WOMEN IN THE BOARD ROOM “Much ado about nothing” wrote William Shakespeare

WOMEN IN THE BOARD ROOM – You may have more in common with Sir Richard Branson than you realize.

The corporate “boredroom” of today and tomorrow has changed very little in contrast to that selfsame hallowed virile sanctuary of the past century. The corporate boardroom, like a good dinner party, should include an appropriate mix of men and women able to carry on an intelligent and meaningful discussion and/or conversation while maintaining the decorum of the occasion. Sadly, that is not what one would observe if one were a fly on the wall.

hsbc 007Masculine domination of FTSE 100 company boardrooms is a matter of record and any hope for meaningful and rapid change in that regard has to be infinitesimally small. If history is any teacher, were we able to increase the speed with which boardroom change has occurred in the past by even 15 percent, those of us who are 30 years of age and older will either be dead or retired long before anything of any significance occurs. The promised-land that so many women have been seeking is out there, but don’t look at the uppermost floor of the “Gherkin” and the other corporate towers that dot the London skyline and wish you were there. We are as intelligent, as strong and as capable as men but the fact of the matter is … men continue their stranglehold on corporate power like scared little boys trying to hold the tree fort until reinforcements arrive. It goes without saying that we meet and, more often than not, exceed the requirements incumbent upon any director or chairman of any board. Our question is this … do we really want to get involved in something that is tantamount to – borrowing shamelessly from noted social scientist Alvin Toffler – scrambling around for deck chairs on the Titanic?

Now getting down to the numbers: many argue that if we get a 30% to 40% female-to-male mix in the boardroom, we’ve created something more appealing to women than having a candlelit dinner with Hugh Jackman. Our questions are (1) where did those numbers come from, and (2) are they realistic? Answers: (1) they were pulled out of thin air (in Norway maybe?), and (2) no. Currently both Lord Davies and the EU in Brussels, among others, appear to find such percentages attractive. After much debate between Jim and I, we are not convinced, however, that numbers – particularly arbitrary numbers – are even a partial solution to our ‘women-being-better-represented-at-the-top-of-business’ issues given the radical change that would be needed to make these numbers a reality. And numbers are no solution at all if the goal is to actually change the internal structure of the boardroom and business in general.

Now for the good news!

new language of business (2)The solution, in our combined opinion, is for us to change the very nature, structure and language of the boardroom by creating, managing and growing the businesses, enterprises and agencies with the clear potential and the mandate to reshape the corporate landscape over the next 10 to 20 to 30 years to include WOMEN and their natural talent for entrepreneurship, leadership and business across all disciplines!

Oddly enough, women can and are currently in the process of creating the new FTSE 100 companies. They are the largest and fastest growing consumer group in the world today and women are entering the local, regional, national and global economic community at a rate that is eclipsing that of their male counterparts. If there is a new corporate giant out there going through the growing pains that General Motors had to go through at some stage of its development, the odds are that the person at the helm is a woman. If there is a new Amazon or Sainsbury’s or Microsoft on the horizon, you can almost bet that a woman gave birth to it.

What will, in the long term, achieve the new buoyancy we (men and women of all ages including the very old and very young) need if our economy is to kick start the kind of society that we all want? Maybe we can never agree fully on what we all want … but we probably have a fair idea regarding what we don’t want! What we don’t want is a depression, a recession, millions turned out of their homes, wages slashed, spending down, budgets cut or jobs eliminated. The workplace, our very lives, the world … they are almost unrecognizable right now. Could it be because the same old tired conversations we’ve gotten used to are rooted in the dying strains of last year’s crops?

If you follow current events you know that the ‘same-old same-old’ mantras are discussed day after day in the various media and we just don’t get it! Why do we continually cry out for more women in boardroom? Why do we need more women coming up through that pipe line? Let us pose some better questions for you. Why aren’t more women who are starting and running their own businesses being given a helping hand? Why do we fail to notice the leveraging power being created through the rapidly growing number of female consumers across the land and around the world? Are you aware that more than 90% of all purchasing decisions are made by women today? So why is it so hard for us, as women, to recognize not only our collective power but our value as well?

The time has come for us to grumble a little less and flaunt our ability to accomplish great things a little more. As Sir Richard Branson shows us small seeds grow huge corporations with a lot of courage and entreprenological application. G

This is especially true with millions of women worldwide who set up their own businesses. Maybe it is time we engage men in a realistic view of women’s potential and acknowledge “it’s ok to be female” in business, allowing women to stand toe to toe with them without any trepidation whatever. We know that women have a natural aptitude for entrepreneurship (that’s the new buzzword for business BTW) – the single fastest growing and most important business sector in the world today. The small and medium enterprise (SME) sector is awash with female business owners. Maybe there will never – well not in our lifetime perhaps – be a glut of women running major corporations but remember – Microsoft, British Air, Sainsbury’s, General Motors, Nissan, Glaxo-Smith-Kline – they did NOT start out as the conglomerates they are today. Your boardroom is waiting for you to build it and, remember this too, you can hold your first board meetings in your kitchen if need be. That old saying “A woman’s place is in the home,” takes on a whole new meaning when you look at it like that! You’re in good company, believe me.

Read on …

Willy Walsh, CEO of British Air and Iberia, said recently that he had met Sir Richard Branson once and didn’t find anything that made him want to meet again.
British Airways PlcThat’s because Willy had no point of reference from which he could stand toe-to-toe with an entrepreneur … no … an Entreprenologist of Sir Richard’s magnitude … no common ground from which to hold an intelligent conversation. Willy was just the CEO of two major world airlines, not a man who had created a major competitor for a number of airlines around the world just like the ones that Willy captains. So who would you rather meet? Answer me this … why on earth would you want to sit in British Air’s boardroom if you could stand on common ground with Sir Richard Branson? Get it!
We live in hope of more courageous conversations around not just the boardrooms of the world but around the team table, the SME table, and even the kitchen table!

Let’s tackle future conversations with honesty and transparency attending to the human needs of our communities, our world, our consumers and our contributors …all at the same table … men and women alike.

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Who are WE? photo (3)

Pauline Crawford, creator of gender dynamics and magical conversations, and new husband & business partner, Professor James A Omps PhD, President of The International University of Entreprenology.  Meeting and marrying in our 60’s, with over 60 years of experience between us, we bring our two disciplines together to make sense of today discussions on life, love and success.

In our blogs, Jim is ‘the Devil’s Advocate’ as he poses skeptical questions about women in business and many nitty-gritty current debates – I challenge the view with ‘One Scary Woman’ viewpoint as I propose new ways to communicate and perform that breaks the mould.

We offer our consultancy expertise  through Corporate Heart Ltd to improve your business success.

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Shaking hands with the future

Shaking hands with the future

Yesterday I engaged and explored life and the 3Rs with a group of 10 students at Lambeth Academy – these students are 16/17years old and this summer due to go into a work placement for 6 week and experience the world outside of their current world…that of ‘employee status’. An alien world, a strange world, yet to date their learning is only academic. I am here for an hour and a half to share my wisdom and hope to give them ‘ah ha’ moments that may seal their future confidence in those six weeks. I taught them how to shake hands with their future and practice the real 3Rs! “Respect Rapport and Relationships”

A lovely group, boys and girls, eager to learn and curious I suspect of this older woman in front of them. I started, I engaged, I got them thinking about who they are – I went back into my mind of being 17 again, being ‘me’. I encouraged them to just be their BEST:

B – be
E – extraordinary
S – starting
T – today

“Be Extraordinary starting today”…my personal mantra and motto for life – simple – yet how much do we reflect on our ‘self perception’ and know how others see us; how do we know what we do best, how we are best, and whether our best matches others expectations of us! Where as a teenager do we explore the assumptions we may be making about those we meet, and what does the world outside of ‘me’ require ‘me’ to be.

We started with a simple exercise Try it – write down three positive words about how you ‘see’ yourself, share these with your friends and colleagues. Is this how they see you? Can they add more? Can you add more to their list? In this simple exchange we give much more light to our personality as perceived and received! The more we know ourselves and others then the 3 Rs are easy! They roll with the dice of life.

Leading Victorian lecturer, Florence Shovel Shinn writes ‘Many people think life is a battlefield, it is not – it is a game’ and I know now that the ‘game of life’ is where I play and my work in service to my clients and all my friends is to help them ‘play’ too if they wish.

Florence says it is about the square of life- ‘wealth, health, love and perfect self expression’. I believe that our ongoing life mission is to share ‘perfect self expression’ especially in all difficult emotional situations. This is my journey now as I too learn each day how others see the world and how we can transform our world to be BEST for all us regardless of gender, culture, age, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference and disability.

I know at their age I knew nothing other than what my family and school had showed me. And I was so fortunate to choose the parents and family that I had. I was brought up in a strong, loving, together, Catholic family. There we had loads of together activities, sharing of events and laughter. I was a happy child yet very naïve and gauche. It took me a long lifetime to learn the real 3Rs… as I taught yesterday, as “Respect, Rapport and Relationships”….

And so for my class yesterday it was the first time they were engaged to think and feel about their self-perceptions, how others saw them, how to see themselves as part of the cycle of all life – home, social, family, work, and community. I shared my core model for personal development (and life); my ‘value cycle’ which shows how ‘my best’ is key to all rapport skills, and to all relationships from one-to-one friendships, group pals, work mates, families and social cohesion. I shared with them how to see themselves in pole position in their life.

A key exercise was to shake hands and say they name clearer decisively, friendly and with inner strength. It was a wonderful experience to be in as they laughed and shook each other’s hands enthusiastically and become bold with their name. Simple things make huge differences. Even the teacher present realized no-one had ever taught him how to shake someone’s hands. Too often the most important things are left to chance – yet can make or break a first impression and a rising feeling of confidence.

I showed the students how they merely need to stand into their personal power and see that all responses are their choice; they do require to be in ownership of their body, mind, heart and soul; and take responsibility for all that happens (not blame others); and finally they need to underpin all this their own personal healthy energy. A challenge to their youthful desire to party, drink, smoke and eat fast food!

Simple yet powerful, they all started to see themselves as the driver of their own cycle of confidence not at the mercy of others. They got the point. I will return to meet them again in September and chat about their ‘perceptions’ of the workplace once experienced.

These students are our future employees, our entrepreneurs, our leaders of industry – we need to teach them how to ‘be’ in the workplace not just ‘how to work’.

In a world of constant disruption, do you feel lucky?

I know I have been lucky all my life even when times have been challenging (both personally and professionally) – and to be honest I believe the key to having ‘luck’ is believing in yourself and trusting that wherever you are, you are lucky to be alive. Sometimes in today’s world where ‘constant disruption’ is the most consistent aspect of our lives, many people feel unlucky. I feel enormously lucky to be a mature capable business woman in a world that needs ‘wise women’ at the top… and where men in business and in life…and in politics… are looking for a solution to a problem that has passed its sell-by-date!

At the Post Bureaucratic Network Conference Monday 21st February, the talk was about how we all deal with ‘constant disruption’ as the core nature of our problems and how we needed to build solutions based on transparency, technology and decentralization from the keynote speaker, David Cameron. Maybe so, I pondered on who deals with ‘constant disruption’ best and so the lucky ones in this moment in time.

Women are naturally brilliant at managing ‘constant disruption’ and all of those issues quoted above. Women only have to enter the realm of motherhood/parenthood to know that – to be running several roles at once, to have dependents in your life from elderly parents to sick or disabled family members, and hold a business role or run their own affairs – to know about how to manage ‘constant disruption’! And this is not to say men can’t do this some of the time; however it’s not so natural biologically for men who function best when focused on one task at a time. Men are essential to operational excellence and great when managing risk or certainty, and reducing collateral damage from the recessional fall out, however men generally don’t take the major dependency roles in the ‘home service arena’.

Once again it occurs to me that although men and women are designed to run this world together, this simple fact does not appear to speed up the changes we need. We want more women at the top but aren’t prepared to change the baseline rules and the language and behaviour that many male boardrooms exhibit. This is not about men at fault but about understanding that as well as the needs of the market we need to value the needs of women alongside men who have been in charge over 200 years, it is their natural default position. We moan about the numbers of women and quote ‘quotas’ from Norway and soon Spain and France. We keep on about the ‘glass ceiling’; yet we don’t think about a new script. Women and men together can change the plan – but this needs to be a conversation together. We could change the numbers and the quality of women in business easily if we redraw the script and build a new stage for the corporate world. The play might perform better and gain more applause from the audience. In many women-run business the evidence is already of more success and more longevity.

We need to go back to the drawing board if we are serious about changing main stream business at the top and right through. With a few simple changes in perspective, we can create, together, a desirable sustainable future where I hope we appreciate how lucky we all are to be the resources we naturally are.

Do we believe this yet? NO. Otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation … and I would be happily out of a role! We would already have the ‘right’ numbers of women at the top and in politics. We would have adapted the blueprint of business to encompass such things as multi-roles, dependency, maternity, parenthood, sickness and so much more that women are usually the prime owners.

I believe that we still have not entered the real conversation at the heart of our ‘troubles’ in a way that men listento women and women hear men. The core question is how do men and women truly share this world, what responsibilities come naturally and which are necessities we co-own? What needs are central to men and differently central to women – and what does business require to serve all for sustainable growth and healthy living for all in our society.
Is that a ‘pie in the sky’ idealistic view? Maybe, but I don’t apologize for this. I have too many magical conversations across so many sectors now that I know change is afoot and luck is on its way – if we look to notice it!

I believe we can co-create a great world where business and life co-exist and profit both social needs and material requirements. We can observe that when people value their own personal well-being and have healthy relationships, they work better, their brains function faster and when working well together as a community, they produce more innovative and successful results.

”Love and meaning” are freely available on this menu and so we are lucky as (if we choose) we can alter the course of our world, and each choose to utilize our natural value to its full – or to die. Sounds drastic but I see too many people in major businesses who are tired of the corporate stories, unsure of what their next step is, feel doomed to years of misery, men and women jaded with the lack of luck – or so they believe. Yet it is sitting right there inside them.

Was I born lucky? YES I chose a family who laughed, lived, loved and last a long time together. My mother is a lively 92, a wise and intelligent woman; my father (the wisest man I knew) died at 91 – I have a large family, brothers and sister, nephews and nieces, and my own two fabulous children. I am also very lucky to be blessed with an enjoyable motherhood period (past now), a long ex marriage, and now grand motherhood where my wisdom can give to and learn from a new generation who see the world afresh! Between my many roles (several in business and several in life), I observe my luck and am grateful daily for my path which is often challenged by ‘constant disruption’. I aim to do more, give back more, laugh more! I have an instinctive courage to keep going even when told I am being too optimistic!

As Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry said “do you feel lucky?” well I do – how about you? What choices will you notice, what luck will you take, it’s all around you – just take a look.