Mind the Gap

Leadership Moment: Performance vs Practice

Kymberlee Price led off her post for International Women’s day with “I hate International Women’s Day.” It’s actually not that provocative of a post: Kymberlee objects to the one-day marketing campaigns that aren’t backed up by actual work. I agree with her points, and go one step further: what I truly dislike about “Days” like this is that it gives people and organizations an excuse to point out how bad things are, without doing the hard and unsung work to fix problems that might be more difficult to measure.

Let’s take pay equity. Tomorrow is “Equal Pay Day,” the day when the median U.S. working woman’s pay since Jan 1, 2023 will match the median U.S. working man’s pay for the calendar year 2023 (Jan 1 – Dec 31). That statistic, and related pay equity statistics, will get bandied about, even though they don’t remotely measure comparable things: the median working woman isn’t in the same job as the median working man. It’s easy for leaders (who often aren’t engaged in understanding and solving organizational problems) to look at their organization, compare the average salaries of men and women by job level, note that everything seems okay, and declare success.

But pay equity is an awful metric. Either it’s too broad (trying to compare the entire workforce), or it’s too narrow (trying to compare only people in the same job). Even if you could get it “just right,” there are so many confounding variables as to make it mostly useful for people to argue with, rather than tackle the real challenges. So what is a leader to do?

Start by challenging your assumptions. If you assume everything is okay (hint, it’s not), maybe look for evidence it isn’t. What’s the average latency between promotions? What’s the participation rate in high-profile special projects? Who is getting recommended for career development opportunities? Do your scheduling practices accommodate people with differently constrained schedules?

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Feb 21: RSAC Innovation Showcase: Cloud Native Remediation

Feb 26: Blog: Humans, Organizations, and Machines (AI Part I)

Feb 27: CISO Series Podcast

Feb 28: Oped: The Death of the CIO

March 5: Cloud Control Newsletter: Pushing Innovation with Apology Budgets

March 5: CISO Series Podcast

March 7: Blog: Decision Making at the Organizational Level (AI Part II)


March 19: Crestron Modern Work Summit, Orlando: AI-Driven Hospitality in the Modern Workplace

May 8, 2:55 Pacific: You Can’t Measure Risk, RSAC (San Francisco)

September 24: HOU.SEC.CON

One Minute Pro Tip: Exploiting Pregnancies

Parental leaves are now a regular thing: thankfully, we’ve moved past the era where my mother had to conceal her pregnancies as long as possible because she’d be fired. But we still mismanage them. In the lead up to a parental leave, work is slowly wound down, then the positions sits vacant for 4 to 18 weeks (depending on your practice), and then, when the person returns to work, work slowly ramps up, as they catch up on balls that got dropped and slowly claw back responsibilities from whoever picked some up. It’s unsurprising that there is evidence that longer parental leaves hurt women’s careers, as not only do they have a time away gap, the organizational chaos that they have to clean up further derails their productivity.

Organizations are missing two clear opportunities to exploit the opportunity a parental leave provides. First, use the time away to temporarily fill the gap: not with an outside contractor, but with an insider. Have a director who is going to be away? Give a senior manager the opportunity to cross-train and cover the position, so they can learn what they’ll need to be ready when it’s time for their promotion. When the director comes back? Since their plate should be clear of steady-state work, put them on something important immediately: they’ll likely be more productive than someone juggling 35 ongoing responsibilities.