NECA TransmissionsNotes from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry
  • 50% of Women in Executive Positions: A Workable Goal?

    Posted on Sep 20, 2011 by Beth Margulies

    by Beth Margulies, NECA Director, Communications

    My job at NECA is communications for both our members and the public, which has me going through different sources to see what’s working for other shops. I thought members of the NECA Women's Peer Group (and their male colleagues) would appreciate this blog post from Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, one the most successful, independent PR agencies around. Edelman recently wrote about his goal to put women in at least half of the senior positions at the company by 2016. He also mentions that he plans to pass the company on to his three daughters, something many NWPG members can relate to.

    "Our goal is simple—50% of those on Strategy Committee, Operating Committee, GCRM and practice leadership will be women by 2016," Edelman wrote in the post about GWEN, or Global Women Executive Network, the company’s internal task force  exploring how to put more women in its top jobs. "They will have earned the positions; there will not be a quota."

    Edelman acknowledges that the PR industry has no problem attracting women. Some two-thirds of his workforce is female, he writes. But the ranks of women start to thin in leadership roles.

    While he says that his company never overtly paid attention to the gender issue, Edelman seems keenly aware of the barriers to women entering the company's executive suite, including the burdens of childcare and the frustrations of being passed over for plum assignments because moms have to leave early for soccer practice.  He even cites Sheryl Sandberg's famous "Don't Leave Before You Leave" essay. Many companies talk in general terms about increasing participation of women in the senior ranks. Few executives come out and set an actual numeric goal.

    At the National Association of Women in Construction’s annual meeting in St. Louis two weeks ago, I was frantically trying to cram in all the sessions I could, while letting as many fellow attendees know about our fledgling women’s peer group here at NECA. In the midst of all this, I managed to catch one point made by speaker Tamara Vaughn:

    “It’s been said women bring different strengths than men do to an office, and we shouldn’t try to be anything other than who we are. Women tend to be more collaborative and supportive – and that’s a good thing. But until more women are actually in control of businesses, making those senior executive decisions, we are going to have to recognize that we have to utilize some of the same strategies as men do in the office. And quit apologizing for that fact.”

    Two very interesting points about women moving into senior leadership at their companies. What do you think about it? How should company CEOs and Boards start talking about getting more women to join their company’s senior ranks?

  • Setting Aside Set-Asides

    Posted on May 13, 2011 by John M Grau

    We all like to feel that we operate within a parameter of well-defined values and principles.  Establishing these standards is relatively easy.  Living up to them is another thing.  At some point, we tend to justify exceptions to our rules.

    The labor movement in the United States is a strong proponent of “Buy American.” Many NECA-member contractors share that philosophy.  Yet, I often run across the German sports car exception or the French wine exception or other such compromises.

    Small businesses are proponents of “free enterprise,” yet we’re not adverse to business licensing or other restricted access to our trade or profession.

    My point here is not to be critical but to note that statements of principle are not as clear-cut as we would like them to be.

    NECA is currently struggling with its position on business set-asides.  What I’m talking about is federal programs that give special subsidies or preferences to some types of business over others.

    NECA has a position against federal procurement set-asides.  The policy adopted by our Board of Governors states that NECA is in favor of the “elimination so far as is practicable of all federal and federally assisted procurement programs or practices which discriminate on the basis of size, race, sex, or business location.” In other words, we believe in open competition on an equal basis.

    But what about help for small businesses?  The small business set-aside program has helped a number of our members get their businesses established.  We’ve encouraged government to break up large jobs into smaller packages so our average member can compete against large international constructors.

    How about provisions in bid packages that give preferences to local versus traveling contractors?  How do you look at this if you’re one of NECA’s woman-owned enterprises?

    See.  It’s not so easy.

    How do you view this issue?  Should there be exceptions to the rule and what should they be?  Should we strictly adhere to this position, or is it time to set aside our policy on set-asides?

About NECA Transmissions

NECA Transmissions is a collaborative effort from CEO John Grau and NECA staff to provide insight and feedback on key issues from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry.

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