Archive for June, 2018

Harry Potter guide: Better ways to work for women

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

hpDon’t do everything

Don’t shape shift

  1. Don’t do everything

JK Rowling has been responsible for a generation of children learning to love literature.  In 2013 she was named a national literacy hero by the National Literacy Trust.  In her books and her films she defined femininity for a generation of girls who are now grown up.

Her heroine Hermione Grainger is cleverer than the boys.  She is also so hard working that she leaps at the magic technology of the Time Turner which allows her to go to two different classes simultaneously.  This seems very similar to the trope that working women hear about needing to work twice as hard as any man in order to succeed.  As I wrote in The Glass Wall: “existing material tends to advise women that to get on they need to work harder, be more ‘superwoman’…. This is more of what they have been doing. Meanwhile men are getting further and doing less.”  Don’t do everything, work smarter not harder.

  1. Don’t shape shift

“The veela had started to dance, and Harry’s mind had gone completely and blissfully blank. All that mattered in the world was that he kept watching the veela, because if they stopped dancing, terrible things would happen… .
And as the veela danced faster and faster, wild, half-formed thoughts started chasing through Harry’s dazed mind. He wanted to do something very impressive, right now. Jumping from the box into
the stadium seemed a good idea…” Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Another example of femininity in Harry Potter are the Veela.  Veela are a race of semi-magical beings who are able to seduce men and boys at will.  For those interested they seem to be based on Slavic folklaw.  They’re shape-shifters.  Capable of charming men with their dance and their beauty, if they get annoyed they can kill with a glance.  Whilst they appear to be beautiful if they’re angry they change into harpies, vicious and ugly and terrifying.  Shape-shifting is something many women at work often feel obliged to do.  They must maintain the appearance of beauty whilst getting everything done.

It takes a huge amount of effort.  Effort spent on making sure that they look good and are approved of in every situation at the same time as working hard on the project in hand.  Going out of their way to complete tasks perfectly at the same time as looking flawless.  Smiling charmingly through whatever stress they’re under.  As Kimberley Harrington wrote in her satirical article for the New Yorker:

  • “I have two kids andthe unspoken pressure to act like they don’t exist when I’m on a conference call.”
  • “I have male colleagues who tell me I’m not aggressive enough and that I will never get what I want out of my team andfemale colleagues who tell me I’m too aggressive and that I make them sad.”
  • “I have the confidence to speak my mind, asking hard-hitting questions about the project I’m working on, andthe ability to keep my ears from bleeding when a roomful of male clients explains to me what I don’t understand about the female target audience.”

Is it too much effort to seek perfection and approval in every instance?  Of course it is.  The bar is set too high, the need for perfection is unrealistic.  We need to make it clear to women at work that shape shifting isn’t a requirement.




Does your job pay you enough? Here’s one different way to work it out

Friday, June 1st, 2018

Slow and steady hauling by hand positions boat and net in a vertical alignment so that the winch can lift “the bag” containing the catch. The 55-foot wooden otter trawler Reneva, owned by Raymond Duarte, was spending the day dragging off Stellwagen Bank. Left to right: Russell Perry, Duarte, David Gonsalves and (partly hidden) David Carreiro. Cape Cod Times/Milton Moore

What do you go to work for?

Success is getting up and spending all day doing something you enjoy, and then getting paid for it.

There may well be a proportion of the day that you don’t enjoy.  Essentially that is the part you would only do for pay.  One way of looking at it is that this is the part you get paid for.  Because you’d do that bit of the day that you enjoy for nothing.  So if you enjoy most of the day but spend an hour a day doing something that you don’t enjoy – that’s a great daily pay rate.  Your pay per dull hour is really high.  The whole day’s pay as a reward for the one hour that you don’t enjoy.   If you spend eight hours a day doing something that you don’t enjoy, that’s dull or unpleasant – that’s relatively a terrible rate of pay per dull hour.

Research by Lightspeed GMI for The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business, the best selling book about gender equality at work, showed that over 45% of the workforces of UK, Russia and US, would like to change careers.  That’s too high, there’s too many people on a terrible rate per dull hour.

Choosing the wrong business to work in starts early in life.  Nine out of ten grads change jobs by the time they are twenty-four.

Part of the problem as you start your career is that you have no idea of what work is actually going to be like.  Many undergrads will be eagerly researching careers right about now with finals looming.  The one thing they can’t know is what proportion of their job will be dull.  Or what parts of the job they’d do for nothing.

One solution of course is to ensure that there’s real meaning in the  work.  Two thirds of Brits think that it is the responsibility for brands to give back to society.  More than half of millennials state that they would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company.  And this group now make up the majority of employees in many companies.

Mia Vanstraelen, HR director for IBM, says that you can tell the difference in people’s enthusiasm for the day job by how they talk about it.  Their research found that there is a 125% improvement in productivity in staffers who say “I want to go to work today” versus those who say “I have to go to work today”.  This means many businesses don’t actually need more employees in a team to deliver great work but actually they need happier employees.

The upside would pay huge dividends across most workplaces, according to Vanstraelen, as stats indicate that only 15% of employees are fully “engaged” at work.

There’s hundreds of factors that come into play to help to drive this engagement, or enthusiasm.  Culture is crucial.  Purpose and meaning are very important too.

If you want more from your job, you could stop looking around (the grass may not be greener) and start measuring your pay per dull hour and see if you can take steps to improve it.  If you want more from your employees include purpose and meaning in their day jobs that mean that they’d want to do the work anyway.