This Week’s #HCWC #WCW: Shonda Rhimes

shonda

Each week HCWC will spotlight a woman within the Harvard community or beyond whose work and actions we deem to be “crush worthy.” We encourage you to participate in our #WCW  via your various social media platforms by sharing the women we honor each week to bring light to their important work.

Who she is: Shonda is a television producer and writer who is best known for being not only the creator, but the head writer, executive producer, and showrunner of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. Her other projects include Private Practice, How to Get Away with Murder, and Seattle Grace. She has received three Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe, and multiple awards from the Writer’s Guild, Producer’s Guild, and Director’s Guild. She has also been named one of the Time 100 People Who Help Shape the World in 2007 and one of the Time 100 most influential people in the world in 2013.

Why she’s our #WCW: Shonda’s shows not only tell stories that validate our own real-world experiences, but goes to great lengths to make sure that everyone- women of color, the LGBT* community, people who feel lost and unsure of who they are- or in essence, people like us, are represented in her stories. Her leading ladies have often been women of color, from Sandra Oh in Grey’s Anatomy to Kerry Washington in Scandal, and this has revolutionized the way women of color feel represented in the media today. Shonda makes sure that everyone has a seat at the table when it comes to TV, and it makes shows feel real.


To nominate another #WCW, please use our form! Happy #WCW from #HCWC!

A Look at Gender Quotas: Is It Enough?

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Photo courtesy of Archana Somasegar

By: Guest Blogger Archana Somasegar ’18, HCWC’s #WCW 10/28/15

Since the implementation of Norway’s 40% gender quota for corporate boards in 2008, the floodgates have opened for discourse and design of gender quotas. Since its implementation, Norway’s corporate sector benefitted economically from the inclusion of women on boards (Sweigart, 2012). While some argue that gender quotas subvert the meritocratic ideal, legal requirement for board diversity begins the discourse about how to make the field more receptive to women. In order to fully utilize the untapped resource that women represent, women themselves must be a part of the conversation. Quotas can help begin this cycle by mandating that women be at the table in the first place to discuss how to bring even more women into the boardroom. As eloquently stated by Alsott, “gender quotas represent the kind of structural change that could alter business practices that exclude women from leadership roles.” (Alsott, 2014)

In conjunction with all the economic benefits of women on boards, this legal initiative clearly plays an important role in bringing more women into the fold as analyzed above. However, studies show that the mere addition of “token” women is not sufficient to instigate the kind of economic and structural change we hope to achieve through the WoB Initiative. As described through critical mass theory, only when we surpass a certain threshold of female representation on a board can we hope to transform the labyrinth of female ascension in the corporate world to a straightforward track. Studies demonstrate that increasing the mass of females on a board to pass the critical threshold (generally considered 30%), the level of innovation of a firm quantifiably increases, lending credence to the idea that a higher quota of females on boards is indeed necessary to achieve results (Torchia et al., 2011).

However, it is very simple to fall into the trap of homogenizing women. The belief that all women want the exact same thing and can bring the same “diversity” to the table is inherently flawed but alarmingly prevalent. This perhaps may lead us to consider that gender quotas are not enough. The intersectional nature of gender demonstrates that not only is gender diversity necessary, but so is racial and socio-economic diversity amongst others. However, if quotas become more restrictive to “force diversity,” the concern about hiring unqualified candidates becomes more legitimate. Pande points out “gender quotas may crowd out other marginalized ethnic or socioeconomic groups. By reserving certain positions for women, there will be fewer positions open for candidates from other groups that are also underrepresented. Crowd-out may occur, further limiting their voice in both descriptive representation and in areas of substantial representation.” (Pande et al., 2011) Thus, gender quotas seem like a good short-term measure to bring women to the table, but a holistic approach to training and appointing board members must be administered in order to achieve true diversity. Similar to the US Supreme Court’s decisions about affirmative action in the realm of college acceptances, diversity must be considered amongst other things in order to create the environment best suited for corporate growth.

Fluently stated by Pande, “at face value gender quotas are only corrective mechanisms: like other affirmative action policies, gender quotas acknowledge existing gender inequalities and how they are embedded in pervading structures of power (on the labor market or with respect to the division of house labor) but do not address the root cause of the problem (job market segregation, gendered division of labor, public/private divide) at all.” Thus while gender quotas may buy us time to deconstruct our current system, this holistic review of our corporate system is necessary in the long run to ensure economically favorable gender equality.  In particular, resources must be diverted to refine and equalize the nomination and hiring process. Increasing research has proven that the main focus should not be issues within the pipeline for attracting women, but rather to stop the practice of undervaluing female employees and passing over them for promotions. (Sealy et al., 2009) Women face the institutional barrier of the selection process itself, which has proven time and time again to be biased. Often, hirers attribute (incorrectly) stereotypes on women who may otherwise be qualified while also being hesitant to invest in them for fear of a woman’s dedication to her family. In this light, quotas seem to provide short-term relief to the ailing system, but it is vital that we focus on more long-term solutions that can begin to deconstruct the negative stereotypes women face today.

Works Consulted

Alsott, A. “Gender Quotas for Corporate Boards: Options for Legal Design in the United States.”Pace International Law Review (2014): n. pag. Print.

Arfken, D. E., S. L. Bellar, and M. M. Helms. “The Ultimate Glass Ceiling Revisited: The Presence of Women on Corporate Boards.” Journal of Business Ethics (2004): n. pag. Print.

Bagues, M. F. “Will Gender Parity Break the Glass Ceiling?” 2006. Digital file.

Blakebeard, D. S. “Taking a hard look at formal mentoring programs: A consideration of potential challenges facing women.” Journal of Management Development (2001): n. pag. Print.

Burgess, Z., and P. Tharenou. “Women Board Directors: Characteristics of the Few.” Journal of Business Ethics (2002): n. pag. Print.

C., Daily M., and Dalton R. D. “Women in the boardroom: A business imperative.” Journal of Business Strategy (2003): n. pag. Print.

Catalyst. (2013). Catalyst quick take: Statistical overview of women in the workplace. New York.

Conference Board of Canada. The Business Case for Women on Boards. N.p.: n.p., 2012. Print.

DeFrank-Cole, L., et al. “The Women’s Leadership Initiative: One University’s Attempt to Empower Females on Campus.” Journal of Leadership, Accountability, and Ethics (2014): n. pag. Print.

Galbreath, J. “Are there gender-related influences on corporate sustainability? A study of women on boards of directors.” Journal of Management and Organization (2011): n. pag. Print.

Hall, P. A., and D. Soskice. Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage. N.p.: n.p., 2001. Oxford Scholarship. Web. 14 July 2015.

Hillman, A. J., C. Shropshire, and A. A. Cannella, Jr. “Organizational Predictors of Women on Corporate Boards.” The Academy of Management Journal (2007): n. pag. Print.

Husu, L., et al. Hanken School of Economics Research Reports. N.p.: n.p., 2010. Print. Leadership Through the Gender Lens.

Kang, H., M. Cheng, and S. J. Gray. “Corporate Governance and Board Composition: diversity and independence of Australian boards.” Corporate Governance: An International Review(2007): n. pag. Print.

Krook, M. L., J. Lovenduski, and J. Squires. “Gender Quotas and Models of Political Citizenship.” British Journal of Political Science (2009): n. pag. Print.

Lepinard, E. “Gender Quotas and Transformative Policies.” Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies. N.p.: European University Institute, 2014. N. pag. Print.

Nielsen, S., and M. Huse. “The Contribution of Women on Boards of Directors: Going beyond the Surface.” Corporate Governance: An International Review (2010): n. pag. Print.

Pande, R., and D. Ford. World Development Report on Gender. N.p.: n.p., 2011. Gender Quotas and Female Leadership: A Review. World Bank Database. Web. 14 July 2015.

Rose, C. “Does female board representation influence firm performance? The Danish evidence.” Corporate Governance: An International Review (2007): n. pag. Print.

Sealy, R., E. Doldor, and S. Vinnicombe. “Increasing Diversity on Private and Public Sector Boards.” International Centre For Women Leaders. N.p.: n.p., 2009. N. pag. Print.

Stephenson, C. “Leveraging diversity to maximum advantage: The business case for appointing more women to boards.” Ivey Business Journal (2004): n. pag. Print.

Sweigart, A. “Women on Board for Change: The Norway Model of Boardroom Quotas As a Tool For Progress in the United States and Canada.” Northwestern Journal of International Law and Business (2012): n. pag. Print.

Teigen, M. Firms, Boards and Gender Quotas: Comparative Perspectives Comparative Social Research. N.p.: n.p., 2012. Print. GENDER QUOTAS ON CORPORATE BOARDS: ON THE DIFFUSION OF A DISTINCT NATIONAL POLICY REFORM.

Terjesen, S., R. V. Aguilera, and R. Lorenz. “Legislating a Woman’s Seat on the Board: Institutional Factors Driving Gender Quotas for Boards of Directors.” Journal of Business Ethics: n. pag. Print.

Terjesen, S., R. Sealy, and V. Singh. “Women Directors on Corporate Boards: A Review and Research Agenda.” Corporate Governance: An International Review (2009): n. pag. Print.

Torchia, M., A. Calabro, and M. Huse. “Women Directors on Corporate Boards: From Tokenism to Critical Mass.” Journal of Business Ethics (2011): n. pag. Print.

Vinnicombe, S., and V. Singh. “Women-Only Management Training: An Essential Part of Women’s Leadership Development.” Journal of Change Management (2003): n. pag. Print.

A Case for Women in the Boardroom

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Photo Courtesy of G(irls) 20

By: Guest Blogger Archana Somasegar ’18, HCWC’s #WCW 10/28/15

Over the past century, the demographics of our consumer base and labor force have radically shifted. While women were once confined exclusively to the domestic sphere, they are now increasingly integrating themselves into the workforce. As they begin to represent more households in both the consumption and production spheres of business, it is necessary for our economic system to welcome this previously untapped resource into the fold. In fact, the Global Women’s Report has declared women as the third largest emerging market, following closely behind China and India. (WIB Global Report) Yet these swells of female participation are not reflected in the upper echelons of corporations worldwide. In fact, data indicates that only 4% of Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO (Catalyst, 2013). Beyond simply our moral obligations to provide women with same opportunities as their male counterparts, there are tangible economic benefits to reserving seats in the boardroom for women. As discovered time and time again through board operation analysis, “there is a danger of group-think if we allow boards to be comprised of individuals who share the same backgrounds, experiences and biases.” (Sealy et al,2009) Women are an emerging market that has the potential to offer the diversity that corporations so desperately need for growth.

The argument for women’s involvement in boards can be reduced to simply the idea of diversity. While many think of diversity as merely a box to check or an ideal to pay lip service to, diversity is the foundation upon which any growth must build upon. As delineated by Burgess et al, incorporation of women on boards is essential because: (a) women bring unique opinions to the table that expand the discussion and generate original thought (b) women directors bring unique strategic input to the board (c) women have distinctive influences on decision making and leadership styles of the organization, (d) women at the top create a beneficial cycle by providing other high potential females with role models and mentors, and (e) women representation helps create better relationships with shareholders who have vested interest in diverse representation (Burgess et al., 2002) While these measures may seem to be qualitative, they are correlated with quantitative higher returns and improved operating margins. In fact, aggregate data throughout global history has indicated that firms with higher percentages of female directors have higher levels of innovation which translate to higher profits. (Alsott, 2014) In light of such quantitative results, many researchers posit that female integration is going to be essential for continued economic growth moving forward (Alsott, 2014).

However, in the clearly male dominated arena of business, it is essential that corporations and communities understand on an intuitive level why better performance is correlated with higher female valuation and leadership opportunities. This paper calls for action and a fundamental shift in our deep-seeded prejudices, which requires a deeper-level understanding of why the idea of “male-dominated business” is flawed. It is undeniable that women now represent a large fraction of our working force. According to the Global Women’s Report, women represent more than half of our labor force today (WIB Global Report). In neoclassical economic terms, the undervaluing of female labor constitutes a suboptimal allocation of resources, leading to inherent market failures of efficiency. These swells of female representation on the production end are mirrored by increased female representation of households in the consumer base. As diverse consumers begin to pepper the market, it is becoming even more important for shareholders that companies prioritize diverse boards that will better represent and connect with this consumer base. (Stephenson, 2004) In this way, female leaders become an invaluable asset in assessing and addressing the needs of the general public in order to foster corporate growth.

But in addition to providing a consumer connection, women bring a diversity of thought to the table that is necessary at high levels for companies to grow. Innovation is bred from these varying perspectives and is vital for companies to stay competitive (Stephenson, 2004) In addition, women tend to have a more collaborative and communicative leadership style that allows for more productive group discourse and strategic analysis before decision-making; this kind of discussion allows ideas to grow from one another, ultimately creating original and unique solutions. (Daily et al., 2003) In addition, the public appointment of women to the board sends a message about the priorities of a company. By signaling a company’s commitment to the advancement of women, they strengthen ties with like-minded shareholders and begin to shift the culture within the company to welcome females. (Daily et al., 2003) More women on boards demonstrate a company’s commitment to valuing a woman’s contribution and investing in her advancement. This in turn increases employee retention rates as more and more females enter the labor force. When an employer demonstrates an investment in their female workers’ wellbeing, they are more likely to stick with the company, yielding a higher return on the human capital investment (Conference Board of Canada, 2012).

Works Consulted

Alsott, A. “Gender Quotas for Corporate Boards: Options for Legal Design in the United States.” Pace International Law Review (2014): n. pag. Print.

Arfken, D. E., S. L. Bellar, and M. M. Helms. “The Ultimate Glass Ceiling Revisited: The Presence of Women on Corporate Boards.” Journal of Business Ethics (2004): n. pag. Print.

Bagues, M. F. “Will Gender Parity Break the Glass Ceiling?” 2006. Digital file.

Blakebeard, D. S. “Taking a hard look at formal mentoring programs: A consideration of potential challenges facing women.” Journal of Management Development (2001): n. pag. Print.

Burgess, Z., and P. Tharenou. “Women Board Directors: Characteristics of the Few.” Journal of Business Ethics (2002): n. pag. Print.

C., Daily M., and Dalton R. D. “Women in the boardroom: A business imperative.” Journal of Business Strategy (2003): n. pag. Print.

Catalyst. (2013). Catalyst quick take: Statistical overview of women in the workplace. New York.

Conference Board of Canada. The Business Case for Women on Boards. N.p.: n.p., 2012. Print.

DeFrank-Cole, L., et al. “The Women’s Leadership Initiative: One University’s Attempt to Empower Females on Campus.” Journal of Leadership, Accountability, and Ethics (2014): n. pag. Print.

Galbreath, J. “Are there gender-related influences on corporate sustainability? A study of women on boards of directors.” Journal of Management and Organization (2011): n. pag. Print.

Hall, P. A., and D. Soskice. Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage. N.p.: n.p., 2001. Oxford Scholarship. Web. 14 July 2015.

Hillman, A. J., C. Shropshire, and A. A. Cannella, Jr. “Organizational Predictors of Women on Corporate Boards.” The Academy of Management Journal (2007): n. pag. Print.

Husu, L., et al. Hanken School of Economics Research Reports. N.p.: n.p., 2010. Print. Leadership Through the Gender Lens.

Kang, H., M. Cheng, and S. J. Gray. “Corporate Governance and Board Composition: diversity and independence of Australian boards.” Corporate Governance: An International Review (2007): n. pag. Print.

Krook, M. L., J. Lovenduski, and J. Squires. “Gender Quotas and Models of Political Citizenship.” British Journal of Political Science (2009): n. pag. Print.

Lepinard, E. “Gender Quotas and Transformative Policies.” Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies. N.p.: European University Institute, 2014. N. pag. Print.

Nielsen, S., and M. Huse. “The Contribution of Women on Boards of Directors: Going beyond the Surface.” Corporate Governance: An International Review (2010): n. pag. Print.

Pande, R., and D. Ford. World Development Report on Gender. N.p.: n.p., 2011. Gender Quotas and Female Leadership: A Review. World Bank Database. Web. 14 July 2015.

Rose, C. “Does female board representation influence firm performance? The Danish evidence.” Corporate Governance: An International Review (2007): n. pag. Print.

Sealy, R., E. Doldor, and S. Vinnicombe. “Increasing Diversity on Private and Public Sector Boards.” International Centre For Women Leaders. N.p.: n.p., 2009. N. pag. Print.

Stephenson, C. “Leveraging diversity to maximum advantage: The business case for appointing more women to boards.” Ivey Business Journal (2004): n. pag. Print.

Sweigart, A. “Women on Board for Change: The Norway Model of Boardroom Quotas As a Tool For Progress in the United States and Canada.” Northwestern Journal of International Law and Business (2012): n. pag. Print.

Teigen, M. Firms, Boards and Gender Quotas: Comparative Perspectives Comparative Social Research. N.p.: n.p., 2012. Print. GENDER QUOTAS ON CORPORATE BOARDS: ON THE DIFFUSION OF A DISTINCT NATIONAL POLICY REFORM.

Terjesen, S., R. V. Aguilera, and R. Lorenz. “Legislating a Woman’s Seat on the Board: Institutional Factors Driving Gender Quotas for Boards of Directors.” Journal of Business Ethics: n. pag. Print.

Terjesen, S., R. Sealy, and V. Singh. “Women Directors on Corporate Boards: A Review and Research Agenda.” Corporate Governance: An International Review (2009): n. pag. Print.

Torchia, M., A. Calabro, and M. Huse. “Women Directors on Corporate Boards: From Tokenism to Critical Mass.” Journal of Business Ethics (2011): n. pag. Print.

Vinnicombe, S., and V. Singh. “Women-Only Management Training: An Essential Part of Women’s Leadership Development.” Journal of Change Management (2003): n. pag. Print.

 

This Week’s #HCWC #WCW: Laurie Penny

Laurie WCW
Photo courtesy of Flickr user re:publica

Each week HCWC will spotlight a woman within the Harvard community or beyond whose work and actions we deem to be “crush worthy.” We encourage you to participate in our #WCW  via your various social media platforms by sharing the women we honor each week to bring light to their important work.

Who she is: Laurie Penny, columnist and author, Nieman Fellow and Berkman Fellow at Harvard

Why she’s our #WCW: Laurie Penny is the author of a variety of books, blog posts, and articles that engage with feminist themes, including Penny Red: Notes from a New Age of Dissent, Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution, and Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism. Penny also writes courageously and passionately for The New Statesman about why we need feminism, the challenges (or myth) of work-life balance as a working woman, and the importance of gender-neutral language. Her Twitter presence is spectacular, and her writing serves to challenge, motivate and inspire us to think critically about the world we live in.


To nominate another #WCW, please use our form! Happy #WCW from #HCWC!