be a supporter after the battle is over.

I’d say the world would be a better place if we could all put politics and personal agendas aside, but perhaps there is an element of survival of the fittest here. After all, someone has to be in charge. Someone needs to make decisions. Someone has to rise to the top, and it’s rarely clear-cut whom that role should go to.

What do you think? Is it possible for our political and business leaders to work their way to the top without stepping on others along the way?