Podcast – Debbie Goodman on women at executive level

Ray: We’re going to discuss the Big Five interesting facts about women at executive level. My guest tonight is the CEO of Jack Hammer, Debbie Goodman. Let’s go through the big five and I’ve got them right in front of me so I’m going to read them through and id like your thoughts: 1. When applying for Top Leadership roles men are much more likely to apply than women, even if they lack some of the key requirements for the job. That doesn’t sound right…

Debbie: Well it’s data-based and quite factual and there has been quite a number of research studies done recently and what the data shows is that men are much more likely to put their hand up for a promotion or a new opportunity externally, even if they don’t have all the credentials required than a woman at the same level. I see it anecdotally as well, as running an executive search firm, constantly engaging with professionals and executives and we often see that women will take a look at a role profile and say “well actually you know I don’t think I am right for this role or ready for this” whereas the men are far more likely to say well “I haven’t got this, I haven’t got that but I’m sure I can wing it”.

Ray: That is so interesting, I kind of like the whole approach of “I think I can wing it” – I don’t think females should have to wing it.

Ray: Second point – female appointments at exec levels remain in static over the past four years between 28% and 32%, once again way too low.

Debbie: Well, just remember that this is a snapshot view of executive level appointments across the range of industry sectors. We’ve been measuring this data (Jack Hammer has been measuring this data) for quite a number of years and what we’ve seen is that the numbers, the percentages are just really, really static. I just got really excited, too, when I looked at the numbers at the end of 2016 we had gone up by a whole 2% in terms of female executive level appointments. If, for example, I see another 2% at the end of 2017 and at the end of 2018 all with the same trajectory upwards I will start getting very excited, I think. So far over the last four years it’s just been very wavering and teetering around the 30% mark not going anywhere.

Ray: Looking at the female appointments at that exec levels remain static over the past four years between 28%-32%; that’s just not right also there is a greater percentage of women in exec roles in other countries in Africa than in South Africa, so we’ve got some work to do.

Debbie: Well, yes, this is based on some research that we conducted looking particularly at the consumer sector of multi-nationals in South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. So, once again, it’s not completely across the board but you have to sort of ring-fence at some point and what you see is that, particularly in Ghana and Nigeria, we do see female executive appointments it’s significantly higher by about 5% or so than South Africa.

Ray: Debbie there is also an ongoing disparity in the number of women leading core areas of a business versus the number of men. You know look, just reading through these points I thought its now, what’s it? 2017, we’d gone way beyond this.

Debbie: Yes, one would think so wouldn’t one?! Just think about your own organisation and I am sure listeners will do the same, particularly in big corporations and once again remember this is a view that focuses primarily on big corporations. When you look at the very top level, the CEO is typically male and the people who are running core areas of the business the CFO, COO and people who are MDs of subsidiaries, responsibility for profit and loss, those are all typically men. Women are populating roles that are secondary functions such as that of a support services, such as HR, Marketing, Legal – there the numbers go up a little but they are mostly in support services and not running core areas of the business.

Ray: And then lastly, digital transformation of businesses is dominated by men; Head of Digital, Chief Digital Officers predominantly male; this is one of the key leading leadership roles of the future, very few women in sight, less than 25%.

Debbie: Well I mean, just remember this in fact that as a role in itself is quite a new job, we haven’t seen at an executive or leadership level a Chief Digital Officer globally but in South Africa this is something relatively new over the last couple of years. We’ve done research once again and, certainly, in searches that we have conducted looking for people who are Head of Digital or running digital functions who could take organisations through a process of digital transformation, there are really, really very few women who are being appointed to these roles, stepping up to these roles and in the general sphere of having that capability to take an organisation through a leadership transformation. When I say capability I am sure there are many highly capable women, let me enforce that but we are not seeing them occupying those roles for the moment.

Ray: Right! We are talking about the Big Five interesting facts about women at top executive level. Debbie, why is it this happening. Do we need to have legislation? I know we’ve got BEE legislation, do we need to go that far and say this isn’t happening we’re looking at figures of 28%, 32%, 30% and 25% in all our key areas. What do we need to do?

Debbie: Firstly, let me just say that this is not uniquely a South African issue; yes, we’ve seen some interesting numbers in other countries in Africa but globally these numbers are very similar to what we see in countries all over the world. There are some countries where the numbers are a bit more equal in the Nordic regions perhaps but certainly this is a global phenomenon and this has been looked at from so many different perspectives; why women only make up 30% of leadership roles or less, why they are so few CEO leadership roles, CEO roles that are being occupied by women and lots of people have got different reasons and different stories. If I were to put forward why I think it’s like this and when do I think it’s going to change, once again multiple reasons for that – I think what I’ve been looking for is some kind of critical mass because we know that things start to change when there is a critical mass towards a tipping point. And why I say I watch those numbers around that sort of static 30% is until its starts edging up a little that critical mass isn’t going to be there, the prevailing view around what it takes to be a CEO is still going to be dominated by the current prevailing view, which is that it’s mostly a role for men. An interesting research study was recently done, it’s called the CEO Genome project, Harvard Business Review produced some data on this and they showed that the predominant view of boards in the US still believe that the most suitable person to occupy a CEO role is a white male, tall, good looking and charismatic.

Ray: #Sigh

Debbie: As crazy as that may sound those static views are still there. Now, they will change, I don’t know when, I’ve been doing what I do for a very long time and I haven’t seen a lot of shift but I do think that at some point in the next few years, we are going to start seeing some kind of critical mass that will tip the scales.

Ray: I’d like to see that, I really would.

Ray: CEO of Jack Hammer, Debbie Goodman, great to have you on the Money Show this evening.

Debbie: Thanks so much Ray.

Ray: That really got me there, 28%, 32%; these are some of the numbers in the different sections 30% and 25% in digital transformation of businesses dominated by men, only 25% women in that field, it just doesn’t feel right to me.

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