Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

It shouldn’t really be, isn’t really a surprise considering written offerings from the top women to make in their fields of business, management, news coverage are books like Lean In and Thrive, another popular duo came out with one entitled The Confidence Code, all trying to tell women in 8 different ways what they are doing wrong in terms of their careers, salary negotiations and life in general, what steps women have to take to turn this negative trend around, how they need to change themselves, their perspective, their behaviors to move the cause of all women forward. It isn’t any surprise women are everything from confused to stressed and more when women’s only role models for breaking barriers in this area of business are Sheryl Sandberg and Carly Fiorina, viewed as absolute disasters to their current or former companies; one overseeing the abysmally failed Facebook IPO, the other who arguably ran her last employer into the ground via a failed merger. Marissa Mayer whose first act as woman CEO was to ban telecommuting at Yahoo, a tech giant who by default should know better, who makes headlines equally for her family planning, i.e. when, how many kids she has than for her odd business deals, odd business choices, virtually gobbling up other tech startups, tech products, putting them under the umbrella of the larger company trying to bring back Yahoo’s cool factor. That’s why Jennifer Lawrence’s essay on the gender pay gap originally exposed via the Sony hacking scandal hit more than one nerve, why women should be scrutinizing it with a critical, dissecting eye ascertaining what it really tells us about women in whatever workforce. It isn’t that she spoke out both when it first happened and now, that it took her time to get her thoughts together, perhaps research what she discovered had happened to her on a larger scale of women everywhere, or decide exactly what it is she wanted to say and how best to say it considering her celebrity status, it’s the conclusions she ultimately says she came to raising additional red flags about the facets the gender pay gap fight is taking on. Lawrence states at one point she was angry at finding out she was paid 2% less than her male co-stars, but she wasn’t angry with Sony she was angry with herself, saying she failed as a negotiator; this parrots what the above authors of books and morning show career advisors highlight about women no matter the workplace. They have to become better negotiators if they want better pay, if they  want equal pay to the men in their field, usually followed by tips specifically tailored to women in better approaching negotiation. Her self-identified failure, giving up too early dovetailing right into the next discussed piece of her essay, the fact she didn’t want to seem difficult or spoiled in her negotiations, things her male co-stars “definitely didn’t worry about;” which immediately sparked career contributor comment about the common reality women worry more about being nice, being liked than they do about obtaining what they’re worth.  Nothing, not one word mentioned about the biased, broken system we’re still operating under whether that’s common biases on gender, race, sexual orientation or interpretation of another person’s experience, listed résumé skills, biases for or against where they went to school, their previous employer or as petty as the font type used on their résumé. Others clamor they don’t get it looking at the question title of the essay, ‘Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co‑Stars?,’ they allege hasn’t she answered her own question; she failed to negotiate?  More questioning the title of this growing movement asking, why it is called the gender pay gap, why it’s not called the job gap or the negotiation gap. And while Bradley Cooper, her fellow American Hustle co-star, the movie this all centers around, came out in support of Lawrence vowing to help her and fellow women negotiate better contracts, co-star Jeremy Renner spoke out with the opposite view bluntly pointing out it wasn’t his job to help women negotiate, receive better contracts; remarking he’s an actor, that’s his job, that’s his area of expertise and so he’s going to focus on crafting his role, earning him some backlash for seeming insensitive to the inequality to women, inequality having a far greater impact on the average American, too many women and families just trying to get by. Comments all around proving we still don’t get it, we still miss the much larger problem.

A problem summed up in another completely missed question; did she fail as a negotiator or is the failing in negotiation being too significant a part of employment, specifically when it comes to wages, salary? Granted most workers have run of the mill jobs where there is flat pay X dollars an hour, obviously a construction worker, office person getting paid more than someone at a fast food counter, only fluctuating based on the hours you work; however once you reach a managerial position, professional employment environment you will most likely be given a salary annually not hourly. Granted too, Ms. Lawrence works in Hollywood where negotiation is the height of ordinary, normal operating procedure encompassing a host of factors the average individual wouldn’t think to include. Yet broadening her commentary out into the rest of the world even applicable to Hollywood itself, gender pay gap disparities unearth that negotiation seems to be roughly 80% of what a person gets paid where salary, wage discussions are allowed and 20% based on tangible, measurable criteria like years of experience, field related skills, unique skillsets, calculating raises for existing employees, performance evaluation results, clients or accounts added to the company courtesy of employee X, successful marketing campaigns, sales figures and so on attributed to them. Shouldn’t it be fundamentally the other way around 20% negotiation and 80% measurable results, résumé listed skills; where is the basic standard calculus, by industry, for employers giving a guideline on X years experience means X more dollars in pay, X skillset at X level of excellent proficiency means Y more dollars on a paycheck, we enticed them from prestigious competitor Z meaning we pay accordingly topping their annual salary with X% more money, man or woman? Instead of who, according to the employer in question, has the better negotiating skills, was more of a ‘shark’ at the negotiating table, seemed more confident, seemed to better understand the negotiation process often based on feelings and intuitions picked up by that employer, very subjective. Translating that into Hollywood terms, sure it would be based on who of the leading actors hired has the most recently publicly popular, critically acclaimed movie, gross sales on the movie in question, who has the most illustrious career, which star is essentially ‘hot right now’ in determining salary, wages, money given on their current project, but those are still tangible things that can be measured with box office numbers, well known critical acclaim given by top names in the business who write said reviews, social media traffic generated by their last movie, project. Whether their last film was a lead role, supporting lead or job title below those two, leads and supporting leads getting paid more than the next rung down on the ladder due to level, a lead getting paid more than a supporting lead for the same reason, not just whatever I feel like paying them commiserate with comparable industry numbers, whatever they managed to negotiate, and if they, or their agent, is “bad” at negotiation oh well. Further the Sony e-mails make clear the executives talking knew what percentage of proceeds they intended to pay the leading stars following an unclear point system likely not based on the popularity of their performances, or if it was, Sony had their out saying stars were paid X amount over their original negotiations based on film reception, public, critical acclaim for each role, actor/actress and cite the source for their decision rather than hanging their head in justifiable PR shame. Another alternative, here’s a novel idea, you had 5 known stars playing major roles on American Hustle Jeremy Renner, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Jenifer Lawrence and Amy Adams, why not pay them all the same percentage rather than making it look like it was separated by gender since both Lawrence and Adams were paid 2% less? As sexist, insensitive as it sounds Renner isn’t the personification of evil with a penis, isn’t a stereotypical definition of patriarchy’s indifference; he has a more valid argument than we may initially comprehend in that he is not a professional negotiator, is not a contract specialist. Though Bradley Cooper is being chivalrous and an extremely decent guy, Renner is correct it is not his purview, not his job. And bringing a man in to help women get what they should be getting by default only perpetuates the perception either it’s ok to pay women less because they are women, despite what negotiation experts tell women about leaving emotion out of it, use emotion, feelings in determining dollar amounts paid, whatever arbitrary calculus Sony employed in coming to their decision. It continues the problem, hampers employer understanding we left the barter system behind with the advent of the industrial revolution and it’s time formal employment payment schemes reflected that fact. Because this isn’t a kid, teenager trading household chores for privileges, neighbor yard work, snow shoveling, lawn mowing for use of something, being taught a skill or an item you want to purchase from them as a Christmas, birthday present to a parent, sibling. Of course all people, women should have good negotiation skills, but neither is it a flea-market, garage sale or used car dealership where bartering has more meaning, more of a presence; it is a formal job, an operating business subject to state and federal government regulations. Which means negotiation needs to take a back seat to measurable criteria in finalizing wages.

Nor is she out of line making reference to not wanting to seem spoiled, difficult or bratty, noting she works in Hollywood infamous for such things; Hollywood history filled with people who lost out on major deals, damaged their careers because they were exactly those things, demanded too much money, too many, outrageous on-set perks, thought too highly of themselves regarding their skill, where they were in their career, their ‘star power.’ David Caruso of NYPD Blue, CSI Miami fame became the butt of one of the first South Park jokes after leaving the now gritty classic early in the second season because he didn’t get the raise he wanted. It was years before his career rebounded, what little it did, with the CSI spin-off and even that was short lived. Robert Downey Jr. is something of a comeback kid with his career owing to the success of the Iron Man franchise, yet it wasn’t so long ago he was achieving headlines for drugs, legal troubles, arrests and was persona non grata in his profession as an actor, thinking rules didn’t apply to him; mirroring, more recently, there was Charlie Sheen’s very public meltdown getting him fired from the hit comedy Two and a Half Men. Yes he had the follow up role in Anger Management again short lived, show on-air only 2 years; Macaulay Culkin in addition to a waning child star career, reported drug problem, flash marriages and a dubious connection to Michael Jackson found there were persons in Hollywood who would not work with him dating back to the days when his hard nose, turned out to be financially motivated, money grubbing father alienated industry producers and directors exc. Lindsay Lohan you could say simply continued the long dark tradition of child stars gone off the rails; unlike Britney Spears and Amanda Bynes later diagnosed with medical problems and discovered to have been repeatedly drugged by her sleazy manger respectively, Lohan was, is not only a despised addict but literally thrown off of movie sets, fired from jobs for erratic, bratty, entitled behavior. Sadder still for the other two, like Sheen with Two and a Half Men and the tensions between him and producer Chuck Laurie, actor fighting for control of his own life, career Hollywood business people probably never got the memo, weren’t following their stories closely enough to know there were extenuating, later resolved circumstances impacting their actions, keeping them on the Hollywood black list, the list of, I don’t want to take chances with this, people. In her age bracket, there’s Justin Beiber known for drag racing in his neighborhood, allegedly egging someone’s house, having either drugs or guns on his plane, called out by former president Clinton for urinating in a janitors mop bucket, once facing possible deportation to his native Canada; thought on the road to saner times, image rehabilitation he was bawling recently at a performance, stormed out of an interview, stormed off stage at a concert after one song, so sadly not. How about Shia LaBeouf who began his downward spiral wearing a bag on his head in public announcing he’s retired from the business, Hollywood, progressing to repeated drunken in public episodes, bar fights, legal problems failed attempts to get sober. Most would agree we can forgive her for not wanting to follow in those negative footsteps; Jenifer Lawrence at 25 is also a millennial, a generation characterized by selfish, bratty, out of control, horrid behavior, pegged by the thousands as society’s useless wastrels ruining our future. Good teens and 20 something’s, early 30’s persons wanting to contribute feel compelled to combat the stereotype with a vengeance proving she was right; it has nothing to do with her vagina or her personality, both of which she brought up at various times throughout the short article, and has everything to do with 20, 30 odd years of cultural white noise surprise, surprise coming down on young people, now grown women, the hardest.  Lawrence touching on something else unique to her situation in the latter portion of her comments about giving up negotiation too early, “I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need. (I told you it wasn’t relatable, don’t hate me);” moving her out of the realm of stereotypical women, stereotypical women’s approach to negotiation and into that of a conscientious person who was more interested in the project, in continuing to work in her very fickle field than in how much exorbitant money she was making, fully aware her circumstance is far removed from ordinary women, ordinary professional women for whom the meager money they make matters a great deal. Notice too she isn’t commenting on the Sony hacking scandal, gender pay gap because she feels she was the better actress, gave a better performance and therefore deserved more pay, was more popular, had a bigger role and thus deserved more; her comments were zeroed in on she was paid less apparently because she was a women and the inherent conditions we impose on women at the negotiating table. Expanding all this out to the rest of the everyday world, it isn’t just that women focus on being nice, well liked, they worry realistically about negotiating themselves out of a job they desperately need, the promotion and automatic pay raise attributed to the position that would make their lives more livable, functional, allow them to pay off debt, buy a home or relocate to accommodate a growing family, get a more reliable car. Never mind being nice, well liked, regardless of gender, is a must in the team player, must share company values modern work environment; if you can’t master these things, you can be the best employee in the world, best in your field and you still won’t get hired, won’t stay on. Returning exclusively to women, they worry if they ask for too much money, fight too hard for a pay increase, other work perks at the annual performance review, salary negotiation they will denied future promotions, be pushed out of the company; reading the entire article Lawrence remarked on something similar, a Hollywood producer who did call another female actor a spoiled brat, finding it hard to imagine the same happening to a man, coupled with a conversation she had with an employee where she bluntly, no nonsense stated her opinion only for the man to jump back and say we’re on the same team here. Real world scenario, look at Jill Abramson reportedly forced out of the New York Times after confronting her bosses regarding a pay disparity where a junior male employee was being paid significantly more than her, replaced by a guy with a penchant for punching holes in walls.

Trickle down consequences of trying to turn on its head what women are supposed to do it get ahead exist; Jenifer Lawrence absorbed exactly the message she was supposed to, according to the latest books, during her experience with the Sony hacking scandal; she was given the message she was the problem, the failure, it was she who needed to change, thus passing it on to everyone else. Wholly unremarked upon, any inkling, idea, the slightest notion she received the wrong message; that, being told: do it like a man isn’t working for women in the high powered, high octane workforce, top or middle management. As alluded to above, Sheryl Sandberg’s Facebook IPO, Carly Fiorina’s Hewlett Packard merger with Compaq; now men in management would cite these evidence of why women shouldn’t be within 10 feet of management positions, key management deal making. In fact a male business insider recently wrote an article stating Marissa Mayer only remains CEO of Yahoo because she announced she’s having twins. Women up in arms using it as the latest example of sexism in business, yet the subject was broached on a business TV show, article written by an admittedly controversial business analyst, NYU professor precisely because, thanks to books and concepts like lean in, women in management doing poorly are keeping their jobs lending his assertions credence. Where else, how else would Yahoo’s failed bid to get advanced approval from the Internal Revenue Service for a tax-free spinoff of its Alibaba shares, which sent Yahoo’s own stock, shares plummeting the following day not lead to the head of the company losing their job? Several in and out of the business world down to the general public wondered how Sandberg kept her COO position post Facebook going public; Fiorina honestly loses more credibility embellishing her secretary to CEO narrative than she does highlighting her tenure at Hewlett Packard pertaining to votes, voters unless they are businesspersons themselves. Next question, if it were Shane Sandberg as opposed to Sheryl, Carl Fiorina as opposed to Carly, Markus as opposed Marissa Mayer would they still have their job, resounding indication no. If it were James Abramson not Jill, would it have been a simple blip in the business section of news coverage, actual newspapers, blogs marking the change of management at a top national newspaper? How long will the current CEO of GM Mary Barra retain her job and how much of that coincides with their ongoing years of problems, recalls, illegal behavior over anything she could or should have done to revive the auto company? Further while the professor may be inherently right about his assessment of Mayer, his veiled dig at Sandberg, the results of headline making women, he is completely ignorant of its cause. Hint, it’s far from a woman’s 2 X chromosomes, physical anatomy, her breasts, her vagina, women being terrible at management biologically, physiologically, practically; rather it’s a direct side effect of the individual headline making women’s example showing they, not all women, are bad managers, women across the board following their extremely flawed example of doing it like a man, AKA, what women have always done attaching themselves to patriarchy instead of finding their own voice in management, figuring out how to use their strengths [emotion] to obtain results. And it isn’t limited to the business world, these negative effects of telling women to emulate men in order to achieve top positions, to lead; just watch the judge in the video berate a domestic violence victim who failed to appear in court to testify against her abuser. She proceeds to lecture the ‘delinquent’ witness utterly insensitive to the traumatic experience she has just been through, treating her more akin to an errant child spilling something, who didn’t do their homework or clean their room than a crime victim, mocking her anxiety before sentencing her to 3 days in jail. Forgotten, tools such as community service, mandatory counseling, setting her up with a counselor willing to do in home sessions similar to an agoraphobic or a hoarder, since her anxiety is what she says kept her from appearing, a restraining order against her to incentivize her not going back to him; she had other options, she had discretion and didn’t use them.  Therein lies a travesty, not singularly because this is a fellow woman exhibiting no solidarity with a woman obviously in distress, but due to here you see a judge demonstrating zero understanding of the dynamics comprising domestic violence. Creating a triply problematic issue concerning justice, if you can’t get a woman judge to assimilate the devastating effect of said abuse, recognize what does and doesn’t work in these cases, what hope is there for victims, witnesses mandated to testify to see the persons who terrorized them jailed? Coming back around to why, a women taught by sheer observation to get where she wants to go, reach her career goals, do good by serving on that bench, I have to be as cruel, ruthless, cutthroat and narrow-minded as my male counterparts less with criminals, the obviously guilty throwing up flimsy excuses and absolute fabrications but with victims too.

Another profound reason to abandon negotiation as the chief conduit to earning potential simultaneously curtailing the current rhetoric women are hearing on how to succeed in management, crafting better guides to management employment, letting them find their own voice in such jobs, negotiation, career coaches routinely tell women in addition to keeping emotion out of  it, the negotiation proceedings aren’t personal, are about hard numbers and facts, so approach your boss with those when you want a raise, are discussing annual salary. Channeling Lawrence for a moment, the hell it isn’t personal when you put your heart, soul, copious amounts of time, like women usually do, into a project, marketing campaign, business venture only to have it fail, only to have your boss feign  obliviousness to your dedication, berate you for lack of end product sans effort; true regardless of gender. The hell it isn’t personal when you again, independent of gender, pull the largest sales numbers, land a huge, well known client do something substantial for the company and your boss sees fit to forget it when it comes time to talk annual raises. Bad enough you have to sell yourself like a sausage or worse a prostitute to get the job in the first place, an analogy increasingly applicable the farther up the career ladder you climb, you have to continuously sell yourself that way during every quarterly performance review, yearly salary negotiation, any time you dare for more than 5 seconds to think you want, deserve, did something worthy of even the slightest pay raise less because you are employee number 3,005 managing an office somewhere in the country, on the globe they couldn’t readily find with an atlas or a map and more because your boss just isn’t paying attention. Insult on top of injury conveniently forgets, dismisses, ignores your accomplishments, achievements always remembering the popular person in the office, in the company’s accomplishments; reliable employees constantly getting the shaft  under this mentality too because all they did was come to work daily and do their job proficiently and consistently; echoing question why does that deserve a raise? Even better it sounds like the newfangled instant, constant praise millennials demand, need to be kept happy and we’re so not doing that. Yes why would we want to reward dedication, acknowledge the vacation days not taken, excuses not given, complaints you don’t hear particularly when it’s done for years on end?  Understand, these scenarios are involving  direct superiors we’re talking about seeing daily, weekly implying the boss should be paying attention, chronicling work progress, remembering larger contributions so you don’t have to sell yourself, remind them like a child, and if they aren’t, they are a bad boss. It is personal, it’s supposed to be personal knowing the kind of commitment companies expect from their hires at this level; telling them not to make it personal diminishes what you will get from that employee no matter their sex. Piling on to the major hurdle for women following the do it like a man paradigm, expectations they take risks just like men key components in female CEO failures laid at the feet of their gender; Marissa Mayer and Carly Fiorina both were brought into already troubled companies, virtually on life support and told to turn them around as fast as possible, forced to abandon the careful caution women usually utilize in favor of expedient results, where caution, slow, steady changes, improvements might have made a greater difference and not just in Mayer’s or Mr. Fiorina’s employment status. Sandberg is the face behind the huge mistake at Facebook, mastermind behind that ill-fated IPO, but was the IPO her idea or her bosses and she was brought in to, charged with executing her boss’ instructions?  Many things were blamed for Facebook’s IPO called the worst large IPO of the decade from dubious dealings by their underwriters concerning it, to how late it came to market, existing concerns about their internal financials, earnings potential, barely moving into the mobile market as the IPO was completed, allegations owners got greedy in pricing structure. All of which sounds like classic Zuckerberg, Mark Zuckerberg, you know the founder of the company, not Sheryl Sandberg, right down to flying in the face of tradition imitating Rupert Murdoch, of all people, to how he appeared to potential investors in his trademark hoody thumbing his nose at the adage dress for success. Not to be discounted regarding the outcomes of the social media giant’s public offering NASDAQ’s own staggering incompetence, technical glitches leaving trades unfinished for days, confusing investors, sellers as to what of their shares had been bought and sold and at what price, coming in at number 1 on a Huffington Post list of why the social networking sites IPO bombed big time. Still think Sheryl Sandberg is singularly responsible, her 2 X chromosomes or, to quote Donald Trump, ‘the blood coming out of her wherever?’ Quite the contrary, Sheryl Sandberg the COO versus Sheryl Sandberg the book writer was subject to her employer’s whim, subject to that young cockiness to here analysts tell it; glaringly showcasing you can provide all the advice you want, all the consulting you were hired to give and it not do an ounce of good if people coming to final decisions don’t listen. Connected to the gender pay gap, workers, women workers, who disproportionately find themselves on the wrong end of the following upper management habit,   in such positions shouldn’t be penalized for ‘failures’ directly attributed to advice given but not taken, shouldn’t be penalized for being handed a crap shoot and told to make it roses, branded terrible at their job title when that doesn’t happen. Because Carly Fiorina got one thing right when she took over at Hewlett Packard it was during one of the greatest tech recessions; now that doesn’t preclude analysts being right about the details of Fiorina’s failed merger, pushing it through despite shareholder reluctance making enemies with that push, losing fellow management support when she needed it to make the merger successful. Yahoo was a mess when Marissa Mayer was given the reins, yes; that doesn’t explain making enemies out of the modern work world with her telecommuting decision, repeating their past mistakes re-bloating their infrastructure with tech start up acquisitions or making it, her gender, overly obvious by building a nursery onto her office, announcing her pregnancy to the world. Who cares?

Want to make things better for everyone across all walks of life, all sections of society, all workplaces, stop blaming gender pay gap disparities on women as failed negotiators instead of the negotiation payment structure itself, societies own biases toward women; stop telling women to do it like a man, engage in the same brash decision making, demanding instant gratification type results. Stop making negotiation the cornerstone of how people get paid discounting skills, tangible measurements oriented evaluation. If you have multiple people in your employ doing the same job, pay them all equally, the only thing that should matter is seniority, years of experience, years with the company, job performance; and if you have someone with consistently poor job performance, maybe you should fire them and hire someone who can do well. If you are not gender biased, stop making yourself look that way as an employer, a company, a manager by ending salary secrecy, secrecy clauses in employment contracts; here is also what got Sony in trouble, not simply that there were 2 different rates of pay seemingly divided by gender, but that no one would have known about it had the media mogul not been hacked, giving the hackers the feel of good Samaritans, whistle blowers.  Identical cases coming to light when a man and wife were employed at the same company doing the same job, same work her taking home thousands less per year. Stop setting women in management up to fail by handing them train wrecks and expecting miracles, firing them when they can’t deliver; end making them tokens in the management hierarchy only to use them as scapegoats for something already failing before they came aboard, exactly what happened in all the women CEO cases now causing second thoughts. Because clearly evident, the thinking was we have these upstart women over here who want to compete with the big boys, think they want to be CEOs, let them try hiring them in part to watch them fail and say see women can’t do it, women don’t possess the business sense. Then when they go back to industry standard of having a man in management, the one using his fist to redecorate the New York Times for example, they can innocently claim, we tried. Leading to the question, despite highlights from Sheryl Sandberg’s book, her own comments on it and her experiences, how much of her failure was due to no support from fellow management, no one taking her seriously because she was a woman?  How much of Carly Fiorina’s poor organization, poor execution regarding the merger had to do with sabotage from within by people who didn’t want to see a woman succeed, took a dislike to her because she didn’t stay in the typical woman’s ‘place’?  Women, stand up for yourselves; the new mantra for you whether you are seeking a management career or confronting your child’s school seeking a better teacher for them needs to be yes I will lead, but I will lead my way, not by imitating anyone, not by trying to be a man in the boardroom. Don’t underestimate me for sweet and nice and don’t congratulate me if I sound like I have brass balls; congratulate me for doing a good job, knowing what I’m talking about, having new, fresh ideas, innovation, for recognizing what the company I was recently put in charge of needs, fundamentals that would have helped Marissa Mayer. I will lead by saying negotiation is not for employee payment schemes, by not blaming myself, my gender for a broken situation that needs, not only to be changed, but fixed at a completely higher level than Jenifer Lawrence’s comments observations and experiences reach. It’s time to change the face, the dynamics of leadership, power, management in business and elsewhere rather than expecting women to turn themselves inside out conforming to unattainable expectations that ruin companies, ruin opportunities, ruin relationships ultimately ruining lives on every level.