Four For Friday (40)

Women CEOs remain rare.

Despite being “..just as likely as men to possess the mix of skills and charisma that predicted a future chief executive. The female CEO candidates were still 28% less likely to become CEOs than their male peers, the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and Copenhagen Business School, found“. The feeder roles on the way to CEO seem dominated by men. But is that the whole explanation? Not quite, according to this article in the Wall Street Journal (link may be paywalled):

Men were three times as likely as women to have been encouraged to consider a P&L role and twice as likely to have been promoted or selected for leadership training in the past two years. Nearly half the men reported getting detailed advice at work on how to chart their path to a P&L job, compared with 15% of women surveyed. More men than women said they had a strategic support network that included sponsors who championed them for promotions—among those in the early stages of their careers, nearly twice as many men said so, 79% vs. 45% of women.

A big obstacle for women is they are more likely to develop deep expertise in one area, say, marketing or finance, and move up the ranks boxed in certain roles, said Korn Ferry’s Ms. Stevenson and others. “Women get trained around people; men get trained around the guts of the business”—in key operations or production roles, she said.

The perils of being pigeonholed resonate even with women who have broken through to the top. “You hear it more in discussions about women, ‘They’re really good at that, let’s keep them there,’ ” said Ellen Kullman, 64, former chief executive of DuPont Co. and, as of November, CEO of 3-D printing startup Carbon. She, along with Ms. Bickford of Evercore, is a co-chair of the Paradigm for Parity coalition.

For nonwhite women, the trek to the top is even steeper. Women of color were less likely to say their bosses gave them opportunities to manage people and projects or helped them navigate corporate politics, in a 2019 survey of 329 major companies and more than 68,000 of their employees. They made up just 4% of C-suite roles, compared with 10% for men of color, according to the research by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.Org, a nonprofit that promotes the advancement of women at work.

Last week I had a meandering first conversation with someone and we instantly connected on the topic of the “digital native”. I mentioned to him why the binary did not resonate with me way back in 2007 when it was introduced and why I saw some as “naturalised digital citizens“. Teaching some of the soi disant natives quickly shows that using a tool does not mean understanding the tool. So when I came across the idea that a new type of digital native was now in evidence, I clicked through to this article in The Conversation.

Group 1 developers were on average 22 years old and had begun regularly using social media before the age of 11. Group 2a were those of a similar age who did not use the technology so young. And group 2b comprised older developers (on average 34 years old) who usually had more experience with social media, but that also came after the start of adolescence.

We found that group 1 developers understood the goals of software development differently. They put more emphasis on challenging established norms and transforming how users interact with technology, expecting it to fit seamlessly into people’s lives. This could help explain the popular stereotype of precocious social media users becoming developers of disruptive but intuitive apps.

Group 1 developers also favoured continuous experimentation with new technologies and noted how this could contribute to creating new standards and models in the industry. And they expected that the software they develop should help society. As one participant said:

The world is increasingly running on software products, and in many cases, those products have social and ethical implications. Software developers can engage in initiatives like hackathons to align the software we develop to social issues that need to be addressed.

This is where a surprising finding emerged. Group 2b of older software developers with significantly more experience also shared a desire for software to have social impact. But group 2a of younger developers who had not been precocious social media users did not share this emphasis.

Where does this desire to change the world come from? For the older, group 2b developers, their age and experience might explain why they want their work to have a broader impact. However, for the younger developers in group 1, perhaps the precocious use of social media might have given them an early taste of making a social impact online.

How do you imagine your work will be shaped by AI? Not at all? A little? A lot? Most white collar workers especially those with specialised skills think they are immune. They may be, within their own working lives, but their work is not, which is likely to change. This New Yorker article has some fascinating insights from research.

“Patents are a reflection of the things that inventors think are going to be important innovations that will make money in the future,” Webb told me. “The reason you patent something is that you think you could make some money off of this innovation, and you want the right to create that product and not have other people do it instead.”

As a way of testing the effectiveness of this research method, Webb looked back at the previous thirty years or so of patents in software and industrial robotics, to see if the predictions about employment and wage decline one would have found then had panned out. They had: software patents often referred to “recording,” “storing,” and “producing information,” while robot-related patents talked about “cleaning,” “moving,” “welding,” and “assembling.” The words correlated most strongly with the tasks of packers and packagers, hoist and winch operators, machine operators, and those who worked in warehouses—for example, people driving forklifts. “It turns out that the jobs that were highly exposed to those technologies experienced declines in employment and in wages over the next thirty years,” Webb said. That, to him, suggested that software and industrial robots were replacing human labor in those fields (although there were other forces in effect, as well, such as the offshoring of factories).

Webb then analyzed A.I. patent filings and found them using verbs such as “recognize,” “detect,” “control,” “determine,” and “classify,” and nouns like “patterns,” “images,” and “abnormalities.” The jobs that appear to face intrusion by these newer patents are different from the more manual jobs that were affected by industrial robots: intelligent machines may, for example, take on more tasks currently conducted by physicians, such as detecting cancer, making prognoses, and interpreting the results of retinal scans, as well as those of office workers that involve making determinations based on data, such as detecting fraud or investigating insurance claims. People with bachelor’s degrees might be more exposed to the effects of the new technologies than other educational groups, as might those with higher incomes. The findings suggest that nurses, doctors, managers, accountants, financial advisers, computer programmers, and salespeople might see significant shifts in their work. Occupations that require high levels of interpersonal skill seem most insulated. (Notably, jobs at the very top of the earning scale, such as C.E.O., are not shown to be deeply changed.)

Has the coronavirus sent you and your team working from home? Do you worry about loneliness and isolation? I wrote about it three years ago:

..the gig economy did not create workplace isolation. It is an existential condition of human beings to seek both camaraderie and company, and solitude: the former perhaps to generate ideas and to rejuvenate the self, the latter to reflect, create, and indeed, rejuvenate.

How do you manage the balance though? Ryan Holmes, Hootsuite’s CEO has crowdsourced and compiled some excellent ideas and practices here. My favourites are these:

The cupcake principle. “Make sure everyone gets the celebratory cupcake. Even the individual remote workers. We have so many food delivery services now, there is no excuse for everyone to not take part in a celebration.” — Thera Martens, Marketing Director at Visier

Face time (not just Facetime). “Get remote teams together in person wherever you can — no virtual replacement for that. We budget bringing people from North America, South Africa and Europe together twice a year. Then, enshrine virtual connections as sacred, and model as leaders. — Laurie Bennett, Founding Partner at Within People

Random (virtual) coffee. “Can’t go wrong with Random Coffee. Create pairings once a month with those participating across the company, and they meet up for coffee/drink/chat. It gets people who would otherwise not chat to one another to connect and learn about different parts of the company.” — Tara-Lee Houkamau, Senior Business Analyst at Oranga Tamariki

Fun thing to learn while you are here: Good things are possible with surveillance that is, if we surveil things that we need to care for. This Tech Republic article lists IoT technologies already in use.