Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better?

Marissa Mayer speaks onstage at the FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Dinner New York City at Hudson Room at the Time Warner Center on May 24, 2011 in New York City.

Now that Yahoo has hired Google executive Marissa Mayer to be its next CEO, the subject of feminine leadership is topical.  Maker, 37,  is extraordinary by any standards. She was one of Google’s earliest employees who began her career at Google in 1999 after getting her master’s degree in computer science from Stanford. Fred Amoroso, Yahoo’s chairman, says the board was drawn to Mayer’s “unparalleled track record in technology, design, and product execution.” Among Mayer’s list of talents and accomplishments, she is a math whiz with a photographic memory. In her time at Google, she led teams that produced many of the company’s most recognizable products, including the development of its flagship search product and the iconic Google homepage. She managed the launch of more than 100 features and products including Google News, and Gmail and is credited with overseeing the creation of much of the clean, uncluttered “look and feel” of many Google products.

Do Women Really Make Better Leaders?

Articles over the years have claimed that women make better managers than men, including this article by Forbes. According to Forbes, research shows that “strong market growth among European companies is most likely to occur where there is a higher proportion of women in senior management teams.” It shows that firms with more women on their boards “outperform their rivals with a 42% higher return on sales, 66% higher return on invested capital and 53% higher return on equity.”

Other research cited in Harvard business review found that teams which involve women are more intelligent than teams made up of men alone.  Professors Woolley and Malone, along with Christopher Chabris, Sandy Pentland, and Nada Hashmi, gave subjects aged 18 to 60 standard intelligence tests and assigned them randomly to teams. Each team was asked to complete several tasks—including brainstorming, decision making, and visual puzzles—and to solve one complex problem, and the teams were given intelligence scores based on their performance. Surprisingly, the teams that had members with higher IQs didn’t earn much higher scores, but those that had more women did. According to the researchers:

Malone: It’s a preliminary finding—and not a conventional one. The standard argument is that diversity is good and you should have both men and women in a group. But so far, the data show, the more women, the better.

Woolley: We have early evidence that performance may flatten out at the extreme end—that there should be a little gender diversity rather than all women.

But does this mean that women are inherently better managers than men? I’ll provide the answer to that question at the end of this article.

Smarter Work Groups

The study cited above found that women tend to make a group work better. Here are the key findings:

Smarter Groups Listen and Share Better: The study saw no strong correlation with individual IQs. Although 10 of the smartest people could make the smartest group, it wouldn’t necessarily be the most effective. What great groups share is not that the members are all very smart but that they listen to each other, share criticism constructively, have open minds, and aren’t autocratic. In fact the study showed that  groups that had smart people dominating the conversation were not very intelligent groups.

Smarter Groups Are Moderately Diverse: The research also finds that extremely homogeneous or extremely diverse groups aren’t as intelligent – a moderate level of cognitive diversity is most effective.

Collective Intelligence can be Designed: Although you can change an individual’s intelligence only so much, the study’s authors believe that it’s completely possible to markedly change a group’s intelligence. You could increase it by changing members or incentives for collaboration, for instance. There is evidence to suggest that collective intelligence exists at the organizational level, too. Companies that do well at scanning the environment and setting targets also excel at managing internal operations and mentoring employees—and have better financial performance. Consistent performance across disparate areas of functioning suggests an organizational collective intelligence, which could be used to predict company performance.

5 Feminine Leadership Secrets

So what are the successful qualities that tend to be more highly developed in women? Forbes put together a list of 5. I took 4 of theirs, and added a 5th of my own:

1. Communication: Harvard Business School professor Nitin Nohria, who writes that great leaders “spend the bulk of their time communicating.” Women are thought to be better at verbalizing what they think.

2. Perspective: It is important to have diverse viewpoints, and the best way to do this is to bring in people who understand those viewpoints intimately. Chief executive of the National Skills Academy for Financial Services (NSAFS), Sylvian Perrins, writes in the Financial Times, that she believes that women look at problems differently and provide a complementary point of view:

They are well placed to understand their customers and stakeholders and ensure the industry benefits from fresh perspectives, new ideas and broader experiences. It is always good to see things from different perspectives and if women are not represented on boards their point of view and a large proportion of the general population’s view wouldn’t be heard. Consequently, having different genders and ethnicities brings a tangible added value to the business. The best teams are made up of a different mixture of skills and backgrounds which bring spark and innovation to organisations.

3. Empathy: According to a white paper published by the Center for Creative Leadership, the ability to understand what others are feeling — to detect if they are overworked or struggling — is a skill that “clearly contributes to effective leadership,”

4. Risk Aware, Long-term Thinking 

Halla Tomasdottir and Kristin Petursdottir

The tendency to think long term  has come to be seen as a feminine trait. In particular, according to investment firm CEO Halla Tomadottir: “We [are] very careful, and very risk-aware – risk-aware, not risk-averse. Women are risk-aware, men are risk takers.

Halla Tomasdottir and Kristin Petursdottir, set up investment firm Audur Capital in Iceland in 2007, with Kristin as CEO, believing that the male-female balance matters because each bring different values to the table. Women, in particular, they believe Says Halla, the Audur chairman:

Women tend to bring a lot to the table. They think more long-term, they think about the team, and not only themselves. They think more about people, and they see other business opportunities than men.

There is another, crucial difference, they find: “Women are willing to ask stupid questions. We want to understand. We won’t take risks we don’t understand, so we ask: what is sub-prime? Who’ll pay these loans back?”

Prioritizing Corporate Governance: Part of being risk-aware is greater emphasis on corporate governance. Halla says:

You do need people that put ethics and corporate governance high on the agenda. I have learnt through years in personnel management that women tend to put these values higher on the agenda. They’re also interested in a wider definition of what’s a good return.

Results Speak Louder Than Words: Kristin and Halla are convinced that their results prove them right:

Our values got us through the crisis. We tripled out wealth management business when everyone else was losing business. We achieved this through trust, and the things we stand for. And straight talking. We told our clients things that they would not have been told elsewhere. We believe in being authentic to our clients, that’s in our DNA.

5. Work Life Balance

In my personal experience, organizations where there was a greater representation of women among management placed greater emphasis on work life balance. As women still tend to be the caregivers at the home, these organizations were more open to flexible work arrangements, including flexible work schedules and telecommuting. Undoubtedly, female management has had a positive influence on corporate culture in this area.

“Feminine” Leadership Qualities

study by Bain and Company of female leaders found that female interviewees felt that women were advantaged in six of 10 leadership characteristics identified.  These include the ability to empower others and to be a listener. The women interviewed felt that some of their traditionally feminine traits are an advantage, particularly in forming relationships with clients and colleagues. Examples these women leaders cited include:

  • Building relationships: “Women are generally calm and don’t possess a huge amount of ego upfront, which is helpful for building relationships with Main Street CEOs.”
  • Investing in others: “Women are better at consensus building and care more about people and how they are feeling about their roles.”
  • Reading people: “Women tend to be more empathetic and better listeners than their male counterparts, which makes them better at reading people.”

Bottom Line: Sensibilities, Not Gender, Determine Leadership Style

So are women really better managers than men? Anecdotal claims make for a compelling narrative and an empowering myth, but, in fact, the most reliable research reveals that leadership style is independent of gender:

Those contending that leadership competencies are largely the domain of the female gender are as guilty of stereotyping as those who would equate effective leadership with male characteristics.

Woolley states:

Many studies have shown that women tend to score higher on tests of social sensitivity than men do. So what is really important is to have people who are high in social sensitivity, whether they are men or women.

The fact is, it isn’t accurate to identify the leadership qualities typically enumerated as female leadership qualities as male or female., or engage in gender stereotyping.

The good news for both genders is that the qualities that society traditionally associates with women are  possessed by men as well.

3 Takeaways: The important takeaways are these:

  • Certain qualities that society associates with “the feminine” make for good management skills. These are qualities that leaders of either gender can tap into.
  • Diversity improves organizational effectiveness.
  • Work life balance makes for a better work environment

As leaders, we should be open to new learning. If qualities that are traditionally associated with feminine behavior appear to make for improved leadership, we should be prepared to embrace them. Gender equality and parity is not only a basic human right, but adds perspective, balance and improves organizational results.

Snap! principle of successful “feminine” leadership qualities:

Be as much in touch with “feminine” as “masculine” leadership qualities.


Growth Of US Hispanic Buying Power

Incredible Growth In Buying Power

According to a special report by Santa Monica-based market research firm IBISWorld featured in the Examiner, Hispanics  make up about 16.6% of the US population in 2011, representing roughly 56% of total population growth over the past decade. Data in the 2010 Census points to a surging Hispanic presence in the United States, spurring numerous questions about the demographic’s influence on spending and the economy. By 2016, this group will comprise 17.8% of US residents, furthering its impact on the US economy as its presence and buying power climb. For more than two decades, Hispanic buying power growth has outstripped that of the general population. Despite difficulties during and following the recession of 2009, buying power among Hispanics continues to escalate steeply.

  • Overall Hispanic buying power is $1.1 trillion in 2011, 9.5% of the US total*
  • Over the next 5 years, buying power is forecast to grow 48.1% to $1.6 trillion
  • By contrast,  the nation’s buying power will grow only 27.5% to $14.7 trillion.

Young and Hip

The Hispanic population is comprised of a wide variety of ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Understanding this diversity has been fundamental to various companies’ ability to capture a substantial share of the market. But, there are some unifying characteristics that are distinctive of this group, such as its young age relative to that of the general population and its aforementioned rapid buying power growth.

The “Ad Value Research Study” also reports that the Spanish-speaking and bilingual Hispanic internet user segments are about 10 percent to 15 percent more likely than non-Hispanics to participate in various internet activities, including streaming a major sports or entertainment event (43 percent vs. 31 percent), receiving coupons or special offers from a mobile phone while shopping (40 percent vs. 28 percent) and checking in using location-based mobile apps to broadcast across social networks (32 percent vs. 20 percent).

A Key Health Care Consumer Demographic

A new national survey commissioned by Cultur Health, the Hispanic healthcare communications service of the vox collective and Cooney/Waters Group, suggests health care marketers should target Hispanic women ages 25-35. Why?

  • This rapidly growing demographic are key health care gatekeepers. That means they are managing not only their own health needs, but frequently those of their families, parents, grandparents and other relatives.
  • This age group relies heavily on their families and community stakeholders for health care information and product recommendations, highlighting the importance of engaging all relevant influencers. Health care provider influence and recommendation came in a close second.
  • A 59% majority of Latinas say they go to a doctor for help with a health care concern.
  • 30% named other sources including a relative, spouse, friend or pharmacist.

Personal connections play a large role in purchasing decisions. When asked who influences their decisions to buy consumer or over-the-counter health care products, respondents’ most frequent responses were:

  • Friends, family and neighbors (64 percent)
  • Pharmacist (52%).
  • Only 21% cited advertising.

An 89% majority of women surveyed  percent) reported that they pay for health care expenses through either their own employee insurance, or their spouse’s insurance. “Increasingly, younger Hispanics are insured, and companies that target them will be well positioned now and in the future,” says Fred Lake of Cooney/Waters.

* Source: Selig Center for Economic Growth.

Watch the Video of Jim Yong Kim rapping here.

Surprise Nominee – Meet Dr. DJ Jim Yong Kim

President Barack Obama has nominated Dartmouth College president and global health expert Dr. Jim Yong Kim, age 52, to lead the World Bank. Dr. Kim is a Korean-born physician, born in Seoul, who moved  to the US at the age of five and was raised in Iowa. He has been a pioneer in the treatment of HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis, and has the breadth of experience on development issues needed to carry out the financial institution’s anti-poverty mission.  Dr Kim is a leading figure in global health. Before Dartmouth, he led the global-health and social-medicine department at Harvard Medical School. At the World Health Organization, he focused on helping developing countries improve AIDS treatment and prevention programs. He has also worked on tuberculosis, including efforts to cut the cost of treatment and finding treatments for drug-resistant strains. He also co-founded the health organisation Partners in Health in 1987.

A Rare Personality – J to the K

He also has a personality. Dr. Kim, the first physician to ever serve as head of the school was known for wearing a green tie every day since becoming president of the school in 2009,  and wore a green tie to the White House dinner.  Dr. Kim was the first Asian American to lead an Ivy League school. Mr. Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1959, and moved with his family to the U.S. at age 5. He grew up in Muscatine, Iowa. He graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. from Brown University in 1982, and then received his M.D. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003.

Dr. Kim was also featured in Conan O’Brien’s Dartmouth commencement address  in 2011.

“I would like to thank President Kim for inviting me here today.  … He goes by President Kim and Dr. Kim.  To his friends, he’s Jim Kim, J to the K, Special K, JK Rowling, the Just Kidding Kimster, and most puzzling, ‘Stinky Pete.’ ” Mr. O’Brien then ran through all of Mr. Kim’s achievements, and then asked:  ”Good God, man, what the hell are you compensating for?  Seriously.  We get it; you’re smart.”

More Diverse Representation, More Expertise

The 187-nation World Bank has always been headed by an American. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were created at the conference at Bretton Woods in 1944 as a means to regulate trade between nations in the aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II.  It is a  institution that currently fights world poverty and promotes development, and a leading source of development loans for countries seeking financing to build infrastructure projects.

Developing countries, who have long sought to gain more power in the organization, have planned an unprecedented challenge to Obama’s pick and are expected to put forward as many as three other candidates.  In a recent editorial, three former chief economists of the World Bank – Francois Bourguignon, Nicholas Stern and Joseph Stiglitz – argued for an end to the US “monopoly” on running the institution.

Dr. Kim is seen as an unconventional pick that could help to quell criticism in the developing world of the U.S. stranglehold on the international organization’s top post.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first recommended that Obama consider Mr. Kim for the World Bank post. President Obama considered more than a dozen candidates, including well-known figures in the administration, but finally pushed for a nominee with broad development experience.  To show how unconventional a pick he is, consider some of the other names rumoured to be under consideration, including former White House adviser Larry Summers, Pepsi head Indra Nooyi, and UN ambassador Susan Rice.

“It’s time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency,” Obama said Friday morning during a Rose Garden ceremony,” President Obama said. “Jim has truly global experience. He has worked from Asia to Africa to the Americas, from capitals to small villages,” Obama said. “His personal story exemplifies the great diversity to our country.”

In a WSJ Health Blog interview in 2009, Al Mulley, a Dartmouth trustee, said: “It wasn’t so much his medical background that appealed to us, but rather what he has done with his medical background,” He added: “He has used his intellectual inquiry to tackle some of the most complex, vexing problems across the world.”

Challenging a US Monopoly

A US national traditionally heads the World Bank while a European runs the IMF – currently France’s Christine Lagarde.  Emerging economies have become increasingly unhappy with this arrangement and are pushing for change. The vote on the next president is expected to be a formality, but it won’t be uncontested. In a joint statement, Angola, Nigeria and South Africa pledged their support to Ms Okonjo-Iweala. “The endorsement is in line with the belief that the appointment of the leadership of the World Bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, should be merit-based, open and transparent,” the statement said.

Speaking at a news conference, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala said: “I consider the World Bank a very important institution for the world, and particularly for developing countries deserving of the best leadership, so I look forward to a contest of very strong candidates. And am I confident? Absolutely.”

US development economist Jeffrey Sachs had also been put forward by several smaller, developing countries and had argued that the World Bank should be led by a development expert.

How the Selection Process Works

The selection will be made next month by the World Bank’s 25-member executive board.  Votes in both the World Bank and the IMF are weighted by financial contribution.  Some member nations have their own seats – the US and UK, for example – while others are grouped into constituencies.  A simple majority is needed to make the selection. The United States, as the world’s largest economy, has the largest percentage (16%) of the votes, and EU countries have a further 29%.  They are likely to support a US-nominated candidate, in order to preserve the long-standing informal deal which has seen the World Bank run by an American and the IMF by a European.

Following Dr Kim’s nomination, Jeffrey Sachs announced his withdrawal from the race. “Prof Sachs supports Dr Kim 100% and with complete enthusiasm,” his spokeswoman said.

Jim Yong Kim and wife Younsook Lim

A Crowd Pleaser but a Diplomat

Dr. Kim is expected to travel around the world on a listening tour to rally support for his nomination ahead of the board’s vote. He certainly has demonstrated the ability to win over a crowd.  During Dartmouth Idol in 2011, Kim performed the Black Eyed Peas’ “Dirty Bit” version of the song The Time of My Life, rapping, robot-dancing and getting down. However, he does have a commanding diplomatic presence as well, as shown in this photo of him with his wife, Younsook Lim. Overall, Dr. Kim is a well rounded candidate whose contributions to world development and sensibilities as a Korean American tell a compelling personal story -a breath of fresh air.

Related Stories

Women are Underrepresented in Financial Services

If women account for 85% of all consumer purchase, including 89% of all bank accounts, 80% of healthcare and 91% of new homes, they are an important consumer demographic for financial services.  Yet, as Mary Zimmer, Head of International Wealth RBC U.S. Wealth Management, points out in her article in the March 2012 issue of Investment AdvisorInvestment Advisor, women made up less than one-third of personal financial advisors in 2010. Additionally,  women comprise less than a25% of all senior officers in the financial services and insurance industries, according to the 2010 Catalyst Census of Women Executive Officers. And a study  by American Express showed that just 20% of finance and insurance firms are owned by women.

One disconnect is that the number of small businesses owned by women is exploding. In December 2009, a report from The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute estimated that women small business owners will be responsible for creating over half of the 9.72 million new small business jobs and about one-third of the 15.3 million total new jobs the Bureau of Labor Statistics believes will be generated by the year 2018.

The industry needs to develop new strategies to attract and support women professionals. Some strategies include:

  • Increasing the number of experienced women financial advisors through mentoring, succession planning and leadership opportunities;
  • Helping internal associates grow into higher-profile roles;
  • Retaining women corporate employees;
  • Recruiting the next generation of industry leaders;
  • Growing female client bases by focusing on women investors.

At this challenging time in the financial services industry, an underserved market is waiting to be served.

Snap principle of underserved markets:

Represent your markets.



February is Black History Month. What are you doing to celebrate it? Think about this for a moment.  Do you think people aren’t quick to detect cynicism, seeing how companies are piggybacking on Black History Month?

“It has turned into a mundane, meaningless and commercialized farce,” according to this commentary by Huffington Post blogger Akilah Bolden-Monifa. She concludes:

Instead of a month of perfunctory gestures, we need yearlong efforts of recognizing African Americans who made – and continue to make – a contribution.

Many people hold concerns about black history being delegated to a single month.  Morgan Freeman, a critic of Black History Month, said “I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.”

But this doesn’t mean to take your African American customers for granted. It’s just important that you do it from an African American perspective. When a corporation that is not noted for ethnic diversity runs a Black History Month ad,  it’s often viewed with skepticism. Perfunctory treatment is worse than no acknowledgement at all. An example was an ad run by a large regional bank I worked with that depicted an African American teacher in front of a blank board. Some of the scathing reactions I heard were  “Really, you needn’t have bothered!” and “That must have taken a lot of thought. It really is offensive to view the holiday from a self-serving and self-referential perspective that does not begin to deal with the nuances of meaning and relevance to the intended audience. 

Meanwhile the competition was running an ad was associating the opening of an account with them with jumping the broom.

The broom jumping ceremony is a poignant reminder of a time when African American wedding vows were not legally sanctioned, and  the legitimacy of marriage was sought by jumping over the broom into the bonds of marriage. It’s an acknowledgement of  connection with a proud heritage, legitimacy,dignity and the strength of family bonds.  In a word, it’s a powerful message of respect and a clear indicator that “They get me. They are me.”

Snap Marketing Principle of Cultural Perspective

People like to do business with people like themselves.