Case study 3:
Ann and John – Flexibility not only by both parents, flexibility also required on part of employer Ann is a banker and John is a lawyer. Their balance between childcare and their careers is difficult because in both professions the norm is to spend long hours of “face time”, both being seen to be in the office, and also reflecting that time spent in the production of new business or chargeable hours. What are their answers to our survey? Essentially they add that not only is flexibility required from each partner and the childcare solution, but also there is definitely a flexibility required by their employers, the individuals that they directly report to. In both cases these individuals are male, and as John says:
without my boss’ full cooperation and understanding of my need to be able to spend quality time with my kids on a regular basis, there is no way we as a family would be able to sustain two careers as well as a happy family. Sometimes I simply have to take an afternoon out to bring the kids to the orthodontist, or watch the sports day, or the theatre production. Without the firm’s flexibility, it simply would not happen.
The role of coaching
The role of coaching addressing gender imbalance and performance sustainability Companies want to address the issue of gender imbalance for the purpose of improving company performance. Companies also want sustainable high performance from both their male and female leaders. With research demonstrating that women are wanting success and many are not yet achieving it, and also suggesting that the men are also wanting to do more with their families and are not achieving it, there is a great opportunity for companies to step up and address these issues with the use of coaches. Significant investment by companies is made in diversity programs, in providing quality childcare, women’s networking groups, and improving skills. This is not always sufficient, as there are still many stereotyping and social issues to overcome. Corporations also provide coaching to executives toward achieving career success, but often the non-work issues faced by executives are excluded from that arrangement, either contractually or by assumption.
Coaching the individuals
Having the responsibilities of a leadership role as well as the responsibilities of parenthood is enormous, and very emotional. A coach can help an individual face those challenges, help the individual define for him or herself what “doing it all” means for them, and what one needs to do to achieve it. Companies can provide support structures to their key executives and talent pools in providing work life balance programs for staff and ideally include also their spouse’s and other elements of the individual’s support structures (boss, nanny). Coaching programmes could be developed to help clarify an individual or couple’s needs in respect of their commitments to work and family, and help encourage and progress these individuals toward success in all areas of their lives. Such coaching programmes would essentially address the employees who are in need of greater balance in their lives. This has referred to in some circles as “fixing the women” but should be extended to all requiring a balance. Most corporations include some aspect of this approach in their diversity programs, although usually it stops at the individual and does not extend to their spouse’s or their line managers.
Coaching for a change in corporate culture
The 2012 Women Matter Report said that tackling the mindsets was a significant factor in making a breakthrough on gender diversity.
The best of efforts may fail unless people change the way they think. So for example, if the prevailing view is that aspiring managers need to make themselves available anytime, anywhere, it will inevitably be more difficult for some women to flourish…..McKinsey work has shown that corporate transformations that address the underlying attitudes that prevent change are four times more likely to succeed than those that tackle only the symptoms of resistance…. Companies must understand the unhelpful attitudes and beliefs that prevail among men and women alike in their companies, and then work to change them.
With innovative corporations leading the way, there could be a paradigm shift if the term “mummy track” could be replaced with “highly balanced, flexible, sustainable individual track” and incentive programs offered for any employee who demonstrates success also outside the corporate environment, whether that success be as an athlete or sportsman, as an active parent, as caregiver for an elderly parent, or volunteer for charity. To achieve truly long term sustainable performance companies need to acknowledge those other lives that their staff have. Happy employees are better employees. Employees with strong structures and activities outside work are also more balanced individuals and therefore potentially able to better cope with the changing work environments that we are currently facing. Coaching programmes rolled out from the top to the bottom, team by team, could facilitate this corporate mindshift.
Women in leadership roles appear to be still facing greater challenges than their male counterparts, when it comes to demonstrating their abilities to lead and succeed. Just the same, many men who choose to create a harmonious balance between career and family are facing those same challenges. These obstacles and challenges are unique to their individual circumstances and environments, including the cultural and societal norms. Executive leaders are keen to address the gender imbalance in their companies. Evidence suggests this can be addressed by investing in the enhancement of corporate culture and mindset to encompass the different non-work related needs of individuals, as well as providing support structures to facilitate a holistic approach to talent development.
Can women have it all?
It would appear that we are on the cusp. It is not only the women wanting to “have it all”, now many men want a balance too. And the companies are committed to addressing the gender imbalance. With the right investment in a change of corporate mindset, companies will make it more palatable for those that choose to have a balance. That in turn may lead to more women – and men – choosing to “have it all” with fulfilling careers as well as active parenting. Women will then be “having it all” on an equal playing field with men who also choose to be active parents. An equal playing field in a meritocracy will in turn address the gender imbalance.
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. -Michelangelo
- Further thoughts for individuals
- Do you want to have it all?
- What does having it all look like to you?
- Can you really commit to both a fulfilling career and the responsibilities of family?
- Do you have the support structures (childcare, company support, acknowledgement from coworkers and friends) that will support that? What are the alternatives?
- What are you willing to give up to do it?
- Are you happy with that decision?
- What do you really want?
Further thoughts for companies
- What percentage of your employees, male and female, have significant outside interests including their own families? Is having a work life balance a strength that you look for in your employees?
- Is having outside interests regarded as an additional competency adding an element of diversity to your teams?
- How is having a work life balance reflected in performance evaluations?
- Does your company place a higher value on face time than on other performance measures, either intentionally or not?
- Is there an unconscious bias against an employee with significant non company related interests?
- Is flexibility in working hours seen to be only the preserve of women with dependents in your company?
“Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”, Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Atlantic Monthly July- August 2012
“Why Men Can’t Have It All”, 7.9.2012 Madeleine M. Kunin, former US Ambassador to Switzerland under President Bill Clinton. Huffington Post
“Why is ‘having it all’ just a women’s issue?”, Stephanie Coontz, CNN.com 25.6.2012
“Men Never ‘Had It All’”, Toure, Time Ideas, June 27, 2012
“20-first Gender Balance Scorecard Reports” http://www.20-first.com/1550-0-where-theworlds- top-companies-stand.html October 012
Executive Women and the Myth of Having it All, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Harvard Business Review April 2002
“The Qualities That Distinguish Women Leaders” Caliper Corporation, 2005
“How Women Lead – the 8 Successful Strategies Successful Women Know”, by Sharon Hadary and Laura Henderson, McGraw-Hill, 2012
“Why Men Should Support Gender Equity”, Michael S Kimmel
“Guyland – The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men”, Michael S Kimmel
“What is ‘Having it All,’ After All? 4 Outstanding Women Respond 18.7.2012 Asholka Forbes
“How women mean business” 2010 Avivah Wittenberg-Cox
Catalyst 2007 The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women’s Representation on Boards
“The 2010 Women Matter Report; Women at the Top of Organisations, Making it Happen” McKinsey and Company October 2010
“The 2012 Women Matter Report: Making the Breakthrough” McKinsey and Company October 2012
“What successful transformations share: McKinsey Global Survey results”:
Profile: Lisa Sennhauser-Kelly
A passionate and energetic leader, Lisa Sennhauser-Kelly is until the end of 2012 a Managing Director at UBS based in Zurich, Switzerland where she is responsible for ensuring the successful implementation of global projects which are complex and require significant cross functional collaboration.
An Australian Chartered Accountant, and a graduate of both the Swiss Finance Institute Executive Programme, Banking, and the IMD High Performance Boards Programme, Lisa is a strong professional having gained over 30 years work experience in Australia, USA and Switzerland. Lisa is fluent in Swiss German, enjoys skiing and golfing with her family and is passionate about enabling individuals to achieve success.
Married to a “working dad”, Lisa and her husband are both “having it all” when it comes to career and family. They are not reading as much as they’d like, or playing as much golf as they plan to when the kids have better handicaps, and they gave up date nights long ago, but doing it all is a way of life for the whole family, and both of them firmly believe that if each family member has the chance to be the very best they can be, that in turn is beneficial for every other family member. The home team is in that sense no different to the office team – each playing to his strengths. Lisa has recently redefined her version of doing it all and it remains to be seen whether trying to grow a business is less time consuming or indeed more flexible than her previous leadership role. Nevertheless, with the support of her family and friends, Lisa is investing that time and is totally excited about her potentially more fulfilling executive coaching future.