GEF 2009 Ipsos Study on Women in Business in France – 10 measure manifesto

I attended a GEF (Grandes Ecoles au Feminin [1]) conference yesterday, here in Paris, at which I listened to the results of an Ipsos study entitled, “How to improve the mix of women in management [in France].” You can read the French results here. This was the fourth time that a study had been commissioned in and around this topic, and apparently the results remained largely similar: all manner of managers in business recognize that having women in management is a good thing, but that little progress has been made and the road ahead is still long.

The study was made with individual interviews of top management from 16 major French companies (Dec 2009) as well as the answers of 5,431 respondents (questionnaire was self-administered on Internet) in May 2009.

Some highlights that I picked out:

o 82% of men and 87% of women are in favour of more women to change the style of management. This point strikes me as supremely important and recognizes implicitly the failings of current management practice (hierarchical, control & fear based…)

o 80% of men and 96% of women recognize it is rare to see women in top posts. The point here is that 20% of men actually believe it is not rare.

o 47% of men and 76% of women see an important or rather important difference in salaries between men and women. That’s a stunning 29% difference.

In a review of actions taken by companies to promote women in management, the study identified 25 measures that had been concretely taken by one or more of the 16 companies interviewed. The irony of the study was that 16 of the 25 measures were considered en masse to be easy to implement and effective in their results. And, yet, the net results remain basically imperceptible. The GEF team concluded that the reason for the lack of impact is that companies are satisfied to implement only a couple of the measures which, in practice, did not bear any fruit. Fully 1/4 of the respondents (21% for men and 29% for women) believed that it will take 50 years before seeing parity in France.

The net result of this GEF survey is a sort of manifesto of 10 specific measures that need to be taken, ensemble, in an effort to make real headway on this issue. I cite those 10 actions below, adding a few comments where I see fit.

GEF Plan: A Plan of Action in three areas, that needs to sponsored by top management

Actively promoting women
o For each open position in management, ensure the presence of female candidates and justify if there is no female candidate. The key is having someone who calls out and verifies when no female candidate is presented.
o Identify the high potential women to create a target group that is representative of the company’s mixity [2].
o Develop specific training for women.
Only 7% of women have ever received any special training.
o Promote networking
. I believe that women might benefit from some specific training relative to how men might network a little differently — at least to decode the ‘masculine’ ways of networking.

Changing the rules
o Change the criteria for performance evaluation. I believe that performance evaluations need to be adapted to the new world order, especially to promote collaborative behaviour.

o Break the linear career model and changing the criteria of geographical mobility. This applies not just to women, but to basically all Gen Yers. On average a woman has just under two kids in France and, therefore, spends 8 months out of a 40-year career on maternity leave.
o Educate management on the behavioral differences between men and women and on the interest in taking on a greater mix. The key here, for me, is bringing out/accepting feminine values of management in men as well.
o Develop a practice for a better
work-life balance. Personally, I struggle with the notion of balance on a daily basis, in that we are constantly out of balance. The key is to find a way to create a longer-term balance.

Operating and monitoring of measures implemented
o Establish quantitative targets at any level. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

As for quotas (as in Norway for Executive Boards), the GEF position is: there is no proof that we can do without quotas. They asked their pool of respondents the question to what extent they were opposed to a quota system. The “good” news was that they were less opposed than expected. However, that still left 45% — 56% of men and 32% of women — opposed (somewhat or totally) to a quota.

And, finally, I leave you with an article on a study which I have found extremely enlightening regarding how men and women can operate differently. The Harvard Business Working Knowledge article by Martha Legace
interview of Professor Boris Groysberg (Harvard Business School) is entitled, “How female stars succeed in new jobs.” The article (and study of 1,000 analysts) presents how female analysts (Wall Street) do a better job of creating a successful transition to a new company. As Groysberg said in an HBR article in Feb 2009, “[f]emale star analysts, it would seem, take their work environment more seriously yet rely on it less than male stars do. They look for a firm that will allow them to keep building their successful franchises their own way.”

North America if far from perfect in terms of parity, but there are surely some good examples to be had from over the pond.


(1) GEF is an assocation regrouping alumni from 9 major graduate schools in France: Centrale Paris, ENA, ENPC, ESCP-EAP, ESSEC, HEC, INSEAD, Les MINES et POLYTECHNIQUE

(2) Using the term “mixity” is perhaps a bit of a frenchism, but the important point is relating the percentage of women in top management positions compared to the overall employee population of that company. For example, it is highly irregular and suspect to see a company with 10% women on a board of directors in a company where over 60% of the employees are women.

Oye Oye! My Blog Now Talks — WebReader Application

Friends, Romans and World Citizens, Lend me Your Ears….

Listen Button

Some INSEAD classmates, at VoiceCorp*, have launched a new service (just a month old) called ReadSpeaker: a way to listen to online content read out loud. I have added the new function to this blog (see the little logo at the top of this post, and which is affixed under each post title). The sign up was incredibly fast and easy (a question of 60 seconds, excluding the 5 minute demo video). You can choose from three languages including English, Swedish and French (American and British are two different languages!). You can also select between a female and male voice. Several more languages are under work. I have selected, for now at least, a female British English voice. I have asked them if there is a way to have different languages in the same blog, according to the language of the post, since I write some posts (about 1/10) in French. Am still waiting for their answer, so for now, the function is only good for English-written posts.

If you want to know a little more about webreader, you are going to need to polish up your portuguese (Brazilian). See here. [UPDATE 10/3/09. This bug has been fixed.] The other oddity is that the site is called WebReader (screen shot above) as opposed to ReadSpeaker. Clearly, some a few little startup wrinkles to iron out.

I have not compared with either of WebReader’s competition, Odiogo and Talkr; but, I would very much like to have your feedback on this application. Can you make out the meaning? Is my syntax good enough, you ask!? Like her voice? Do you like having the option?

*VoiceCorp is the leading Software as a Service (SaaS) company in the area of speech-enabling online content for web sites and RSS feeds.

RCA – the earliest precursor of Worldwide Wireless Web?

RCA logo

This morning, I was piling through some old notes from a lecture I attended with Professor Miklos Sarvary at INSEAD, and this led me to plunge into the story of RCA whose 70-year tale is very rich.  There is a great timeline available on NationMaster.  RCA is a company that is inextricably linked with the history of the radio, television and 20th century music.  On top of that, for a while (1960s), RCA was on the computer bandwagon as well… but that adventure did not work out.  That said, RCA was clearly a pioneer, whose R&D and products pushed us along to the wireless world in which we live today.

Internet ethnologists are probably not inclined to go back so far in time, but RCA clearly had the knack of developing and taking over the different media with an early-stated goal of providing worldwide wireless communication.  I was particularly struck by the advertisement that RCA ran back in its earliest days.  From 1920-1927, the Radio Corporation of America used the communication below, potentially a slight case of hubris:

RCA Radio Corporation of America Advertisement

What ought to strike you is the logo in the middle which has an uncanny message: Worldwide Wireless.

Worldwide Wireless WWW

For such a visionary company, started and ended by General Electric, RCA must have been an exciting place at which to work through till the 1960s.  When they branched out into irrelevant areas with the acquisition of Hertz (car rental), Coronet carpets and Banquet (foods), you knew that they had lost the [internet] plot.  A case of extensions that — at least viewed now — have little good justification.  Buying Random House was a more interesting fit, that said, given the media connection.  Anyway, I must thank Professor Sarvary for getting me interested in the RCA story, so clearly a necessary precursor to the worldwide web on which we all surf.

Podcasts and Videocasts – New reasons to walk to work

Despite the sleek look & feel, I know that the Apple iPhone is still not perfect for my needs, so I have resisted the temptation thus far. Instead, I am content to max out my iPod. Although the agenda and contacts are weak applications in the Apple mobile platforms, I now have all my family videos and photos uploaded. And, thanks to the ongoing developments on iTunes, I have found ample pleasure by mining the available uploadable [mostly free] content, including the album covers, television rebroadcasts and podcasts.

If you have never done it, do go visit the podcast section of iTunes. The number of new podcasts being created is soaring (see graphic below). To those of you creating podcasts, keep at it! The choice ranges from newscasts to business to entertain to education to inspiration. And there are many special interests too. The development of the iTunes U section is absolutely fantastic: mobile learning with support systems to help educational institutions to learn how to do it (see this film for more understanding). I am currently subscribed to some 30 podcasts to which, of course, I cannot listen every day; but the repertoire provides great flexibility.

When do I listen to these podcasts? Walking to and from work, which takes me about 35 minutes to do the 2.8 kilometres. This is the novelty for me: like books on tape, podcasts are great for walking. At any one time, I can choose the podcast according to my mood, need or available time — and, of course, sometimes, I just listen to music. Unlike the commute in the metro which means many disjointed moments walking to the station, getting in the train for an all-too-short ride and then walking on to the office, I have an uninterrupted 35 minutes to myself when I commute by foot.

Walking to/from work with the iPod playing podcasts is a singularly great way to begin and end the day. Here are SIX substantial reasons why I strongly recommend it:

1. It is exercise in the open air (granted there is the pollution of cars, so I should theoretically get a mask to make it a healthier walk).
2. A chance to look up at the Parisian architecture rather than being cooped up all day.
3. It’s more ecological than driving or even taking the train — thereby reducing my CO2 footprint (which isn’t very good considering the flights all year).
4. It’s cheaper (than either the metro or car). We could all save a dime these days.
5. Considering the time spent circling to find a parking space, it is also oftentimes just as fast as driving. Moreover, by leaving my car at the underground parking lot at work, I avoid the unnecessary risk of leaving my car exposed for pigeon doodoo, or potential parking tickets.
6. And, the coup de grace is that I get to listen to the podcast with great attention. This latter point is critical for me (and I would argue for leading business managers) because, with the selection of podcasts now available, you can truly get new content to help drive your business or team.

For business leaders, there is a great selection of podcasts available. I have a few favourites that I would like to share with you (with links directly to iTunes):

o HARVARD Business Ideacast — This is a videocast.
o INSEAD Knowledgecast — Thoughtful videocast interviews with INSEAD professors and business people on a wide variety of subject — although this isn’t updated as regularly. You can get more content here in these INSEAD audiocasts.
o Go Green — Tips to go green and there’s also GreenTV, in partnership with UNEP and GreenPeace
o NPR’s This I believe — 500 words from someone that believes strongly in something
o Mitch Joel‘s Six Pixels of Separation for those wanting good web 2.0-oriented marketing and communications analysis and ideas.
o And finally, Robin Sharma’s inspirational podcasts

Do let me know if you have any other favourites you would like to share. Otherwise, get out your walking shoes and slide in to your next podcast.

INSEAD – Celebrating the 15 Year Reunion (2008)


I have just completed my 15-year reunion at INSEAD in Fontainebleau. There were some 59 fellow classmates (out of about 205) who came in from 16 countries (3 came from Australia). It was a lovely way to reconnect – among other things to remind us of the importance of facetime and networking. As big a fan as I may be for virtual worlds and social media networks, the prescient words of John Naisbitt in High Tech/High Touch ring as ever true today.

There were three themes that seemed to keep coming up, no matter the topic at hand:

– The financial crisis
– The work-life balance
– Sustainable development

On the heels of the record-setting one-day stock market swings (the DJIA gyrated from a low of 7773 to a high of 8989 only to finish down 1.5% on October 10th), a devastating eight days of doom and gloom and a drop of -22% on the DJIA, the financial crisis had a bearing on absolutely every activity discussed. How is the financial crisis going to impact sustainable development? Will the financial crisis hurt social media and “metaverses” (with Professor Miklos Sarvary)? There were no contrarians to be heard. The concept of a worldwide recession was widely used. Clearly, we have not seen the end of the bad news as it will now roll out into other fields, including a predictable credit card crunch and down swing in sales of large ticket consumer goods. And, of course, it certainly will have an impact on executive MBAs coming to INSEAD and current MBAs looking for jobs.

The question of work-life balance was systematically raised, and not just by Gen Y MBA students. I think my wife summed it up rather accurately: work-life balance is a myth. There may be moments when when you are able to achieve more family life, but you are inevitably compromising work and vice-versa.

And on sustainable development, much of the conversation seemed to be focused on reinforcing the existence of global warming, and less about the [clear cut] solutions. We heard from Mohan Munasinghe, Vice president of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 2007 along with Al Gore), who exposed the framework of “sustainomics.” The notion of sustainomics “draws on three basic principles: (1) making development itself more sustainable through immediate actions, (2) balancing the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, and (3) transcending traditional boundaries of academic discipline, space, time, and stakeholder actions, to produce the most effective solutions.” Of course, I am not sure of the application in my immediate world. Anyway, good to listen to. {Read more on the subject here}.

Bottom line, attending the reunion was grand. Reunions are about seeing old friends, but I also got a lot out of listening to some good lectures and panels on contemporary topics. One of the recurrent conclusions of reunions, though, it is clearly NOT a French thing. Of the 34 French classmates, a total of 7 came (un grand merci à vous d’être venus), of which 3 live overseas — and only a couple of the French came for the whole weekend–too many other priorities elsewhere! Without talking about their lack of participation in alumni giving, it is a shame that the French culture does not seem to enjoy these types of reunions. I am, nonetheless, hoping that for the 20th year reunion (2013) we will get a fuller turnout — and with a bit of luck will be talking about rosier economic times. Thanks to all of you who did come. We certainly have our work cut out for us to bring some order to the world. In the meantime, all 1993 INSEAD alum are welcome to join the Facebook INSEAD ’93 group (assuming the company Facebook survives the current management exodus).

See you next time.

Great Teachers in my Life

Great TeachersI remember the great teachers in my life as if it were yesterday that I was sitting in their classroom and reveling in the learning. I have been blessed to have had six standout teachers whom I will honour today in the post below. The real take away for any reader of this post is what are the defining characteristics of a great teacher? And, secondly, it is the questions: what have you done to say thanks to those teachers? For the most part, teaching is a often a thankless and low-paying job and there is little way to understand the long-term benefits and/or realisations (ROI) brought about by a great teacher. My call to action for you? Call him or her; write a letter; make a special visit…now before it is too late. And if you need a special motivation, read Mitch Albom’sTuesday’s with Morrie.” You might find the urge.

So, who were my inspiring teachers?

I will start with John Peake (or JSBP). Nominally, John was my housemaster, history beak (teacher) and sports coach at Eton College. But, he was also the man responsible for cultivating my passion to learn, who showed me how to teach and live with zeal, humour and sensitivity. I shall always remember the day he led our class outside onto a muddy field to re-enact the falling of the British Square [first time in its history] to the Zulus in the Boer War. And, in the annual athletics competition, our house always excelled. This was in large part because John knew how to motivate every single boy to participate. He also had a habit of attracting some of the better talent, if I say so myself. In so doing, I credit John with laying the foundation for always wanting to be the best I could be. JSBP REMEMBERED

Secondly, I think back to how lucky I was to have known Patrick Jordan (aka PJFJ), the headmaster at my [now defunct] prep school, The Old Malthouse (OMH), down in sunny Dorset. After all these years, I have to thank Patrick for my passion for rugby and athletics (including throwing the javelin). He also was passionate about his Triumph cars which he delighted in sharing with us. Patrick went on to become a highly successful headmaster at Packwood Haugh.

Thirdly, I cite the theatrical Michael Kidson (MGMK), my history teacher for many divisions (classes) at Eton. His theatrics–sometimes hystrionics–always kept us at attention, if not on edge. Michael laid into us with vigour, I shall always remember his criticism of my “woolly” English. Flying wood blocks notwithstanding, he was as generous and kind a man as you will ever find.

Fourth, I cite Colonel Ozzie Ostock, my history teacher from the Old Malthouse. With his authentic Colonel’s handlebar moustache, Mr Ostock brought history to life with his anecdotes. He would tell us vivid tales of WWII and was responsible for having at least one war hero (that I can remember) come present to us in the Gym. Managing to corral the zany energy of a roomful of 8-9 year old boys, he started me on my journey of twelve years of studying history–and a lifetime since. He is responsible for my love the film “The Dambusters”, the story of an eccentric scientist’s invention that devastated three German dams in the Ruhr Valley (Ruhr and Eder rivers). Here is a “fan site” out of England:

Anil Gaba - Great TeacherThe most valiant award, however, goes to my statistics teacher, Professor Anil Gaba, at INSEAD. If you knew me, you would know that this could not have been my favourite topic. But, through wit, real case examples and a great deal of patience, he systematically, and single-handedly, made statistics stick. Also, Anil created a favourable environment for social interaction. A soulful individual. Anil is now Dean of Faculty at INSEAD (Singapore campus).

Finally, I would like to remember Professor Terry Des Pres, holocaust scholar and my freshman English teacher at Colgate University. While his classes borderlined on Dead Poet’s Society material, wearing every day the same outfit, Terry excelled in the ‘happenings’ in his own home. Reminiscent of a Salon environment, we would stay endless hours debating and sharing stories, especially on one occasion with his great friend John Irving. Here is the NY Times article covering his premature death in 1987, and a nice writeup in the Colgate Scene on-line.

Voilà, my list of top six Great Teachers is complete. There were, however, other great “moments” Great Teacher - Mark Rosekindin teaching that I would also like to remember, including Professor Mark Rosekind, an FSR*, at Yale University, teaching us about sleep (and dreams). And, on this one occasion, on my suggestion, we decided to hold an entire class outside (on a beautiful spring day). Since the class had somewhere over 100 students, that was a trickier enterprise than might be imagined to do spontaneously. I set up my amplifier and microphone outside our dorm room window and all the students sprawled out on the grass in Silliman College square. And it was the surprise of my sleeping roommate that gave me this priceless memory: There Bert was, sleeping in mid-afternoon and, in the midst of his dreams, he heard through his window a mellifluous Californian accent speaking about sleep and dreams. Professor Rosekind was also great at keeping our full attention by hatching spontaneous studies of his students who dozed off in his class. See here for Mark’s site at the National Sleep Foundation. And here, no less, a blog about Dr Rosekind with one of his podasts. (*Famous Sleep Researcher).

I should also thank my English teacher and sports therapist “Uncle” (aka Unkie) at The Hotchkiss School for giving me another memory of a lifetime. As he walked in this one spring day, the whole class spontaneously broke out singing the Grateful Dead’s “Loose Lucy” in a capella from beginning to end. And his priceless answer at the end: “why me?”

So, why these teachers? The attributes that blare out like a coach’s megaphone on crisp winter morning are: being passionate, being real, being interactive. As Todd Whitaker says in his book “What Great Teachers Do Differently,” great teachers focus on expectations, while the mundane teachers focus on the rules. And, in every case, they were also great listeners and always available for discussion after hours. As you can see, I did the rounds when it came to schools. But, no matter where, there always was at least one teacher that stood out a cut above. Make sure you remember the one(s) that stood out for you!

For further reading on the topic, if you got inspired, here are a selection of other sites and articles about Great Teachers:

TIME magazine feature on How to Make Great Teachers (i.e. how to overcome the low pay de-motivation)
Great Schools website features the Great Teachers’ qualities
Oprah did a show on Great Teachers featuring Mr Clark’s essential “rules” for Children