Equal pay, ICT industry, men, women and profiling

The so called gaffe by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his statements about women, pay, and the pay gap and some of the opinion pieces penned as a result made me wonder. I frankly don’t think that Mr Nadella thinks that women should be paid less than men, but I do believe that he (unfortunately) might be on the correct side of history when he says that women often can be more uncomfortable in asking in any job related situation than most men.

John Fortt has penned a good opinion piece about the situation where I think he is on to something. In the piece Mr Fortt asks if meritocracies can be biased and he gives #Netflix as an example, from personal experience I can only answer that “Yes” and that includes Netflix.

But the basic issue that needs to change isn’t so much the payment practises as such, they are only the result of the basic flaws and symptoms on the sickness – that unless you as an employee is recognisable by the high-tech recruiter you will not even get hired so forget about getting the pay you deserve.

In my business and city, all one have to do is to take a look around and you start singing the old James Brown song “This is a man’s world” but without adding the following praise to women. There are so many organisations representing the [ICT] industry that only have men hired, or only men at the senior levels, it is frightening. Saying the industry is a bit of a lad is an understatement of the century. So, based on the fact that we women doesn’t even count enough to get hired, why do we even bother about the payment scales? I am not saying it isn’t important and that they need to be adjusted, but if we as women doesn’t even count in the work force? So sorry, people, let’s start with the basics and see to that we as women count, get hired and that our competencies count as much as a men’s so we get hired, then we can deal with the payment scales.

When corporate strategy is undone by your employees surpassing identified standards what do you do?

I’m reading up for the last home work piece for my Masters in Corporate Communications, Organisational Identity (and I find it so boring) and one the required articles discuss corporate strategy and how that and organisational identity can support each other. But the interesting issue appear when your employees undermine any strategy by upping the ante and actually doing better than the strategy sets out.

To give an example: hotel maids. You know how we are all asked if we mind keeping our towels more than one night? The request usually comes with a long explanation on how much water this will save, and I don’t know what. But whatever, I haven’t got a problem with the request. Sloth that I am, I admit to using my towels at home more than once so it’s OK to do so when I stay at a hotel too. Thus, I dutifully hang my towels (to be reused) on the designated hook in the bathroom. But, more often than not, when I get back there are new and fresh towels on the aforementioned hooks. Not that I mind, but it seems like the head quarter strategy haven’t made it to “the floor.” There might be many reasons for this; maybe it’s  easier for the maids to change all the towels rather than checking which guest is OK with keeping them, maybe they are disgruntled and this is their only way to protest? Is it because that these employees don’t feel a part of the organisational identity, and that they simply don’t care?

One word, I do not in any way or form criticise the maids.

Whatever the reason this doesn’t work, it does diminish a nice approach, all the calculations and, above all, it makes the hotel [chain] look like they’re not on top of it. Is it lacking internal communications? Is the measure offending the maids in their work ethics and professional pride?

The reasons are many but the question is one: How do you align all staff in the [new] corporate strategies?

Dearth of Women in Juncker’s Commission – But Stop Moping Its Competence Not Gender That Counts

In the wake of President Juncker’s announcement of the members of the new European Commission the overall comments seems to be ”Not enough women.” And yes, 9 women out of 28 is far cry from 50-50. And being a woman with certain aspirations myself; I do find it abysmally bad that the Member States can’t do better on the area of gender balance on senior top positions. But there is one question I don’t seem to find and that is Why? I have yet to see one person officially asking why this skewed situation the case.

Could it be that the national senior posts are filled with only men? (An incredibly sad state in itself should this be the case.) Maybe the Member States didn’t look hard enough? Could it be that the women asked actually weren’t all that interested? We simply don’t know. What we see is a bad result but nothing about the process leading up to this result.

What we do know however, that we are many competent women that are out there that are not considered because it does seem to be that W2M that are then norm.

But what ire immensely in this whole debate is the general approach that it is only gender that counts, and because we are women our competencies are interchangeable. Well, here’s a surprise for you – we are NOT! Just as little, actually are men, but no one seems to think that is the case.

So, yes let’s keep our eyes on the ball – a gender balanced society, but let’s not go overboard on the way getting there.

When ignorance reigns what do you as an employee do?

Having just joined a new European Parliamentary party I am in the middle of setting up the office which include staffing. Admittedly the situation is delicate because there are in essence two almost parallel organisations: one in Brussels and one in the home country. The Brussels based organisation is rather autonomous in relation to the “home” organisation.

Problem is the home boys want to get involved in, in particular, the staffing process which is very unfortunate since they have little or no insight nor knowledge how the European Parliament works and/or functions. As a result they are recruiting staff that will not be a support to the Member of European Parliament. Home boys have based their needs analysis on the experience they have gained from the national parliament (in Sweden.) Competencies that has little or no bearing on the European Parliament.

So, being a loyal employee I have proposed another set-up that will bring the support in Brussels that we need to do our job. However, it is a bit badly timed since there are imminent changes in the political group to which we belong so this in its turn means that the positions that are currently staffed are by no means certain that they will remain ”ours.” Or in other words we can loose a couple of positions which already have been, maybe not confirmed so at least in the wind. I have received no answer from the home boys, although today I got an inkling of what they thought when I got an email with a wording along the lines “if you just answered my question instead of always obstructing.” To this already rather dynamic situation we can also add the fact that none of the positions currently being staffed are confirmed.Then of course is the fact that the EP has a fairly heavy vetting process, so it is by no means guaranteed that the candidates identified by the home boys actually will be confirmed.

Yes, I understand there are party consideration that needs to be taken into account but in my eyes it is equally important is ensuring having the competencies around that will help you shine. And what party considerations would suffer if you took a minute and asked about the state of play?

So yes, I have piped up. Frankly I think the voters deserve and can expect to get a working organisation. Arrogant?

Or to quote a bigger spirit: “Never be a spectator to unfairness or stupidity. The grave will supply plenty of time for silence.” dixit Christopher Hitchens

This time it’s different – yeah right…

I don’t think there has been a bigger agreement in the European Parliament and the European Commission that the time to reform Europe, in order to save it, has come. Pity then that the result is as drastic as rearranging the deck chairs on Titanic.

Remember the election slogan “This time it’s different”? It was the promise we voters got. Now was the end of shady backroom deals. But this was a highly polished version of the truth. To use a mild euphemism. Because the fact is that there has never been more backroom dealing like the one we’ve seen these past weeks and the winners are the usual suspects and the losers us voters, subsequent loss of respect for [European] democracy can be considered as collateral damage.

So what we have now is a Commission president that seemingly didn’t want the job, that wasn’t on any ballot and is being sent to an institution that seemingly despairs his arrival.

But as a gloomy reality we live in for the moment and the fact that institutions appear at their worst as this backroom dealing is done this is still the best opportunity we’ve had in a long time to reform the EU.

How to fail in public affairs and communications

This is an exact copy of an email we just received. Seriously? They are congratulating an outgoing Member of European Parliament to his recent win (we lost.)

Dear Mr. Engström,

Congratulations on your recent election to the European Parliament.

I am writing to introduce you to our communications company, ALYS Web Design. With over 10 years of solid experience working in Brussels for both corporate and institutional clients, including several Members of the European Parliament, we are at your service for all your digital communication needs (website, e-newsletter, social media…).

I would invite you to explore our extensive portfolio and would be happy to meet with you and your team at your convenience to explain our working methods and answer any questions you may have.
Yours sincerely,
Pierre Neuray
For a quick glimpse at some of our ‘political’ references:

So dear agency, Alys, do your homework before you start spamming us.


Branding the European Parliament Post-Juncker

One thing that I have asked myself in these last days during the debacle over instating, or not instating, Mr Juncker as the next European Commission chairman is how this will affect the branding of the European Parliament and subsequently future voting.

As a side note, if it had been me I would have bowed out of the process now. But then again I haven’t grown the rhinoceros hide necessary for high political life.

There are two obvious possible scenarios right now:

  1. Mr. Juncker is instated

  2. Mr. Juncker isn’t instated

But whatever the outcome, what will this situation do for the branding of the EP, the voters will to vote in future elections and the legitimacy with the EP?

Before the elections the EP had dug themselves into the stance that “this time it’s different” when in fact there is no discernible difference whatsoever.  It is true that the Treaty of Lisbon says that the election results should be taken into account and that the EP could identify so-called Spitzenkandidaten. Only no one of the Treaty Fathers bothered to define exactly “taking into account” means. Added to this the main candidates where national only since there is no such thing as pan-European parties. ”Taking into account” could mean that the European Council automatically instate the person the EP has identified as their preferred choice, which is how the EP defines it as. Or it could mean that the Council acknowledges the EP’s choice and then goes on to identify a completely different candidate. A possibility the Council has an open door to. However, there is a certain ping-pong feeling about this process since the EP has to approve the candidate proposed by the European Council i.e. in the case of Mr. Juncker the EP has to approve their own candidate.

But to claim that Europe’s voters have spoken and want Mr. Juncker is a very difficult argument intellectually. The argument is actually more emotional and thus difficult to defend oneself against, but numerically it does not hold all the way.

Voter turnout in the parliamentary elections went up with ten percent, 43.00 to 43.09 between 2009 and 2014. At about 400 million eligible voters one tenth equals about 400 000 more voters. This corresponds to about the number of voters in Sweden who chose to vote (if we take into account that the number of eligible voters increased from 2009).

This turnout is likely not getting higher if the EP doesn’t manage this situation properly.

But to go back to the initial question. Exactly what arguments will be possible to use in a situation that easily can be turned around to a message that the voters’ will is not taken into account? And just to complicate matters it can equally be claimed that even if the Council comes up with another candidate it takes the voters’ will into account, since the Council consists of the elected Heads of State of the Member States and these were elected in free, open and democratic elections and that the Treaty of Lisbon doesn’t say that the election results automatically instate the EP preferred candidate as the EC chair.

Now it’s getting fun, isn’t it? Everybody is listening to everybody and all claims no one is listening.

The main issue, which have nothing to do with branding, is really what “taking into account” means and how to identify this sentence.

Having this debate now, after the election is to turn us voters into losers, however this debate ends … branding or not. Or maybe this is the branding we are left with? A situation, that at least I would be very sorry for.