CEO Comments Prove Just How Perilous the Job Market Can Be


Current Trends by Natasha Sapp    

Another CEO another case of foot in mouth on key issues affecting the working world today; as if it wasn’t bad enough Marissa Mayer banned telecommuting at Yahoo literally taking the company back to the 1980’s in terms of cultural environment, as if Sheryl Sandberg and her admonishments to lean in coupled with Arianna Huffington telling women not only how to “thrive” but why they are not wasn’t bad enough, then there was Tim Cook of AOL blaming distressed babies of employees for the scale back in retirement options, while posting record profits let’s not forget. Everyone screaming about a crisis of confidence among women, leading women joining a campaign to ban the word bossy to get young girls, soon to be women, into leadership; now enter Satya Nadella, for those who don’t know, Microsoft’s newly minted CEO, crumbling all that work and 45 odd years of feminist movement progress saying in part they, women, should not asks for raises rather trust the system to give them the right raises at the right time, claiming it all balances out in the long term and women eventually get their due. Continuing by calling it good karma to do so, naming the strategy a woman’s other superpower, characterizing the woman who won’t ask for that raise as someone he, bosses all, want to trust, want to give more responsibility to. Compounding his faux pas, he spoke these easily argued egregious, tone deaf words at a women’s conference; what prompted exposing his views on corporate pay culture, on obvious pay discrepancies between men and women throughout levels across the workplace landscape, being directly asked by women seeking advice from the expert, the guy who has made it, the guy who is functioning at the top, about how and when to ask for a raise. Only to be greeted by that, reaction, backlash almost immediate from the audible intake of breath in the audience present to women walking away unbelieving he just said that considering current times, where pay inequity is glaring and at the forefront of most working women ‘s minds. Analysts, industry watchers echoing women’s sentiment across the country sending a clear message to Mr. Nadella; if not go back to India, then certainly those tactics may work in Mumbai, Punjab, New Deli but not here in America. Making us wonder if he was hired because he met the qualifications to be CEO of a tech company or perhaps to meet some diversity quota at Microsoft; even more sinister, perhaps to pay him a flat, cool million vs. paying an American the full dollar allotment commensurate with the position, the skill being brought to the table.       


This comes on the heels of an article in Fortune magazine detailing why women leave tech companies repeatedly vowing never to return and it wasn’t, as the author noted, because math is hard, they don’t possess the intellectual capacity to garner the education, fulfill job requirements, programming is too difficult or complicated. Story after story showcased women, who loved the work, would go back to it in a heartbeat if they could, but would not subject themselves to a work culture that is intolerable. Nor was it all labeled intolerable due to difficulties in managing child rearing, new motherhood and job responsibilities; instead trying to have a family while working for a tech company simply solidified the uphill battle they were already fighting whether it was for equal pay, being the odd duck at work, just not fitting in, achieving good, necessary cohesiveness with fellow employees owing to being the only woman, the only minority, the only person raising a family. One example was both the only African American and the only lesbian in her workplace routinely referred to as Halle Berry, as in ‘Oh look, Halle Berry broke the website today;’ women finding themselves the singular person employed that’s not single, under 35, not looking like they just got out of college, detailing feeling like they were the lone individual of an ethnicity their coworkers had ever spoken to. In addition, no paternal leave policies at small tech firms, start up’s with less than 50 employees thus not required to be in compliance with the federal Family Medical Leave Act where a new mom, she calls herself clueless, agreed to work part time after a mere 6 weeks maternity leave, finding she had no place to pump breast milk at work forcing her to awkwardly go into the office only 2 hours at a time; another mother did negotiate time off after her infant was born, unpaid, never really being off as she had a beeper she was mandated to answer within 15 minutes when there was a problem. Horrifyingly describing the stress of a screaming baby and an annoying beeper, worried about losing her job for not answering; the author begins her eye opening piece telling her own story of an encounter with a coworker, fellow mother pressured into returning from maternity leave early, also being maneuvered into taking a business trip, expected to leave her nursing baby at home. She quit a measly 2 weeks after the recounted story; one of 716 compiled during the Fortune article’s research demonstrating obviously shortsighted  policies coming from the industry who invented nap rooms, gamming rooms, ultra-casual dress codes, odd seating choices to promote creativity. You would think if they could do that they could find a satisfactory place to allow a new mother to pump breast milk; dido with permitting the flex hours proven to boost productivity, prompt workers to put in more hours, surprisingly get more done freely allowed to choose their hours whether they dislike the stress, structure of punching a clock, wanting to fit in that yoga class, common to both techies and millennials, or have a family to care for. Young and male dominated field parameters long held in place reminiscent of what came to light a few years ago regarding the U.S. air marshal service meant to protect passenger planes post 9-11, be the first line of defense between people on planes and potential terrorists turns out were actually the first to be fast asleep on the plane leaving the loaded gun they carried ripe for the picking, the first to be intoxicated on the job, facts still plaguing the service as late as early this year. Housing a frat boy work culture going beyond unprofessionalism to a jeopardy board game comprised of racial slurs hanging in one field office, frequently updated to reflect personnel’s personal information, innuendo about staff, the downright bullying and suicide of one lesbian air marshal, behavior reaching so far off the charts of acceptability alerting news investigators to the sexual harassment, misconduct, crossing over to sexual assault of yet another female marshal, photos depicting an air marshal jumping into a nativity scene in a foreign country just to do it. Here is/was the working environment of those charged with keeping us safe, representing us at least in a small capacity on foreign soil.


Sadly unlike media exposure of goings on shaking up the air marshals, even expert reaction clearly decrying the Nadella mindset was fraught with its own negative messages to women, its own stereotyped conceptions about why women fail at negotiating better salaries, benefits, mistakes women make in the process of getting an investment, ways they need to fine tune their approaches to receive higher amounts, quality of either. On one hand agreeing the CEO was profoundly out of touch but simultaneously saying many women haven’t made the case as to why they should be given a raise; when they do, they tackle it from an emotional standpoint using phrases like I deserve it. Point clearly being women need to articulate why they deserve it, things they have done for their boss, their company warranting their increase in pay; a panel expert recounting 2 young women she saw on the TV show Shark Tank who, when asked why they should get the investment, answered because they work hard, they are good people. Panelist continuing, but hard work isn’t a reason you should be granted an investment, you don’t get capital because you are a good person, and certainly you can work hard on an extraordinarily bad idea, a product, service that won’t sell anywhere in a global market never mind an American one. However, highlighting either example implies hard work, being deserving of a raise due to exemplary performance, dedication to your job, commitment to launching your business, is immaterial to presenting good data, numbers and, in specifically asking for that raise, a list of accomplishments, the key, trumping emotion, to surviving your annual performance review easily embellished, exaggerated possibly fabricated. Said expert failing to note the difference in people, men and women, their approaches to issues, getting things done, the reality a little emotion, a little passion isn’t a bad thing when according to, in keeping with the spirit, source of her material, similar TV shows out there Bravo’s Tabatha’s Takeover, CNBC’s TheProfit, what tanks 50% of businesses within a year of start, what can derail what was a solid business is a lack of those things. Possessing morals, scruples is more than something the business world could use an abundance of today preventing Bernie Madoff-esque Ponzi schemes, embezzlement for personal ends, lax, shady business practices that will eventually cause you to go belly up; it ensures you, the owner will behave appropriately, hire management that will behave appropriately vs. yelling at employees, acting mentally unstable, micromanaging, creating a hostile work environment, coming to work intoxicated, not properly overseeing the operations of your business, all things seen in the latter television examples too. An individual, pair of individuals characterized as good are less likely to engage in risky behaviors resulting in default on a loan, be irresponsible and not pay it back, factors that should be worthy of consideration in deciding fitness for investment. Putting aside her example was indeed a T.V. show, a seemingly low caliber example, Shark Tank’s panel made a crucial misstep themselves, time constrains or no, asking why they thought they should get the investment absent competency questions about how they intended to manage, how they intended to hire, testing their understanding of their industry, throwing them basic questions about common business paperwork, ensuring they are ready to own a business, noting inexperience and lack of knowledge is the number one reason half of all businesses fail. CNN contributor,  life coach and motivational speaker Mel Robbins left viewers the following perspective taking head on Nadella’s comments suggesting yes do your research, know your market value, know what coworkers working identical, adjacent positions are making, build a foundational case based on hard numbers, data, expectations vs. things delivered above them, accomplishments and things you intend to do in the proceeding year to justify your monetary ask, further clinching your upward mobility, chances for a raise, promotion by acquiring a male sponsor. Differentiating a sponsor from a mentor, the latter giving advice only, describing a sponsor as a person in higher level meetings who can recommend you to his fellow higher ups upon looking to fill vacancy X, assign a person to project Y. So it’s no longer good enough to rub elbows with the right people, position yourself in the sights of people who can get you where you want to go, isn’t merely the statistical likelihood that person will be male; it has to be a male, women still can’t achieve on their merits, talents, skills alone, they have to get a male to let them tag along? Are we really telling career minded women in the 21st century such is the workplace apart from flipping burgers; someone needs to tell Ms. Robbins and the corporate, executive world this isn’t A.A. We shouldn’t need sponsors as she defines them; workers, regardless of gender, aren’t prostitutes or sausages, we are sick of selling ourselves, feeling cheap while doing it.

Utterly dismissed, the origins of the gender pay gap itself, women on average earning 11 thousand less a year due to ‘poor negotiating,’ too quickly taking that first job, their salary offer sans negotiation; leading to the glaring question, why can’t bosses, usually men, facilitate the number crunching, data collection, research they demand of their employees? Knowing what the value is for position X, knowing what they pay for each employee in identical positions throughout the company, adding, subtracting salary totals representing more, less experience, degrees, training obtained, not, success on an account, performance, negative, positive? Why isn’t there a mathematical formula, rudimentary outline to guide salary calculation, if it is truly a business decision; instead such conclusions, studies prove, are a direct result of bias, preconceived notions on the part of bosses about who is, should be the breadwinner in your household, American households, societies gender roles effecting how men and women exhibiting the same, on track for management, traits are viewed disparaging women every time. Aforementioned logic calling into question the concept are women too emotional, not compiling hard data when petitioning for a raise, negotiating salary, or is it going with what they know because acting like a man, doing it like a man may lose them their chance altogether owing to a boss being put off because ‘women aren’t supposed to act like that,’ adopting a how dare she attitude believing she is overselling her abilities, accomplishments? Legitimate concerns examining questions women have about being thought bossy if they ask for a raise, wondering if they must prove themselves then ask, should they ask for a raise every year? Advice already shown to be contradictory stating the gender pay gap begins as far back as a woman’s early 20’s, first pay negotiable job, when college students, recent graduates are point blank told, independent of sex, to take the first opportunity because it may be the only one you get. The CNN staffer tweeting karma doesn’t pay your rent may have been cheekily correct, but neither does potentially negotiating yourself out of a job, a possible job pay your rent, keep you afloat on your mortgage, supply your car payment, satisfy your credit card, student loan holders. Also suspect, are employers at this level, slightly lower rungs of the employment hierarchy throwing out beginning pay numbers expecting you to negotiate higher, ask for more or will that negotiation be the end of your prospects? Secondly the starting analyst in the paragraph above mentioned examining HR practices that lead to pay disparity, commented about many women telling her they have to pick their battles, this isn’t the hill they want to die on fueling the perfectly reasonable question; why do we have an HR system, a hiring system where negotiation is not a job requirement but mandatory to get a fair wage to those around you in nearly identical jobs, many times within the same company, why do we, no matter our sex, have to haggle for every small gain we garner in the workplace, anywhere else? The same business expert speaking in the clip below reminding women karma is not their boss, they will not get anything staying silent, alerting workers, i.e. women, their boss will not remember their accomplishments unless reminded. Dovetailing into a third and final burning question, why do I have to keep reminding my boss of my existence, not necessarily the CEO, who I haven’t interacted with since interviewing for hire, if it all, rather my immediate superiors whom I report to daily, weekly, sit in meetings with, who assigned me the big account, who delegated huge task X to me and has been receiving regular, don’t forget positive, progress reports? What has suddenly become so wrong with coming to work, doing your job well, not being on your boss’ radar either frequently needing reprimands or constantly asking for things and in turn your boss taking notice of you, the guy, the woman who shows up every day, makes the most of the hours they are at work whether they can stay late or not, delivers above the call, has arapport with clients, a track record of success and thus giving you a raise accordingly; say at that annual performance review? How can you be a boss and not do that; how can you be a boss and not know what your employees are doing, how they are performing? Forging ahead into Ms. Romans example of a top female negotiator for a known company who entered her boss’ office demanding a raise and his response, it’s a good thing you came in here because my board was just asking how can we know she’s doing the best for us if she can’t negotiate better for yourself? Problem, A she was described as top notch; you know, by if you’re so curious, so suspicious delving into what she has negotiated to see if you approve. What no one has ever thought of, maybe women don’t put all this time effort into pushing for a raise because they are too busy doing their job, balancing personal and professional responsibility, because having a job, doing a job they love is more important than milking it for every dime they can get, maybe because they believe, mistakenly or not, the onus is on their employer to know what is going on, who is doing well and dole out rewards accordingly.                   


Post Microsoft’s session in the unwanted spotlight still being talked about a week later came announcements from other tech giants Facebook and Apple; they either are or will begin paying to freeze female employees’ eggs, footing the bill for the costly procedure and yearly storage so “women can do the best work of their lives.” While several women praised the move remarking it gave more options to women who want both career and family, leveled the playing field, took the pressure off women worried about their career along with their ticking biological clock; others were quick to say it appeared the companies were not so subtly telling workers, employees and potential employees work comes before children, family, something they were understandably not happy about. Examining the natural, biological components, it ingrains a false idea, particularly dangerous to those who want children; chiefly that you can wait forever. Today addressing fertility, science is circumventing nature, counteracting infertility, concurrently not investigating, ignoring the root cause, repeatedly attributed to women who wait too late to begin thinking about having a family. Downplayed entirely too much, freezing your eggs, typically done in your 30’s, drastically improves your chances of getting pregnant later, because the egg’s age matters more than the mother’s age, the younger the better, yet it is not a sure guarantee you definitely will get pregnant later. Completing the whole picture women must think about their health, their age throughout their child’s formative years, the sobering math having your first child in your 40’s means you will be eligible for social security when they begin college, should you have subsequent children you will be that much older as they achieve adulthood; thought given to the quality of life, ability to chase after a young child, help out in little league, energy required to ferret them to and from after school activities, be present in their lives, not burdening them with your declining health as you age. Next Considering their move was voluntary, how long is it before women seeking maternity leave, flexible work hours, a raise coinciding with job experience, transfer to a higher department to cover childcare are told no, not at our company, not during your work with us, we gave you the opportunity to freeze your eggs you should have just taken that, don’t expect anything else from us? Put in said context, their would be progressive, forward thinking decision can easily be construed companies willingness to pay to freeze eggs, store them is just a cop out to possessing a sane parental leave policy operating in small business, no matter your size, big, small, in between, creating a supportive for everyone working environment including considerations for mothers of infants, small children, parents period. Recognizing there is a plethora of talent out there coders, programmers, design and developers who do not look like 20 year old pimple faced kids barely out of college, will be over 40, won’t be able to put in endless 24/7 hours anytime you want because they have other responsibilities or frankly work better given needed flexibility. Recognizing not everyone who is good at coding, design, development, can give you the cutting edge in software is going to look like you, comport to your lifestyle, they will be minorities, and not your standard stereotyped Asian, independent of their ethnic origin, they may have an alternate sexual orientation, religion set of cultural, family traditions; key, not making them feel like outcasts, putting forth a concerted effort to make your workplace look less like personnel were staffed using a cookie cutter.            


Unfortunately what is currently being shed light on in the tech industry is merely added to what is trending across the employment world; employers using new tools to do old things, conduct interviews, screen candidates, make final determinations leaving hopeful employees vulnerable to losing an opportunity if they don’t understand what is happening, so say the analysts exploring hiring in the immediate now. Virtual interviews have become an easy way to conveniently acquire talent from all corners of the country, the globe at the same time saving money presumably flying potential candidates to interviews only for them not to work out, wasting valuable hours in a day with in person interviews conducted more quickly over venues like Skype, more easily rescheduled for emergencies than the person who drove hours to participate. Frustratingly for job seekers who just want to work, want to find their next opportunity, really want to work for company X, mirroring employer reactions to even the most benign Facebook posts, online photos they’re reading too much into, what they believe a candidates credit score says about them; employers still haven’t learned, apart from what should or shouldn’t be asked in an interview regardless of what type, what information you’re gleaning from your new method should similarly be excluded, because if you didn’t have an unprecedented, some would say intrusive, window into another person’s life you wouldn’t know the supposedly damming thing you know.“This seems a foul practice, an invitation to those who prefer brunettes to find fault with redheads. Video seems a way to sucker interviewees into voluntarily surrendering info rightly kept OUT of interviews– like marital status, cup size, pregnancy, Streisand/Griffin/Cher fandom, TEA Party membership, etc.” Transcending the sentiment expressed in the above comment naming virtual interviews a foul practice for the reasons listed, superficial appearance, political leanings of interviewer or interviewee; how it is being applied is quickly turning into an entirely different “foul practice” A foul practice excluding people who can’t rush out and buy a webcam, tripod and “invest in a microphone” for a single interview, people who though they have a built in webcam on their laptop, home PC do not have it activated either because they don’t use Skype, Google hang out exc. or for fear of invasion of their privacy; tech help hacking into their webcam to view them naked and such. Never mind the people who don’t know, don’t want to know how to use it; crucial because virtual, video conference interviews are migrating to more fields than simply tech, losing you solid, hard workers, experts with years of experience over the means by which you choose to interact with them.  Our commenter wasn’t too off the mark either when assessing potential for employer abuse of a video interview; except it wasn’t brunettes over redheads, it was stating in these interviews they should be able to see more than your face then recounting a story of a recruiter talking to a man for a detail oriented job, camera faced his unmade bed and every picture on his wall was crooked, signaling to the recruiter he was not detail oriented despite his claims. Mentioned also, a qualified candidate in a specialty field who lost out because of a Victoria’s Secret poster that could be seen in the background view; not one thought given to, discussing candidate A, the interview was scheduled last minute and it was either check his equipment or make his bed, there could easily be something wrong with the wall in his apartment hints why he is looking for another job so he can move, the recruiter assumed rather than ask for examples showcasing his attention to detail or the hardly unheard of idea that maybe he pours all his attention to detail into his work, home being a more relaxed environment, especially someone’s bedroom. Confronting issues surrounding candidate B, the reasonable likelihood is we are again in someone’s bedroom not their work office, a home office differing slightly as it combines the feel of home and the tools for work; being evaluated for an upper level, expertise needed position thus logic dictates he is at least 18, probably over 21, young and single to boot, meaning there is nothing untoward about the poster. In fact it indicates the candidate you feel is qualified is a healthy, heterosexual male who should fit right in to your organization accounting for all the stereotypes you revealed with your assessment of what is wrong with these interviewees personal areas.   

Concluding, people looking for work on average don’t have wads of money to invest in getting a job, whether that’s buying a new suite, based on advice above getting a “quality” webcam microphone and tripod, forget purchasing a trifold backdrop, taping windows with seamless paper; “a marble blue or marble gray color is best,” to avoid window glare into the camera. A majority certainly don’t have space or dollars to “invest in a home office;” how ludicrous. Worse are the correlations between their assumptions and preparedness; “What enters the mind of the employer is, ‘If you’re not prepared for an interview, are you going to be prepared for the job?’ But who is prepared to have their boss, future boss in their bedroom and who should be; even if you were hosting a work dinner party or other professional gathering out of your home, a rarity today, basic etiquette would render bedrooms off limits unless they were being used as a coat closet. Nor should I, any job seeker, be penalized because in my one bedroom apartment the only working phone line is in the bedroom and I have DSL for high speed internet at affordable cost, because the only place in my apartment to avoid distractions, high traffic is the bedroom and I didn’t design it to serve as a professional receptacle but a relaxing place for me, because the only place I use Skype, web chat is with friends, relatives done in my bedroom for quiet and ease. Neither is it suddenly enough to look the part, wipe our “oily” face, not wear white to avoid it looking too bright, harsh, don’t wear something too dark, too flashy or too solid it will blend into the background, not enough virtual interviewers seem determined to turn us all into camera men accounting for lighting, glare, fumbling with tripods and coving windows, being sure we don’t cut the top of our head off in the angle shot, I must change my Skype, Google hang out user name to make sure it is professional; putting aside glaringly inappropriate ones like “sexxymomma48,” it can’t be too bland, boring either. Or now I have to have at minimum somewhere close to 5 one for my boss, one for my family, one for my friends and one for what I originally got it for, my actual dating profile; compiled on top of the 2 laptops experts suggest you own one to play on and another for paying bills, better make that 3, and one exclusively for work. Problem, you care barely afford and maintain one. All of the previously detailed practices screaming exactly what shouldn’t happen to a job candidate regardless where  they choose, where they are forced, for the love of physical space, electrical outlet space and usability space, to put their webcam, webcam enabled PC. You don’t have any business in your job candidates bedroom for any reason, in any way shape or form, no matter if you were “invited” there by the interview medium; rendering whether I make my bed irrelevant, or I’ve made my bed and now you’re making judgments about the Star Wars, Care Bears comforter, even a solid color is a problem because it’s red, it’s purple not a neutral color blending with the wall. Apart from the presence of Star Trek and Lord the Rings posters, Simpson’s, Ninja Turtle figurines, baseball or other bobble heads, your collections of Pez containers all screaming geek, nerd and grow the heck up, a bookshelf containing books and/or movies becomes yet another source of needless judgment. Sara Palin can fumble a question about which magazines she reads and her name still appear on a ballot for Vice President but if you see Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Artemis Fowl and Divergent books on my shelf with an identical smattering of kids and teen movies, something is wrong with me, I’ve made a wrong impression to work for your company. Independent of how many grown adult women read said books for strong female characters, inspiring storylines; perhaps I babysit, mentor children, relatives neighborhood kids and the videos, books are kept in my room to avoid being broken, torn up, oh. Takes on a different meaning now doesn’t it, so does it too if you are being considered for a creative position and those things fuel your creativity. Bottom line of course women she ask for a raise and it’s time employers, predominantly men, used cold, hard facts, data to determine salary allotments, actually paid attention to employee performance regularly and when looking to hire stopped choosing so called compatibility over competence, using their sudden lens into someone’s life, a place as intimate as their bedroom to exclude them for a job based on not illegal activity, drugs, porn things that signal mental instability, but unmade beds, crooked pictures and posters.  Absorbing the reactions, we all have to wonder what we would find in the bosses bedroom, in these recruiters bedrooms, these experts bedrooms and how they would handle lack of money and space constraints.             


About Natasha Sapp

Proclaiming an edgy voice of reason to America,while bringing back the common sense to social issues.

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