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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Best Companies for Multicultural Women

The list is in! Working Mother Magazine released its 100 Best Companies for Multicultural Women. The odd thing is there is not one Florida company on the list. NOT ONE. That strikes me as insane consider our multicultural population and how embracing companies in our area have been.

Here is the criteria: hiring, pay and promotion of multicultural employees. This year, the magazine gave the most weight to questions involving the representation, recruitment and retention of women of color. I'm not sure whether the magazine considered Hispanic representation but I plan to ask the editor.

The report says unlike their Boomer parents, Gen Y's tend to look beyond skin color for their identity, choosing instead to define themselves by age or lifestyle. This shift is causing companies to rethink their diversity strategies so that they resonate with a group that's eager for speedy advancement. Do you agree? Should your company be on the list?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Can you relate to Carrie Bradshaw?

What are you doing May 30th? That's the big topic at work today because May 30th is the opening date for the Sex & the City movie. Productivity must be sagging in offices nationwide as women discuss when and where they're going to see it on the big screen.

One of my girlfriends who lived for a while as a single woman in NYC is taking the day off work on Friday to see the movie. I may join her. I’m sure we won’t be alone in the theater. All day at my office, the girls are buzzing about getting a group together to go see it.

Why does this foursome inspire so much female camaraderie? Asks blogger Leslie Morgan Steiner. The New York Times reports in This One Goes Out to the Ladies -- and Their Friends that mobs of women across the country have made elaborate opening night plans (including flying en masse to Manhattan to see the movie on location).
I’ve always admired the way the show depicts working women. Indeed, I think Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda embody a bit of all of us. These four women are real to me. I can relate to Miranda’s crazy work life as a law partner, Carrie’s job as a columnist, Charlotte’s struggle with infertility and Samantha’s glamorous and sometimes lonely life as a PR executive. Their struggles with meeting Mr. Right or Mr. Big are shared by so many of my gal pals who tell me that dating today as a self-sufficient, income-producing woman is challenging.
Even though, like most women watching the show, I don't live in New York or wear the same fashions, these women and their career, child-rearing and love-life dilemmas are real to me and most of the women I know. The girls have financial troubles like we do, laugh and cry like we do, fight with each other like we do, and most importantly make mistakes and go on. As Steiner notes, “They make everyday female problems -- working motherhood, infertility, deplorable romantic decisions, too-demanding jobs, wrinkles, mortgages, lousy boyfriends, too many shoes -- look beautiful, funny, and bearable.”

To me, a bonus of the show was the insight men gained from watching it. Women, have you ever had a discussion with a man about his take on Carrie breaking up with Aidan, Miranda giving Steve the cold shoulder or Samantha hooking up with a young hunk? The show certainly sparked some discussion in my house.

What do the Sex & the City ladies say about your life? Are you going to opening night? Would your consider going with your spouse or boyfriend or is this strictly a girls night out?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Is a step parent a working parent?

I just read a blog entry that takes a perspective I never considered. It asks, "Does being a step parent make you any less of a working parent?"

Blogger Lylah Alphonse writes: Well, when you’re parenting, step or not, you’re a parent. That’s really all there is to it.Unfortunately, I've had bosses and co-workers who didn't understand that at all. As a step mom, it wasn’t that I was expected to work overtime as much as it was that I was expected to want to work overtime, because I wasn’t “really a parent.” “You can stay late tonight, right?” my then-boss once asked as he got ready to duck out early (to go camping). “It’s not like you’re rushing home to see your step kids, right?”
Um… yes, yes I am. So, actually, no, I can’t stay late.

A co-worker of mine married a man with a young child. She's going through all the anxiety a working parent does, especially because her husband travels for work. She frets over being asked to work late which would leave her step son, a middle schooler, home alone too long.

Of course, custody arrangements differ and everyone's situation is different. As Elizabeth in her Career and Kids blog notes: Your schedule may be different from someone else’s if the kids aren’t with you full time, but the responsibilities are still there.

Do you think step parents should be given the same work/life considerations as working parents? Have you ever had a boss who doesn't recognize your home demands as a step parent?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Divorcing your business partner

In my Miami Herald column today, I wrote about business break ups. The idea came to me when I watched the emotional turmoil one of my close friends went through. My friend felt she was doing most of the work to keep the clothing store afloat, yet her partner was sharing equally in the profits. Her partner happened to be a close friend. Working moms, she assumed they would split the duties and both have work/life balance.

I have never had a business partner, but I've thought about it. And like most people, I likely would go into business with a friend. Until now, I had never thought through what would happen when and if things go bad. My friend and her partner had been gal pals when they started the business together. They had kids the same ages. Their husbands were buddies. So, the break up took a huge emotional toll on both families. They no longer speak to each other.

Attorney Greg Ward of WardKim had some of the best advice on the topic. He says always have a well thought out partnership agreement when you start the business. If it's too late and you find yourself in the middle of a dispute, try HARD to keep communication open. When partners stop talking, that's usually the beginning of the end.

I found an interesting article on the American Bar Association site that says, "Curiously, many business divorces occur once the business has become successful, the principals are taking home real money and there is significant equity in the business. With success come the difficult, acrimonious issues and decisions that the partners failed to face early on or dealt with only partially.'' Who knew?

Have you endured an emotionally wrenching business divorce? Has it affected your personal life? What would you do differently the next time around?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Does a messy desk matter?

It's Monday morning and I'm at my desk. It's not cluttered but it's not completely clean and organized either. I have worked hard to overcome my natural tendency of allowing piles of paper to cover my desk. I want work/life balance and to me, that means NOT trying to handle too many tasks at once, cluttering my mind and desk.

But I look around me and most of my co-workers can barely see their desks. I wonder how some of them get anything done. So, it intrigued me when I saw a manager's query on the Monster blog. After asking an employee to clean up his desk several times, he wrote: "Is it something I should just let be and assume the employee works better in a controlled chaos environment? Or should I step up my requests and not be so nice about it? I'm not sure how much it is my place to tell someone to clean up their work area if it really doesn't bother anyone but me."

Does a messy desk matter? Monster says people respond in two ways:

  • As long as the employee’s work is getting done, it doesn’t matter how messy his desk is or isn’t.

  • A messy desk is no doubt a sign of a cluttered mind! Continue to insist that the employee clean up his workspace.

Most of the highly successful business people I interview buy into the clean desk theory. They say clutterfree desks are critical to being productive and having work/life balance. They only want items on their desk that relate to the task they are doing at that moment. But I do have many colleagues who are organized and on top of all their projects, in spite of their desk’s appearances to the contrary.

I say, each person has their own way of working and living, as long as they get the job done who cares what their desk looks like (as long as it's not bug infested). What's your take? And, when should the line be drawn, if ever?

Below: One mom's entry into a messy desk contest. To read her blog, click here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What's overtime?

In today's 24/7 business world, what's overtime?

Is it being on call after hours? Is it being expected to respond to late night emails? Is it getting work thrown at us close to 5 p.m when we can't possibly finish it in our 8-hour day? Already we are hearing discussion about whether BlackBerrys give rise to overtime pay.

Yesterday, this question of overtime came up a few times during the day at an Employment Law Seminar sponsored by Stearns & Weaver in Miami. Clearly, there's a movement afoot to squeeze more out of employees -- without paying them more.

When talking about the top 10 things supervisors do to drive you insane this one made the list: Tell subordinates "I do not want to see you working overtime, but this job better get done tomorrow and you figure out how to do it."

How many of you have heard that? I have my hand up.

For those that still do get overtime, the good news for Florida employees is the law says EVERYTHING has to go into calculating overtime -- wages and commissions and bonuses and referral fees. The bad news for those salaried employees who get overtime is that an employer legally can get away with paying overtime as half-time, not 1 1/2 times hourly rate.

Clearly, most of us want our personal time to stay just that. And you'll hear some say, they put in the overtime hours because they count on the pay. Now, the overtime discussion has me wondering, if pay is eliminated will there be an anti-overtime revolt?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Afraid to speak up?

Last week, the demands on my time seemed overwhelming. My daughter was sick, my babysitter was sick and I wanted to attend a special training class that would help me at work.

My first thought was to give up the class. But a deep feeling in my gut told me not to miss it. So I juggled, called in reinforcements, and went to the class. I'm so glad I did.

Anyone who speaks in front of groups at work or outside of work should consider Dale Carnegie's High Impact Presentations. My friend Debra Levine, who works for Dale Carnegie, says even if you are Katie Couric in front of a camera or crowd, there's always room to take it up a notch.

About a dozen of us from various companies and professions went to the two-day class and evolved from being okay public speakers to wowing each other with our new-found confidence and skills.

We spent one morning taking a dull speech on Einstein and making it interesting by using gestures and projecting enthusiasm. We took turns sitting on the hot seat, learning how to handle stressful situations during a mock question and answer period. And we practiced moving our audience to action through a three-minute presentation.

Later this week, I'm speaking to a group of female bankers about work/life balance and success strategies. I plan to use my new bag of tricks to get them see me as an expert and read my column in The Miami Herald. I would imagine some of my peers in the class already have used their improved speaking skills in their jobs -- to land a new client, gain the confidence of the boss or convince a group of co-workers to see their viewpoint.

How are your public speaking skills? Do you think it's important to know how to speak up at work? Have you ever invested time in improving your presenting skills? Was it worth it?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Which is harder to manage -- career or family?

A Mother's Day survey by Adecco asks, "Which is harder to manage career or family?"

Most working moms said managing career is a piece of cake next to managing family: 71% of working mothers find it more difficult to manage their family vs. career (29%).

If I was asked that question, I would have said managing family was more difficult, too. Here's why: Managing our careers takes focused energy. Managing our households takes focused energy. But when managing both at the same time, it's the family part of the equation that's more unpredictable -- a child gets sick, the teacher wants a conference, a science project requires some materials you don't have on hand.

This week, my daughter became very sick. I thought about how much easier it would have been to just focus on her. But I tried to keep up with work and nurse her back to health. The result is I'm exhausted.

Beyond the exhaustion, some working mothers feel frustrated trying to manage their family life. Apparently, their frustration has launched a whole new profession -- parent coaches. A Miami Herald article today on parent coaches said working mothers are turning to these experts when they can't handle the power struggles, arguments and or sibling rivalry. Jodi Mailander Farrell writes: "A 40-something first-time mother may be able to run a company, but when it comes to putting her baby to sleep at night, she may not have a clue."

But I think there's another question to ask working moms, "Which is more rewarding to manage career or family?" My guess you would find the same skew in the results. For most of us, recognition at work could never be as fulfilling as the handmade cards we will get today.

Which do you think is harder to manage career or family? Or is it trying to do both that makes our lives difficult?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Are you getting more forgetful?

Do you ever hear yourself saying, "How could I have forgotten to do that?"

I'm desperately searching for an explanation why I can't remember things I need to do without writing them down. No more mental lists for me! I've gotten to the point where if I'm driving while someone mentions something that she needs me to do, I pull over or ask the person to call me back so I can write it down.

A co-worker assures me that my memory issues are helpful for raising responsible children. "It teaches them to take responsibility and write it down and not to just assume you are going to remember to do it," she insists.

Not long ago, a USA Today article reported scientific evidence that memory loss is a real issue for new moms. They gave it the name, Momnesia. One mommy blogger writes: I’ve suffered the effects of this illness long before I even knew it existed or had a name. I'm just wondering how long one can be considered a new mom. My youngest is almost seven. Does that rule me out from qualifying for Momnesia?

Another article calls spotty memory a symptom of information overload. There's a theory that information overload causes us to run out of brain space so there's not enough room to remember all those to-dos. Do you believe people can run out of brain space? Do you believe memory loss is caused by trying to balance work and kids? What are your techniques for remembering your to-dos?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Does money follow passion?

After my recent article on finding your passion, I noticed a timely blog discussion. At issue: Will financial success necessarily come to those who follow their passions?

Marci Alboher who writes Shiftingcareers says: "The short answer, of course, is, “It depends.” If you happen to have a passion for choosing stocks, the money will follow a lot more easily than if you have a knack for writing Shakespearean sonnets. But most of us fall somewhere in the middle of those extremes, and that’s why there are as many answers to the question as there are career paths."

Darren Rowse, of ProBlogger (the authority on just about anything having to do with blogging): “I think it can be true — but what if you love doing something that there is just no economic sense in?”

From J.D. Roth, of Get Rich Slowly (a personal finance blogger who provides solid advice about money while conveying a “money isn’t everything” vibe): “Well, I’m not convinced there’s a strong correlation. I think that financial success can be related to doing what you love, but it’s not always the case. I have friends who love to teach, but they’re never going to get rich at it. I have friends who hate their jobs but make a killing.”

To me, it's about your definition of financial success. If you are passionate about something, you're more likely to figure out a way to make money doing it. You may not get rich but you will make money, and to me, that's success.

Of course, Janet Attwood, author of The Passion Test, would argue yes, money follows passion. Attwood says the most successful people in their professions are those that followed their passion. But I plan to ask her to weigh in.

Meanwhile, let me hear what you think. Does money follow passion?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Work and waste

I just read an interesting take on work and waste in Fast Company Magazine. The article by David Roberts says American employees put in more hours and take fewer vacations than just about anyone else in the industrialized world. But they way we work and our struggle for balance also may drive our habits of waste.

Because we work so much, we're tired and tend to use more Styrofoam to-go containers. Because we work so much, we're tired and often fall asleep in front of the TV. Because we work so much, we're booting up power hungry electronics at all times of day and night. (Are you feeling guilty yet?) American workers have more than doubled productivity in the past half-century _ but they also have increased the nation's energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions.

The article goes on to say, "If we want to accelerate the recent trend of reducing waste, it may be time to consider the radical step of, well, relaxing more, consuming less and living fuller lives."

Relaxing? How many of us know how to do that anymore?

Roberts points out that even "green" businesses don't seem eager to reduce waste by reinventing the workweek or allowing more telecommuting. So, I'm forced to think it may be up to us workers to make proposals and reclaim our leisure time. And, its up to us to looking hard at devoting our leisure hours to activities with low environmental impact rather than driving around guzzling up gas or booting up our electronics. (Not easy habits to break!)

Would your company buy into a shorter work week if it benefited the company and the environment? Would you have the courage to make the proposal? And, would you be able to power down for an entire day on your next day off?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Finding your passion in work and life

I received a lot of e-mail following my article on finding your passion in life. So I decided to post it on my blog. Click here to read it.

If you are still searching for your passion, I recommend reading Janet Attwood's The Passion Test. She gives some examples of lists of passions to pursue created by real people. The book might spark some ideas for you. Something Janet said rang true with me, the most successful people in their professions are those that have a passion for what they do. Still, 4 out of 5 people feel unfulfilled. Are you pursuing your passion?