Category: Work and Employment

High tech's shifting glass ceiling

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 7 days ago

The current lawsuit in Silicon Valley by Ellen Pao against the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins is drawing more attention to hot button issues in high tech, namely the very real and varied gender gap that continues to plague the industry.

According to the Forbes article, "Women in tech are losing, from top to bottom," only 9% of all CIOs are women. Why is the technology career path a tough road for women, and why do their numbers dwindle as they climb up the ranks? A recent study from MIT shows that women already inside the technology industry are experiencing what is known as a shifting glass ceiling, and it starts with the recruitment process.

Internal promotion vs external recruitment

In his paper, "Gender Sorting and the Glass Ceiling in High Tech," Roberto Fernandez, Professor of Organizational Studies at MIT Sloan, challenges the popular assumption that the prominent glass ceiling in the high tech industry is the result of disparities in the internal promotion processes. Instead, Fernandez claims that glass ceilings can also be the result of external recruitment.

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When snow days are no longer fun

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 13 days ago

Some of you may look back fondly on the "snow days" of your youth, recalling the excitement and anticipation of hearing the announcement that meant a day to stay home and play. For those of us who currently reside in Greater Boston, however, snow days have lost their allure.

Since January 15, 2015, the Boston area has had an unusual number of snow storms resulting in an unprecedented amount of snow. We've had our snowiest month since record-keeping started in 1872, and (so far) the area is marking its third snowiest winter on record, with 89.2 inches. To put that in perspective, Boston has seen more snow in three weeks than Chicago has seen in an entire winter.

What's worse, the resulting snow days are wreaking havoc on businesses in the area. According to the Boston Globe, the snow has "cost Massachusetts companies more than $1 billion in lost sales and productivity." For large businesses, the decision to remain open or to close may be easy. Some businesses, like chain restaurants and retail stores, may have the analytics to back them up--data to understand how much revenue they’d need to earn to offset the cost of doing business that day. But smaller businesses--particularly restaurants and boutique stores--struggle with that decision. 

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Should retail stores be open on holidays?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 months and 12 days ago

We recently watched a conversation on social media on the subject of retailers choosing to open on holidays--in this case, the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S. It's quite the heated topic: it has spawned a Facebook page urging consumers to boycott stores open on Thanksgiving, and there are any number of memes floating around listing the retailers who are choosing to open. And unfortunately, many of those retailers are the biggest ones here in the States.

One would think there's little controversy in urging businesses to let their employees have a day off of work to spend at home celebrating the holiday. But the "other side" can point to the fact that we have a free market society, and businesses can choose to operate (for the most part) however they want. The dark--and somewhat unspoken--side of that argument ignores the fact that many of these businesses are retailers and many retail workers are not given a choice in the matter. A common comment, of which we've seen a few variations, is that if people don't like working on Thanksgiving, they can just go get another job.


Opinions like these reveal some biases people have against retail jobs, display a lack of understanding of the retail market, and fly in the face of some hard facts. One might think of retail jobs as the domain of teenagers and retirees who simply need some "extra cash." That idea is simply not true. As MIT Sloan School of Management Adjunct Associate Professor Zeynep Ton pointed out in the webinar, "The Good Jobs Strategy: Why Good Jobs are Good for Business," there are 4.3 million salespeople in the U.S., the average sales associate is female and 38 years old, and many of them are supporting families. These retail jobs are considered "bad jobs," due to their low wages, erratic schedules, and lack of opportunities for advancement. But while it may appear one retail job is just like the next, few people, regardless of income level or other demographic information, can just "decide to go get another job." Employees need to factor in seniority, benefits, transportation, and numerous other variables that impact their ability to change jobs.


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What's your plan for the talent shortage?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 months and 10 days ago

There are plenty of predictions that the U.S. labor market is on the cusp of a wide-scale talent shortage. A 2014 survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., found that 77 percent of companies are currently having trouble hiring the right talent. Even worse, the same survey found that 90 percent of those companies expect it will get harder to recruit good talent as the economy continues to grow.

The Conference Board expects that the next 15 years will see companies facing lower profits and hiring wages as a result of retiring Baby Boomers and a strong economy. So now is the time to think about your company’s current approach to talent—and to make changes, if needed.

Start with a simple question: what role does recruiting talent play in your organization? There are many answers to this question. For example, Douglas Ready, Senior Lecturer in Organization Effectiveness at MIT Sloan School of Management, cited a division president of a Fortune 100 manufacturing company as saying, “We don’t need to waste time building a talent management process for our company … that’s what headhunters are for!” Clearly, this is an executive who views talent as bodies to fill open positions. That may work for some companies, but certainly not for those companies who understand the strategic value talent can play in an organization.

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The odd man out may make for a better team

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 6 months and 21 days ago

Understanding dispersed team dynamics is a timely consideration, as non-traditional teams are becoming more and more commonplace. Corporations are cutting down on real estate costs, offering employees more flexible work models, and investing in expertise located anywhere and everywhere around the world, resulting in geographically dispersed collaborations. While collocated teams (every team member working on the same site) may have the advantage over dispersed teams in many respects, studies show that more thoughtful configuration of dispersed teams may actually give them the upper hand.

“Within dispersed teams, there is first and foremost a mutual knowledge problem,” says JoAnne Yates, Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management, who teaches in the new, upcoming Executive Education program, Communication and Persuasion in the Digital Age. “When you’re collocated in the same building, you are aware of what your team members know and do not know. And you understand context. When working across distances, this is not necessarily true, and there are all kinds of failures that can come from that. You may not, for example, understand delays in communication. When you don’t get a response right away and you’re expecting one, you make all kinds of assumptions, and most are disparaging about the other party. Then perhaps you find out there was a holiday—like Patriot’s Day, which occurs only in Massachusetts. It’s important to have ways of understanding the specific context your colleagues are working in and of establishing trust and common ground.”

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It’s time to rethink wages

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 8 months and 26 days ago

For the last year or so, there’s been a significant amount of news coverage around the wages paid to low-income earners, such as those working at fast food outlets and in retail stores. There have been public protests, calls for boycotts, and legislation to raise the minimum wage in some states.

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Sucked into the email spiral? C’est la vie!

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 10 months and 19 days ago

Last month, a new, legally binding labor agreement that requires French employers to make sure staff "disconnect" outside of working hours was all some of us could talk about—whether out of disbelief or pure envy. Media outlets around the world ran wild with this news, declaring that the home of the 35-hour workweek limit had now banned checking work email after 6:00 p.m. Those of us who feel chained to our email inbox immediately fantasized about sipping Sancerre at an outdoor café at 6:01 p.m., effectively barred from all electronic communication with clients, colleagues, and employers.

Many of those media outlets have since issued amendments to their previous reports, having learned that the agreement, signed on April 1st by unions and employers in the high-tech and consulting field, covers only an estimated 250,000 autonomous employees whose contracts are based on days worked, not hours, and thus for whom the country’s famous 35-hour limit does not apply. The agreement does refer to an obligation to disconnect communications tools, but only after an employee has worked a 13-hour day—not at any particular time of day.

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Should you apply for that job?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 11 months and 4 days ago

Job seekers often limit themselves to looking outside of their company for a new position. But there are a number of factors that point out that job seekers should also consider looking within their own organizations for a new role.

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