Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Vault’ s Careers Blog is Moving

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An announcement: after almost a year on WordPress, we’re discontinuing Vault’s Careers Blog on WordPress. But don’t worry: you’ll still be able to get your fill of career information and advice on Vault.com–where our blogs are going from strength to strength.

Our full blog lineup on Vault.com is as follows:

Vault’s Careers Blog
Vault’s Law Blog
Consult THIS: Consulting Careers, News and Views
In Good Company: Vault’s CSR blog
In the Black: Vault’s Finance Careers Blog
Admit One: Vault’s MBA, Law School and College Blog
Insider Career Advice from SixFigureStart
Innovate with Influence: Global High Tech

Thanks for reading us on WordPress.

We hope to see you over on Vault.com soon!

–The Vault Editorial Team

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Where the Women Aren’t: The Banking C-Suite

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October is Carl Paladino National Diversity Month, so we decided to go back to the data we collected in our most recent Banking Survey and see if we couldn’t find a few fitting pieces to offer up in honor of these holy 31 days.

First, what we found, unsurprisingly, is a marked lack of women in the banking workplace. Somewhat surprising, though, was that this lack of women increases as you go up the banking org chart. That is, as you’ll see in the graphic below, of those bankers surveyed, 26 percent identified themselves as women. But of those surveyed who hold executive positions, only 11 percent identified themselves as women. The takeaway here is that females are still underrepresented at the top financial firms, and are severely underrepresented in the higher ranks at the top financial firms.

Vault.com 2010 banking diversity gender

Second we found (again unsurprisingly) that the ethnic group that accounts for most (almost three quarters) of the entire banking industry is none other than the white male. However, interestingly, we found that the white male is far better represented in the banking industry than it is in the general population—almost 10 percent greater as you can see in the graphic below. In addition, Asians, the second largest ethnic group in banking, are also far better represented in the industry than they are in the wider U.S. population—about three times greater, in fact. On the other side of this diversity story, Hispanic individuals and African-Americans are severely underrepresented in the banking industry versus their representation in the wider population.

 

Vault.com ethnic diversity of finance industry 2010

Third, we found a large lack of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals in banking. Given that banking is perhaps one of, if not the most politically conservative industries in the United States, this might not come as that much of a surprise, but still, you would think that the lack might not be as significant as the pie chart below indicates: just 1 percent of the more than 2,200 bankers surveyed had identified themselves as an openly GLBT individual. Which begs the question: are GLBT individuals not welcome into the banking industry, not interested in the industry, or both?

Vault.com 2010 banking diversity GLBT

–Posted by Derek Loosvelt, In The Black

Down in the Valley: How Tech Leader Policies Limited Recruiting

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Google. Apple. Intel. Adobe. Intuit. Pixar. Each of these names is known to elicit superlatives for innovation and leadership. Each is also counted among the most desirable employers of Silicon Valley. And yet, as a U.S. Justice Department investigation has revealed, working for one of them could mean your career prospects could be severely limited for the rest.

On Friday, the aforementioned gang of six collectively consented to a Justice Department order to cease a series of clandestine no-poaching pacts. The department alleges that, through much of the past decade, the implicated parties kept do-not-call lists to mark each other’s staff as off-limits for job offer solicitation. In turn, those recruitment restrictions hampered opportunities for rising talent at top companies.

As the government’s resulting settlement describes, “The agreements eliminated a significant form of competition to attract highly skilled employees, and overall diminished competition to the detriment of affected employees.”

For tech professionals, the existence of such policies can only be disheartening. It’s difficult enough to soldier on in the IT field’s current state, as the rise of mergers and acquisitions threatens to consolidate the industry—and squeeze out workers in the ensuing layoffs. To know that employers actively avoid certain candidates can quash not just advancement or competitive salaries, but the perceived value of one’s own accrued skills and experience.

Moreover, Silicon Valley is a climate that thrives on migration. For decades, the industry has been characterized by the ability of its workforce to roam amongst market leaders and scrappy startups alike. It is this viral spreading of knowledge and talent that bolsters progress. The actions of Google et al risked stifling that dynamic, at a time when new ideas were so vital to the market amid a dire recession.

But even after striking a blow against the major players, this may only scratch the surface. In announcing its settlement with the six conspirators, the D.O.J. said it “continues to investigate other similar no solicitation agreements,” raising questions as to the scope of this practice. It may be minimal: while leaders such as Microsoft and IBM were implicated at the investigation’s inception, they were ultimately omitted from the settlement. But given the industry’s interwoven dependencies among firms, it’s not hard to suspect that many alliances have included deals to prevent poaching.

A statement by Google (thus far the only party to publicly respond) bodes particular ill: Assistant counsel Amy Lambert assures on its Public Policy Blog that Google “abandoned our ‘no cold calling’ policy in late 2009.” But by acknowledging “a number of other tech companies had similar ‘no cold call’ policies,” she seems to imply that the company followed an established trend, rather than marching to its own drummer. That’s not what you come to expect of an innovator.
— Alex Tuttle, Vault.com

Did Goldman Break Its Diversity Policy?

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For the 11th straight year, industry insiders named Goldman Sachs the most prestigious bank in North America in Vault’s latest ranking. In hindsight then, all the public mudslinging of recent years has done little to upset the bank whether it’s in attracting the biggest deals or the best talent. And according to our survey, bankers continue to want Goldman on their resume.

Ironically, a day after the rankings debuted, the bank’s prestige is under attack by three former female employees who charge, according to The Wall Street Journal, that “The investment bank practices a system in which women are paid less, promoted less and ‘systematically circumvented and excluded.'”

Jobs, Careers and Reviews at Goldman SachsWhat’s astounding about the allegation is the repeated emphasis on intent, i.e., that the bank has a system that almost formulaically excludes women from getting promoted and compensated on par with their male counterparts. While the bank has called the suit without merit, stating that, “People are critical to our business, and we make extraordinary efforts to recruit, develop and retain outstanding women professionals,” it seems it is yet again in the red with the public.

Comments from our Banking 50 survey—culled from responses submitted by over 1,300 banking professionals earlier this year—provide further perspective:

“Supportive and respectful management”

“They could do a better job of promotion as well as placement into areas that are a good fit and utilize skill sets…”

“Having come up through the ranks, from a junior trader to now an experienced one in fixed income products, I must say that I’ve been very pleased with the level of training, support and guidance that I’ve received over the years from the firm…”

“I’m a firm believer in the culture at Goldman Sachs. The firm is team-focused, emphasizing integrity and personal development within the industry.”

“I think we do a good job at getting women and diversity candidates in the door, but for real success we need to work on better retention.”

And, finally a snippet of their Diversity Mission Statement from Vault’s Annual Diversity Survey:

“The firm’s commitment to diversity is evident at the most senior levels and is driven down through the firm by way of our seventh business principle: “We offer our people the opportunity to move ahead more rapidly than is possible at most other places. Advancement depends on merit and we have yet to find the limits to the responsibility our best people are able to assume. For us to be successful, our men and women must reflect the diversity of the communities and cultures in which we operate. That means we must attract, retain and motivate people from many backgrounds and perspectives. Being diverse is not optional; it is what we must be.”

So where does this leave the banking king: A chauvinistic boys club, truly diverse with a few unintentional victims, or the victim of a ploy to take advantage of its current poor reputation? Weigh in by leaving a comment, emailing In Good Company or connecting on Twitter @VaultCSR.

More reading: The complete WSJ report.

What other banks made the Top 10 most prestigious banks in North America this year?

How to Tell When Colleagues (and Your Boss) Are Lying

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A recent study identified some sure-fire methods for detecting when your boss—and presumably anyone else—is lying. David Larcker and Anastasia Zakolyukina of Stanford’s School of Business examined conference call transcripts of CEOs and financial officers and compared the language used when said execs were discussing accurate results and those that later had to be “materially restated.”


As reported by The Economist, the study found several key “tells” in language choice:

  • References to general knowledge or received wisdom. Examples: execs who say things like “as you know” or “you’re all aware that…”
  • Extreme positivity. You won’t catch a liar telling you something’s “fine”. In their attempt to sell you their particular bill of goods, they’ll invoke “extreme positive emotion words” like “incredible,” “fantastic,” and “superb.” *
  • The “we” factor. According to The Economist “When they are lying, bosses avoid the word “I”, opting instead for the third person.”
  • Smooth talkers. You know those people who seem to stutter, hum and haw their way through every presentation? They’re probably telling the truth. A degree of polish—while usually a good thing for the listener—can show that someone has practiced their lines or been coached in what to say. That’s an essential element in lying effectively.


People who lie never try to give themselves away: it’s their unconscious that does it for them. While that’s clear from the word choices employed by execs in the examples above, the study they’re drawn from is limited by the fact that they’re based on transcripts. While The Economist piece wryly notes that we can “[e]xpect ‘fantastic’ results to become a thing of the past” because of executive coaching, there are other facets that are harder to control: things like body language, tone of voice, and how someone responds in a situation compared to their baseline.


I’ve taken the opportunity to list a few more below. Whether you choose to use them to root out lying in others or simply to more effectively mask your own is entirely your own business!

  • Defensiveness. People with nothing to hide tend to be the most open. People who are uncooperative and/or defensive may well be hiding something.
  • Body language. It’s no secret that lying makes most people uncomfortable. Physical signs include sweating, lack of eye contact and fidgeting.
  • Physical barriers. Liars will sometimes unconsciously place objects between themselves and the person/people they’re lying to.
  • The higher the stakes, the higher the pitch. Does someone’s voice sound higher or a little more strained than usual? They may just be unfolding a fib before your eyes.

Post Work Socializing: Workplace Bonding or Boys’ Club?

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Man with beer

AP Photo/Fritz Reiss

Your liver or your career?

A recent FINS article suggested that anyone thinking of trying to make it on Wall Street should drink up: the culture on the Street is apparently heavily dependent on after-hours booze-ups. While that likely won’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the financial industry (or many other industries, for that matter), it does raise the issue of workplace bonding—and the question of where to draw the line between an employee’s “fit” and their performance.

If the former broker cited in the FINS piece is to be believed, he was slow to realize that he was missing out on more than just a hangover by not participating in post-work drinking sessions. As he puts it, he lost the opportunity to forge “emotional connections” with his fellow employees—and specifically with bosses. And while not hitting the bar on a regular basis may strike some as the act of a responsible careerist, the failure to build those bonds may have cost the broker: he lost his job when the financial crisis struck.

The article doesn’t offer details on whether any of broker’s former colleagues who participated in the carousing were also let go, or attempt to discover whether the layoff was related to performance issues in addition to the economic difficulties. But the very fact that one can come away from the piece speculating on that underlines the difficulty of balancing a close-knit work group with a commitment to remaining professional at all times.

Most of us have had a colleague at some point who seems to get by on personal connections rather than the quality of their work. And it’s certainly not difficult to imagine a scenario where the boss’ drinking buddies are treated preferentially over a colleague who may be just as talented—or more so—but lacking when it comes to that all-important emotional connection.

Many of us also have stories of workplaces or departments where all the talent an organization could possibly need is hampered by a poor culture and lack of communication.

The challenge for execs, then, is in striking the balance between the two: encouraging bonding without having it spill over into an institutionalized boys’ club. To that end, a good starting point may well be to set aside some regular office hours for non-work activities for your employees—with a careful focus on ensuring that people socialize beyond their usual work groups.

Of course, it’s difficult to prevent groups of employees from forming cliques and excluding others: people naturally gravitate to those with similar interests. But those at an executive level need to exercise care should they become aware—or even choose to participate—in such groups. Because while close “emotional connections” can produce close-knit, well-functioning teams, they can also lead to blind spots over performance or conduct. And that’s something no business can afford.

Should You Bring ‘This’ Up During a Job Interview?

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In 2007, when the financial industry was at the brink of collapse, one executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) saw opportunity. Shannon Schuyler, then a member of PwC’s recruitment team, wrote a white paper for company leadership emphasizing that the firm needed someone to reorganize and refine their community initiatives, and give their corporate responsibility a face.

Three months later the job was hers. How did she re-strategize the firm’s hiring policies and recruitment outreach to encompass PwC’s commitment to corporate responsibility?

  1. For one, having a background in experienced hiring and on campus recruitment helped. She has seen first-hand the gradual evolution of the hiring landscape, where candidate priorities shifted from the best-paid job offer to work/life balance, and today, to a company’s commitment to responsible corporate citizenship. Her experience assured peers that directives coming from the new Corporate Responsibility Leader would be balanced and realistic.
  2. Secondly, the message from campuses was loud and clear. According to Schuyler, candidates are increasingly asking what the firm is doing to give back to the community, who they donate to, what they do toward the environment, etc. “They want to know how they can get engaged when they start. They want to know what our strategies are,” she said.
  3. Finally, she noted, markedly changing business strategies and decision making processes can be a double-edged sword. As her team continues to work on ensuring that new hires are aware and receptive of the company’s commitment from day one, she is also responsible for inculcating a deeper cultural change among current employees. And that is where her real battle lies.

Her observations mirror findings of Vault’s recently concluded Job Hunting in CSR series, where four MBA candidates discussed business school, their career transitions and job hunting, all connected with a commitment to CSR and change management.

For now, Schuyler is focusing on the “life cycle of a student.” Her team is busy redefining the firm’s hiring strategy by shifting their focus from best practices to candidates’ personal journey. “Increasingly, we ask, what are the opportunities? What could we continue to build on as a continuum? Would that really change what their education experience is, and ultimately, their success? It’s not just how you do the equations, but how you’re taking that and making it part of their life.”

–Posted by Aman Singh, Vault’s CSR Editor