Steve Lunceford

Anne and Sally divvied up the questions they didn’t get to in the livechat and have provided the following answers….

Q1. We have trouble getting mentors or sponsors in my federal agency 🙁 Also, can’t we move up and have meaning without joining management?

A. (Anne) first, remember that mentors and sponsors are different and serve distinct purposes. A mentor is someone whom you can turn to for advice – from advice on where to go next to advice on how to find a good day care center. A sponsor is someone who helps you get your next promotion by not just giving you advice but actually throwing your name in the ring. But for both types of relationships, it has to be mutually beneficial. The best way to get a mentor is to think about what you can bring to the table – and then go ask! I am proud to call Sally my mentor, and we have that relationship because I reached out to her to let her know what I was doing, and ask her for her advice. I also let her know how I could help her through my own networks. Similarly, the best way to get a sponsor is to go above and beyond for that person – so that he or she will trust you to have their back, and do what needs to get done.

Q2. Sometimes I think the message that reaches women is that it’s not worth trying to climb the ladder, or break the glass ceiling. Look at the numbers of women in the house and the senate. Horrid…but why?

A. (Sally) It’s a combination of systemic issues, cultural assumptions, and individual choices. At Deloitte, when we started the Women’s Initiative in 1993, we looked very closely at why women were leaving at a higher rate than men, and what we found was that it was both a work environment that was not friendly to women and career development systems that often operated through informal networks that women weren’t a part of – all of which made women feel the tradeoffs they were making on the home front weren’t worth it. There is no single answer to this question…it is complex. But it is not intractable, as Deloitte has shown.

Q3. I’d like to know what stats/research you have on the reasons women are not at the top in earnings.

A. (Sally) The new report issued by the White House Office of Women and Girls gives at least a partial answer to this question – women are more likely to be in professions that pay less, and women are more likely to work less than full time for a period of time during their careers. However, a Catalyst study found that even when controlling for experience, age, etc., women MBA students enter the workforce at a lower point than men MBA students. Part of this may be attributable to the fact that most women do not negotiate the conditions of their first job, while most men do. Negotiating is more complex for women than for men, but women who do learn how to negotiate are better positioned for success.

Q4. What can the government specifically do to dial up and dial down women’s careers? What are examples?

A. (Anne) Dialing down can mean working less than full time, to working from home most of the time, to staying at a certain level for longer than the norm (dialing down pace) so that the scope of your responsibilities doesn’t increase. Dialing up can mean giving people stretch assignments or stretch goals that give them the opportunity to perform at a higher level than they are currently performing. If they succeed, this can result in accelerated promotions. There are lots of examples of people who have dialed up or down everywhere, so my suggestion is that you go to http://www.masscareercustomization.com, and plot your own career journey – and then share it with those around you. Ask your boss to do the same…it’s remarkable to hear all the different ways people have dialed up and down.

Q5. What is something that attracts women to building their business networks?

A. (Anne) Most women are really good at building relationships, but they may not be as good at using those relationships in the workplace to get them where they want to go. If this describes you, then think about forming networks around something of common interest – and then take very opportunity to showcase your skills to those within the network. Then, when you need to ask for something from someone in the network, you won’t hesitate!

Q6. Women in the Scandinavian countries have much higher representation, and even in countries like Rwanda than the US does. What has convinced their populace to elect more women?

A.(Sally) The Scandinavian countries have made gender equity a national priority – and it shows. In Rwanda, the massacres meant that women were 70 percent of the population – and the leader of that country felt there would never be peace until the women were included in the policy making. In 2010, women hold a majority of the government positions at very high levels and have women’s issues in mind. One small but potent example is that every police district/station has a gender desk for reporting and managing crimes of violence against women.

Q7. Thank you for the report – my question, among those who have reached higher levels of power, what were the conditions that got them there, to be replicated by others?

A. (Anne) We learned in researching Paths to Power that there is no one path and no one set of individual attributes, but all the women we spoke with had a great deal of resilience – they were not afraid to fail and didn’t give up – as well as an innate curiosity and desire to learn.

Q8. My question is, what has changed since the report on women in public sector came out? Given the economic and political situation, have things gotten worse or better for women in public sector?

A. (Sally) It’s mixed – in some areas, when have gained or at least held ground, but in other areas, women have lost ground.

Q9. Is the disparity due to the board makeup (mostly men)?

A. (Anne) To the extent that the Board does doesn’t keep these issues front and center, then the Board is not using its authority to promote change in this area.

Q10. Can we get more tips on how to be better change agents?

A. (Sally) Bring people together to build your organization’s own case for change. What percentage of your constituents are women? What percentage of your talent pool are women? How much is it costing your organization in turnover to lose women? The Gender Dividend has a whole series of questions to ask so you can construct your own, customized business case for investing in women.