International assignments in women’s careers
– Equally available for everyone? Working life is essentially global nowadays. However, working global can mean different things to different people. You can stay put and interact virtually with people all over the world without being tied to any particular physical time or place. You may be involved in a…
In the colours of the rainbow — Corporate responsibility on equality
Large international corporations have a central role in global development and change, whether it is a question of economic growth or pollution or how the states try make them more attractive for big companies. This also includes the notion of corporate responsibility. There has been much discussion of late on…
The role of a ‘leader’ occupies a significant position in achieving the organizational wide objectives such as increasing employee motivation, minimizing employee turn-over as well as advancing equality and fairness in the organization. Generally speaking, leadership is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ phenomenon since there is no universally accepted definition or style. Nonetheless, with increasing workplace diversity in the 21st-century organizations as well as fast deployment and adoption of interactive communication channels, the role of the leadership is changing and considered more challenging and demanding. It is assumed that every organization is diverse rather than monolithic, where people with diversified cultural & educational background, gender, and skill-sets provide immense learning and growth opportunities. This workforce diversity in the 21st-century organizations with advanced interactive communication channels motivates the development of new leadership styles to meet the variant organizational needs and requirements. Among these evolving leadership styles, the collaborative leadership occupies a key position.
Working collaboratively in any organization drives the concept of a shared vision to develop a new kind of leadership. This collective approach, in turn, motivates the leaders, employees, stakeholders, and other organizational agencies to interact in thought-provoking dialogues in order to find the best possible answers and solutions collectively, rather than producing heroic or a “great person approach”. Therefore, it is safe to argue that collaborative leadership style disrupts the traditional or bureaucratic approaches and triggers the idea of shared, distributed, network, relational, transformational, and horizontal leadership approaches that create the synergetic attitudes of collaborative leaders and promising high impact over the organizational performance.
It is widely believed that collaborative leadership style performs distinctly by establishing new rules and laws for joint actions, strengthening the fragile relationship between and among the different organizational hierarchy, and accelerating the search for novel ideas to resolve conflicts in the organizational performance.
Despite these immense benefits of working collectively, sharing power is a major constraint in developing collaboration which somehow creates the lack of trust. In addition, collaborative leadership style is found to be not working effectively at the time of making quick strategic decisions. In diverse workforce organizations, ethics and values are difficult to maintain in a collaborative environment. Societal & cultural forces, language barrier and organizational structure, can be a hindrance in demonstrating the collaborative leadership practices successfully. Another constraint is the generation gap in promoting the collaborative leadership effectively because younger employees found to be less interested in working collaboratively. Yet, collaborative leadership, when exercised in a context-sensitive way, can be a valuable leadership approach in supporting diverse people’s opportunities to meaningful and productive work, and consequently better organizational performance.
Shabnam Shaikh, Suvi Heikkinen & Anna-Maija Lämsä
University of Jyväskylä School of Business and Economics
In today’s global political climate, research on inequality and diversity is of increasing importance. Nordic countries have a particular duty and a unique opportunity to lead the way.
How do we describe the international current political climate for equality? Basic human rights are being challenged, even in countries that previously were in the forefront of defending the rights of oppressed peoples. The massive refugee crisis has witnessed many countries turning their backs on those in need, and discriminatory legislation against women, religious groups, and non-heteronormative people, still exists in many regions of the world. In social media, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and misogynist attitudes and behaviors appear to be increasing.
On the other hand, we have seen great strides towards equality in the last 50 years and many people who were previously without a voice are being heard. Transgender rights are increasingly recognized, and same sex marriage has been enshrined in law in over twenty nations. Progress in gender equality and rights for minority groups has been achieved in many regions of the world. Popular films, books, and television series represent more and more diverse and minority people.
Thus we are moving backward and forward at the same time. No one country has “achieved equality”. We must remember that equality is not an end state but a process that we must keep fighting for, through activism, research and dissemination. It seems that recently the process of equality and inclusion in several countries is starting to slide backwards – so now is the time to counter with role models for forward momentum.
Why should the Nordic countries lead?
The Nordic countries have a unique opportunity and duty to maintain, improve and lead in areas of equality. Currently these countries are world leaders in equality, and general human development. Examples of equality in practice and policy range from Norwegian laws on quotas for women on boards, to Icelandic equal representation in parliament, to excellent parental leave in all the Nordic countries. The Nordic welfare model supports these advancements. The model has its roots in equality, strong government responsibility, high employment, and a tradition of social dialogue, which reflects the cultural values and provides the firm foundation for equality legislation.
Still, this picture is also complicated. Although Nordic countries have achieved many successes there are still areas of deep concern. Some examples are the high level of occupational segregation, challenges with integration of immigrants, and a high prevalence of domestic violence.
We should expect the Nordic countries, as leaders in equality, to share the complete picture: what is working and what needs to be improved. Good research and research dissemination from the Nordic countries is essential for the equality agenda.
Why is research important?
With the advent of global communication and social media, access for an unprecedented number of people to share their comments and opinions is available. There exists a wonderful opportunity for democracy; however the flip side is that this outpouring of opinion can lead to polarization and general disregard for science, research, knowledge, and facts. In a world that makes room for “alternative” facts, we have a duty to present the data and the models to guide us towards a better one.
We need to be a part of the production of knowledge, which requires systematic and critical thinking. In the global dialogue, we have to stand up for the questions, and the discussions based on research and scientific principles, and counter the people and institutions spreading half-truths and falsehoods. We must remember that we can never have the complete picture and that the picture is constantly changing. Reality is many-sided and as researchers, we need to make sure that we keep an open mind, encourage curiosity, and learn from mistakes. This is not about winning debates but adding to knowledge. That means no simple stories and sharing the Nordic experience through solid research.
Role models are not perfect but they are visible, vocal, and they share. The Nordic countries are currently in the forefront on many equality issues and practices. Researchers in these countries need to keep monitoring the progress, dispelling myths and stereotypes with facts, rejecting simple sweeping explanations, and building knowledge instead of walls of prejudice. The current global political climate needs to hear the Nordic voice of, and for equality.
Laura E. Mercer Traavik is a gender researcher based in BI Norwegian Business School. Traavik visited WeAll-Project in late 2016.
https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-gender-gap-report-2016 and http://hdr.undp.org/en 
Large international corporations have a central role in global development and change, whether it is a question of economic growth or pollution or how the states try make them more attractive for big companies. This also includes the notion of corporate responsibility. There has been much discussion of late on sustainable development and socially justifiable conditions for employees. Workforce diversity is seen as a resource. More attention is being paid to fostering gender and ethnic diversity. In the last few years, more and more often discussion has focused on sexual orientation and gender diversity.
I recently took part in the Pride and Prejudice conference, which was organised by The Economist. The topic was the responsibility of large international corporations from the perspective of sexual and gender diversity. It took place on three continents. Corporate leaders, specialists, researchers and other participants met in Hong Kong, New York and London to focus on corporate responsibility and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans issues from different regional and international perspectives. The companies present at the conference included IBM, Deutsche Bank, Microsoft, Facebook, L1 Energy, Shell and the Lufthansa Group.
In London, research results were presented to demonstrate that advancing equality in relation to sexual and gender diversity is important from the standpoint of a growth in production. In practice, the results of such practices are most evident in recruiting and career development, in which the best actors not ignored because of discrimination. It will also benefit a company in terms of employee commitment and better work communities, ones which are more creative and minimise bad feelings among employees. It will also have an effect on clients and co-operative partners.
Several experts also reported research findings on discrimination and how such discrimination makes it difficult for trans people and sexual minorities to advance in their careers. Discussion on the poor situation of trans people and the problems facing lesbians and gays belonging to ethnic minorities was quite animated.
The importance of continued training and education as well as the advancing the visibility of diverse groups of people and introducing practical models for anti-discrimination were emphasised. Corporate leaders who had talked about their non-heterosexuality or norm-challenging gender identity were seen as positive models. Others emphasised the fact that receiving strong and visible support from the corporate leaders is important for diversity work. LGBT employee networks were seen as a useful tool.
Many large companies find it challenging to work in a country where the legislation or human rights situation in general is negative for trans people or sexual minorities. Three possible strategies were presented in the conference. In the do as the Romans do model, the problems are not faced and the discriminatory practices are not questioned. In the embassy model, the company can work as a safe haven for LGBT employees, but it will not try to actively influence the general situation in a country. In the advocacy model, the company will try to actively or discreetly change the negative legislation and make decisions on where to invest by taking the LGBT human rights situation into account. Corporate leaders who took part in the London conference said that they understand all three strategies, but they emphasised the importance of corporate co-operation when working for change.
No major Finnish companies were present at the conference, but the topic of diversity must be familiar to them. Legislation in Finland demands that companies take into account how to make the workplaces more equal and less discriminatory. It is time for Finnish companies to raise the bar in advancing equality and let others know what they have achieved in terms of diversifying the workplace. This would support others in doing the same. It is also time for large companies to openly promote the first lesbian and gay leaders: who will be the first one?
Jukka Lehtonen, Senior Researcher, WeAll-project
Pride and prejudice. Attitudes and opinions toward LGBT inclusion in the workplace. The Economist Intelligence Unit. London, 2016. http://prideandprejudice.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/PrideAndPrejudice_EIUBriefingPaper_March2016.pdf
A scientist calculated the cost of not being a straight man, and she wants a tax cut. Quartz, 2016. http://qz.com/631455/a-scientist-cacluated-the-cost-of-not-being-a-straight-man-and-she-wants-a-tax-cut/
– Equally available for everyone?
Working life is essentially global nowadays. However, working global can mean different things to different people. You can stay put and interact virtually with people all over the world without being tied to any particular physical time or place. You may be involved in a multicultural workforce in your home country, or you can get a change of scene and do an international assignment. Is an international assignment equally available to everyone, and just a matter of deciding to go and packing your suitcase? Do men and women have the same opportunities to carry out an international assignment?
According to research done over the years, women often encounter difficulties when advancing to the uppermost levels of organizations. There is evidence that doing an international assignment is not only a requirement for an organization’s competitive success but also beneficial for career advancement and essential for certain top-level positions (e.g. women on boards). According to Tharenou (2010) women more often take the initiative to go on an international assignment than men do, but still organizations tend to send more men abroad. This results that the number of women on international assignments is lower.
The work-family relationship has often been put forward to explain why women do not take international assignments, suggesting that women turning down the opportunities they have because of their family responsibilities (Shortland 2015). However, there is evidence that actually women are willing to go abroad, but family factors can lead to women being less able to convert their willingness into action. This results in an agency gap, in which the understanding of gender roles concerning family responsibilities as well as of the organizational system that directs decision-making in international assignments is crucial.
To create an economically and socially sustainable working life which operates globally, it might be worth trying to understand how organizations and managers can organize their operations in such a way that selection, assignment, appraisal, promotion and work-family integration are possible and are realized in action for women on the way to senior levels and management posts. Processes that operate fairly and justly to enable women to pursue and succeed in international assignments are needed both at home and abroad.
This blog was written by Suvi Heikkinen and Alessandra Rigolini during a short international research assignment in BI Norwegian Business School (Oslo). Rigolini, PhD, works as a research fellow at the Department of Economics and Management, University of Pisa. Heikkinen, PhD, works as a post-doctoral researcher in the WEALL project in the School of Business and Economics, University of Jyväskylä. Both researchers are interested in equal career opportunities.
WeAll researcher Suvi Heikkinen, University of Jyväskylä
Alessandra Rigolini, PhD, University of Pisa
Shortland, S. 2015. The Purpose of Expatriation: Why Women Undertake International Assignments. Human Resource Management. DOI: 10.1002/hrm.21686.
Tharenou, P. 2010. Women’s self-initiated expatriation as a career option and its ethical issues. Journal of Business Ethics, 95(1), 73-88.
Kestävällä työelämällä menestykseen
Suomelle etsitään uutta suuntaa maailmanpoliittisten kriisien, globaalin talouden ja työn murroksen tilanteessa. Korkeat työttömyysluvut ja julkisten palvelujen rahoittamisen ongelmat ovat keskustelun polttopisteessä: miten tästä eteenpäin?
Valtiontalouteen ja kilpailukykysopimukseen liittyvät keskustelut näyttäytyvät useimmiten kiistelynä poisottamisten kohdentamisesta. Väitellään siitä, keneltä leikataan, kuka joutuu maksamaan enemmän ja kenet jätetään kokonaan ulkopuolelle. Huoli erilaisten leikkausten ja nopeasti tehtävien uudistusten tasa-arvovaikutuksista on tuotu esiin moneen kertaan. Huolta aiheuttavat myös erilaiset pätkä- ja silpputyöt, joista on tullut merkittävä työllistymisen muoto. Hektisessä työelämässä, joka kärjistetyimmillään vaatii tekijöiltään 24/7-valmiutta, rajat työn ja muun elämän välillä hämärtyvät. Kysymys jaksamisesta on entistä tärkeämpi, ja se linkittyy myös eettisesti kestävään johtamiseen. Epävarmoissa työoloissa epäkohdista ei usein uskalleta keskustella.
Taloudellisesti vaikeina aikoina tasa-arvotyö saatetaan nähdä sekä yhteiskunnassa että työpaikoilla ylimääräisenä kuluna, joka on helppo leikata pois. Tasa-arvohan on Suomessa jo saavutettu, sanotaan. Lukuisat tutkimustulokset puhuvat kuitenkin sen puolesta, että tasa-arvoa on syytä edistää ja ylläpitää entistä intensiivisemmin. Työelämässä on moninaisia syrjinnän ja eriarvoisuuden mekanismeja, joiden takia monien ihmisten osaamista ei saada parhaimmalla mahdollisella tavalla yhteiskunnassa käyttöön. Ongelmia ovat esimerkiksi työelämän jakautuminen nais- ja miesvaltaisiin aloihin, hoivan vahva sukupuolittuminen, ylimpien johtotehtävien miesvaltaisuus sekä sukupuolittunut ikäsyrjintä. Tasa-arvotyölle on oikeudenmukaisuuden edistämisen lisäksi siis myös taloudellisia syitä – yhteiskunnan tasa-arvoisuus, hyvinvointi ja vauraus käyvät käsi kädessä.
Tutkimushankkeessamme Yhteiskunnallisesti ja taloudellisesti kestävä tulevaisuuden työelämä (WeAll) tutkimme ja edistämme työelämän tasa-arvoa. Tavoitteena on rakentaa tasa-arvoisempaa työelämää, joka lisää sekä yhteiskunnallista että tekijöidensä hyvinvointia. Tutkimuksemme tuottaa tietoa päätöksenteon tueksi, jotta työurat voisivat olla nykyistä pidempiä ja yhä useampi ihminen pääsisi kiinni työelämään niin kaupungeissa kuin maaseudulla. Tarkastelemme eri sukupuolten ja eri-ikäisten ihmisten työelämän ja uran kysymyksiä. Tutkimme perheen, työn ja muun elämän yhdistämistä, jotta läheisistä huolehtiminen ja palkkatyö olisi mahdollista yhdistää ilman uupumista ja työelämän ulkopuolelle jättäytymistä. Haluamme selvittää, mitä on tehtävissä sen eteen, että esimerkiksi sukupuoli, seksuaalisuus, etninen tausta tai ikä eivät estäisi yksilöä pääsemästä työelämässä niihin tavoitteisiin, joihin hänen osaamisensa antaisi mahdollisuudet. Tasa-arvo ja yhdenvertaisuus luovat hyvinvointia ja oikeudenmukaisuutta yksilöiden, organisaatioiden ja yhteiskunnan eri tasoilla.
Tässä blogissa kerromme jatkossa WeAll-hankkeen tutkimustuloksista sekä muista kuulumisista. Myös vierailevat kirjoittajat saavat äänensä kuuluviin, sillä yksi tutkimuksemme kulmakivistä on yhteistyö sidosryhmien ja kokemusasiantuntijoiden kanssa. WeAll-tutkimushanketta rahoittaa Suomen Akatemian yhteydessä toimiva Strategisen tutkimuksen neuvosto. Rahoitusmalli korostaa tiedon tuottajien ja hyödyntäjien yhteistyötä. Tehdään yhdessä parempi työelämä!
Tutkimusjohtaja Marjut Jyrkinen, tutkimuskoordinaattori Mira Karjalainen ja tutkijatohtori Tytti Steel työskentelevät WeAll-tutkimushankkeessa, jota rahoittaa Suomen Akatemian yhteydessä toimiva Strategisen tutkimuksen neuvosto.