Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Retooling Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” principle



Do you remember the 1975 Helen Reddy hit song stating “I am woman, hear me roar”, or the 1980’s commercial for Enjoli fragrance that featured a business suited woman holding a frying pan and singing “I bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan”? Well, perhaps I am dating myself here, but my point is that for nearly 4, and closer to 5 decades - if you consider Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and Gloria Steinem’s activism - the subject of women’s station in society and their demands for gender equality in education, in the workforce, in politics and in pay have been a topic of heated conversation and controversy. Now comes the recently released book titled Lean In, by the very accomplished and leadership positioned Sheryl Sandberg. Is any of what she tells us new? Not really. We have been debating the issue of women’s self-empowerment for quite some time; and for all the challenges they have encountered women have made great strides and are, in increasing numbers, taking on leadership positions from serving in the armed forces to running large corporations and holding political office.

However, self-empowerment cannot thrive in an uncooperatively barren global social landscape, because the challenges women face, either in the work force, their personal lives or from repressive political climates do not provide the supportive net that can bring about change. Let us take the case of Regina Agyare from Ghana. Although Regina held a coveted IT job with a prestigious bank where she developed a highly acclaimed automated customer friendly process, she was the youngest and only female at the institution and was regularly passed over for promotion. Regina was being discriminated against simply because of her age and gender. It took Regina 4 years, and as she puts it “a lot of sleepless nights”, to take the path that more and more young women are pursuing: becoming an entrepreneur. She is now paying it forward by developing technologies that are successfully utilized in other developing nations.  

Regina’s story is inspiring, yet she grappled alone with how her decision would impact her professional life. She probably would have benefited from being able to turn to a network of professional women for guidance, support and mentoring. In New York, there is just such an initiative, which has grown in global outreach over the short time since its inception. It is the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) http://www.iwecawards.com, established in 2006 as an initiative of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce of Manhattan (New York) and FICCI/FLO (the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Ladies Organization) and supported by the US Department of State. Since inception, IWEC has added collaborative partnerships with South Africa, Central Asia, and Peru. Above all else, IWEC’s mission addresses precisely the issue of women’s professional self-empowerment but within a global collective and collaborative support network of same minded women.

So, to Sheryl Sandberg, Tina Brown, Hillary Clinton, Kirsten Gillebrand, Christine Quinn and the many powerful women who recently gathered at the Women in the World Summit, I agree and applaud your recognition of women as agents of change; however, self-empowerment can only happen if empowered women open the door for their sisters to walk through. It is up to all of us to deliver change.

Check out this most recent and disturbing statistic: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20130409/BLOGS02/130409878?template=mobile

Monday, April 1, 2013

Ageism in a Time of Crisis!?

The heading is both a statement and a question, as I have increasingly been stumped by what I perceive to be hiring practices by non-profit organizations focused on the momentary bottom line rather than on the long range potential for increased revenue.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with "ageism"?

Whether you see it or not, there is a definite link between choosing to hire individuals at the early stages of their career - therefore young and still gaining experience - and the pay scale institutions are willing to offer, all the while requiring and expecting these hires to perform at senior level experience. In very few professional fields do experience, and the attributes of credibility, socio-cultural diplomacy and psychological intuition carry  more weight than in fund raising; and they get honed over many years of rejections, misses and successes, of time spent in the trenches, with sleeves rolled up stuffing envelopes, and celebratory moments for hard won achievements.

Non-profit Boards, search committees and HR directors who truly understand what it is they are seeking to accomplish for their organizations, are not only willing but even excited to commit the money and time needed to bring on board to occupy the leadership role individuals that have a strategic understanding, combined with the experience and depth of knowledge of fund raising best practices. These individuals are, most likely, of the baby-boomer generation; and because they have years - oftentimes more than one decade - of experience under their belts, the pay scale where they're positioned is obviously much higher, leading to being passed over in hiring for ED or Director positions by short-sighted decision makers. However, no one admits to this form of discrimination, using as feedback the generic "it was not the right fit."  Unfortunately for the the organizations, neither is the inexperienced fund raiser who was thrown in a senior position. Both parties soon find out that despite the non-profit's money saving hiring strategy, their partnership "was not a good fit."

My mother always said:  You get what you pay for...


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Experience vs. Cost savings when Nonprofits Hire

With increased need for private funding, how do non profits go about recruiting and staffing for sustainable growth? Therein lies one of the major conundrums these organizations face: hire senior level, experienced and well connected individuals who may require higher salaries, attempt to function with the in-house resources they have and hope to achieve the results they so badly need or, more often than not, hire at the low end of the salary scale young and inexperienced fund raisers whose careers have been linear and focused on only one aspect of the outreach effort. By and large, the organizations that choose to implement the last two formats for their fund raising, are at best surviving within the status quo, not developing and growing to their potential. Why then, would organizations not pursue the first course and hire strategically?

There are several reasons that I have identified, but that have also been documented by articles and fund raising professionals with regard to the workings of non profits and their philanthropic endeavors: these reasons range from non profit Boards who place little or no value on having a strategic leader at the helm of their organization, to executives in charge who believe that siloing outreach efforts is more effective than having an overarching, visionary strategy focused on the end result. Oftentimes, lip service is paid by both these groups as to their desire to find and hire individuals that bring leadership and credibility to the organization's outreach, however, when the chips are down, the short-sightedness of $$$ spent now vs. long-term returns takes over and they choose the now. The ROI, as expected, is unsatisfactory.

How then, can we change this mindset? How can we impress upon those seeking to maximize support for their very deserving causes that investing in experienced, skilled, visionary and strategic professionals who have achieved tangible results in their past positions, is the most effective and in the long-run most profitable approach to hiring? I have no formula, and over the past year and a half, while on my job search, I have tried to "divine" how to get through the impenetrable wall of short-term vs. long-term strategic fund raising.

Nonprofit HR solutions:  “Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey, 2012”
http://www.nonprofitstaffingsolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/2012-Employment-Trends-Survey-Report.pdf

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Coming to America

I have been in "development" - or as it is known in the trenches: "the heartache of fund raising" for decades. There were the best of times - in the '90s - and there continue to be the worst of times - since 2008. Yet, America, this most philanthropically minded society, ranks at the top worldwide in its generosity and giving power. There are positive and less so consequences: the giving mindset of our nation supports people and sectors of society, nationally and around the globe, that would otherwise be disenfranchised; but it has also created the perception internationally that all any organization or institution needs to do is show up and ask for money. I specifically point the finger at continental European institutions of - arts, culture, higher educations - who for the longest time wallowed in the financial generosity of their federal and state governments, not even entertaining a thought as to how they could possibly generate an additional cushion of funds to draw from, should times get hard.
Well, we all know that times got hard, and the majority of the government supported institutions saw the well dry up. Actually, this image reminds me of the "Ant and the Grasshopper" fable, where the grasshopper, after having enjoyed without a care in the world the prosperity and warmth of spring and summer, finds him/herself in dire straits (homeless and without food supplies), just as the winter is drawing near. What does the grasshopper do? He/She turns for help to the one that he/she mocked throughout: the ant.
I am not saying that our continental friends mock our philanthropy, but they appear to rely on it for the good will we'll exhibit when their museums, universities and symphony orchestras come knocking on America's door.
Should we respond like the ant did? or do we call upon our generous nature? I've experienced both, and I will share my stories if you share yours.