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The Apprentice 2013: ‘What’s wrong with being a strong woman in business?’

18 Jul

“What’s wrong with being a strong, direct, outspoken woman in business?” asked Luisa Zissman at the start of the series finale of The Apprentice 2013 – a final she went on to lose against Leah Totton.

Luisa had been called manipulative and argumentative during the series, and even her teammates in the final, who were meant to be supporting her, were “glad to see her sweating a bit”. And yet Luisa remained feisty and focused on bringing her online baking brand to life – even to the point of talking too much, listening too little, and reacting emotionally after her presentation to the trade.

Leah Totton was even more focused, I thought, giving her teammates’ contributions short shrift. She knew her own mind. “I like boring,” she retorted when someone criticised her logo design. There was no breaking down in tears for Leah after her presentation to the experts.

Irregardless of who won (though I would have gone for Luisa), I was fascinated to see two women reach the final and go all-out to win Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment. Some commentators have argued that the show did nothing for feminism, and Luisa was even quoted saying that feminism had nothing to do with her success. She said being “aggressive and ruthless” got her to where she is today. But I did love this riposte from Katy Brand, claiming that Luisa was more of a feminist than she believed herself to be.

Luisa may not have won the Apprentice money, but she has apparently found other investors willing to support her brand. I doubt we’ll have heard the last of her.

What’s wrong with being a strong woman in business? What, indeed!

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Women’s career choices are all about location, location, location

16 Jul

Women want different things from men when it comes to deciding which employer to work for. While pay and benefits are always crucial in this decision, location is also a huge priority for female candidates.

A survey by Randstad US of 7,000 people found that 44% of women said location was an important employer attribute, compared with 35% of men. More than a third (37%) of women also said workplace flexibility was crucial in their decision, compared with 26% of male respondents. What ranked highly among men was career progression (42%) and a company’s financial health (36%). For women these percentages respectively were 36% and 28%.

Randstad US senior vice president Lisa Crawford said how a company is perceived will affect what candidates it attracts. “Companies may need to focus on key elements, such as building culture and adopting more flexible work policies, to appeal to different demographics. Attracting and retaining talent is not a one-stop shop,” she added.

Cheers to the new vintage of women sommeliers

15 Apr
Women are increasingly taking the wine world by storm. (pic: )istockphoto.com/boule13

Women are increasingly taking the wine world by storm. (pic: istockphoto.com/boule13)

I love the thought of women breaking the stuffy ranks of male-dominated industries, which is why it was a delight to read this Bloomberg article: Women pull corks as female sommeliers take over cellars.

Maybe it’s female intuition, the ability to ‘read a table’ or her non-confrontational manner when discussing a wine list with customers. There’s probably no single reason, but the new vintage of sommeliers in New World and Old World is becoming increasingly female.

The article quotes figures from the Institute of Masters of Wine showing that there are 87 women out of 287 masters of wine across the world. And new masters coming through are more likely to be female than male. And in the US, a restaurant group says 40% of its sommeliers are women.

It quotes beverage director Liz Nicholson from a major New York hotel saying that the female touch has made wine drinking and ordering much less elitist: “Women sommeliers have really helped remove being so uptight about ordering wine,” she says.

I’ll certainly drink to that.

Is progress for women leaders a ‘false dawn’, asks Cranfield

12 Apr

In boardrooms across the UK, complacency is once again setting in. After an initial surge of female board appointments, the pace of change has considerably slowed.

The Female FTSE Board Report 2013 from the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders is titled: ‘False dawn of progress for women leaders’? It shows that in the first six months after the last report was published in March 2012 that 44% of new FTSE 100 board appointments went to women. But that progress has not been sustained. In the last six months, just 26% of FTSE board appointments were female, and 29% of FTSE 250 board places went to women. Cranfield said this drop was “worrying”.

Overall, the figures look like this:

  • 169 women hold 194 female-held directorships in 93 FTSE 100 boardrooms.
  • This total equals 17.3%, higher than last year’s 15%.
  • There are now seven FTSE 100 companies with all-male boards.
  • Two-thirds of FTSE 100 companies have more than one woman on their board.
  • Burberry is the only company to have two female executive directors.
  • 73% of FTSE 250 companies have women on their boards, up from last year’s 54%

Commenting on Cranfield’s Female FTSE report, its co-author Professor Susan Vinnicombe OBE said: “At Cranfield we have stood steadfast against quotas on the basis that chairmen must understand the benefits of gender diversity and commit to achieving it.  Undoubtedly a number of chairmen do get it and see a gender balanced board as the ‘new normal’.  Unfortunately too many chairmen choose to ignore the issue in the false hope that it will go away.  Viviane Reding’s demanding legislation is on its way and it goes far beyond Lord Davies’ recommendations. It is becoming a matter of urgency for those companies that do not have a gender balanced board to let go of their board stereotypes and appoint more creatively.”

Women with ‘elite’ education are increasingly opting out of full-time work

11 Apr

Work-life balance has taken a new turn. The higher the levels of study, the higher the chance that women will choose to opt-out of full-time work, says a study from Vanderbilt University.

The research found that 60% of female graduates from elite colleges are working full-time compared to 68% of women from other schools. Children are the key factor in hours women choose to work. Among graduates from ‘elite’ colleges, married women without children are 20 percentage points more likely to be employed than those with children.

The biggest difference is with women who have MBAs. Married mothers with an MBA and a first degree from a selective school are 30 percentage points less likely to be employed full-time than graduates of less selective schools, the study found.

Even though elite graduates are more likely to earn advanced degrees, marry at later ages and have higher expected earnings, they are still opting out of full-time work at much higher rates than other graduates, especially if they have children,” says Vanderbilt professor of law and economics Joni Hersch.

For a more in-depth understanding of her findings, read her full report: Opting Out among Women with Elite Education.

Welsh government commits to 40% quota for women on public boards

4 Mar

The Welsh government has set a target for women to make up 40% of public appointments, according to a report on the BBC website.

While most organisations have stopped short of applying quotas to encourage more women into senior positions, the Welsh government points to the example of Sport Wales. The body trebled the number of women applying to join its board after making the application wording and process more ‘gender friendly’. T board went from eight men and one woman to five women and nine men in 2012.

Equalities Minister Jane Hutt says Sport Wales sets an ideal example for other organisations to follow. The BBC quotes her as saying: “”Our programme for government includes a commitment to ensure that at least 40% of appointments to public roles in Wales are women, but we need all organisations to play their part in helping us achieve this ambitious target.”

This announcement comes days before International Women’s Day 2013. Expect lots more debate on the pros and cons of boardroom gender quotas.

Women: do different jobs from men if you want equal pay

28 Dec

The more women do the same jobs as men, they more likely they are to earn less money than them, according to a study of 20 countries by the universities of Cambridge and Warwick in the UK and Lakehead in Canada.

The researchers found that if women do different jobs from men – and there are few men found in that particular profession – then women will have a higher chance of earning more money and reaching the top of their trade.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that where there are equal numbers of men and women working in an occupation, “the men dominate the high-paying jobs”.

From the table below, you can see that pay is most equal in Continue reading

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