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Archive for the ‘In the News’ Category

Women’s Salaries Rising Faster than Men’s

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Is the salary gap between men and women starting to narrow? It certainly appears to be at the higher end of the salary scale: the number of women earning salaries in excess of six figures has jumped 14 percent in the last two years, while the number of men in that category rose just 4 percent over the same period. (Even better news: apparently people got raises over the last two years: who’d a thunk?)

However welcome that news may be, census figures—reported by The Washington Post–suggest that there’s still a long way to go to equalize salaries, especially in light of the fact that women are now more likely to hold an advanced degree than men.

As the Post points out, just “one in 18 women working full time earned $100,000 or more in 2009,” compared to one in seven men. In case you’re wondering, that works out to around “2.4 million working women and 7.9 million men” in the six figure (or better) category.

A couple of other points worth noting about the data:

First, it seems like it wasn’t all that long ago we were reading stories that, for the first time in history, the number of men and women in the workforce was roughly equal. While that had come largely as a result of the fact the recession hit male-dominated industries much harder than female-dominated ones, it turns out that it’s also nowhere near the truth when you factor out part-time employees. As the Post reports “[t]he full-time workforce remains predominantly male, with 56 million men and 42 million women.”

And, second, the most likely place for women to secure a decent salary is in Washington, D.C.—the capital “had the highest median pay among all full-time working women,” while ranking second on the scale for the number of women making six figures or higher. Apparently one in six Washington women currently pull down a minimum of $100,000, second only to San Jose, CA.

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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

Rising Discrimination Against Muslim Workers

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A dispatch from the uglier side of the modern workplace: complaints about discrimination against Muslim workers have risen by 20 percent in the past year—and by 60 percent since 2005.

According to the New York Times, complaints from Muslim workers run the gamut “from co-workers calling them “terrorist” or “Osama” to employers barring them from wearing head scarves or taking prayer breaks.”

The likely reasons for the upsurge in complaints are all too predictable: the Times piece cites 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and “the erroneous belief, held by many Americans, that the first nonwhite president is Muslim” as problems. Additionally, the brouhaha over the proposed Islamic center in Lower Manhattan (aka “the Ground Zero Mosque”) was listed as a factor, but the report noted that “complaints were increasing even before frictions erupted” on the issue.

Most distressing of all, as complaints by Muslim employees are higher now than at any time in the past ten years—including right after the 9/11 attacks. And complaints from Muslim workers now make up a quarter of all religious discrimination claims, despite the fact that the group comprises just two percent of the US population.

There’s a question—also reflected in the report—of whether the incidences of discrimination have risen, or whether people are simply reporting the incidences more. Either way, the figures clearly show that there’s a problem. The only real question, then, is what can be done about it.

Have you witnessed or been a victim of this kind of discrimination? Do you have any thoughts on what causes it or what can be done about it? Post your comments below.

Written by Phil Stott

September 27, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Retail Jobs Surge, but Little Action Elsewhere: This Week in Employment

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Is there any point in even mentioning the biggest job/economy-related story of the week? We all know by now that the recession ended in 2009, right? Officially, at any rate, if not by Warren Buffett’s more common-sensical standards. And we’re all equally aware that, whether we’re technically in a recession or not, things are still pretty bleak and likely to remain so for some time? Good. So let’s move on to the good stuff.

Frankly, economic distractions aside, it hasn’t been the best week if you’re looking for positive employment news. Sure, we found out that retailers are anticipating a slightly better festive season than last year, prompting a prediction of up to 650,000 temporary jobs during the period this year. And, sure, Macy’s alone is creating as many as 65,000 temporary positions. All of that is decent news, but temporary hiring is, well, temporary—and the example of the Census earlier this year suggests that, in this economy, once temporary jobs have gone, the unemployment rate is likely to go straight back up to where it was prior to the positions.

There was some positive news for the tech sector, where it emerged that spending is estimated to top $3.5 trillion in 2011—and all of that spending does tend to suggest that hiring will follow. But that was tempered by news of cuts in other sectors, as noted on Vault’s Employment Tracker. While the news that Abbott Laboratories is laying off 3,000 workers was the worst cut of the week in terms of pure numbers, it wasn’t the worst signal out there. That honor went to the news that Bank of America is cutting 400 jobs in its global banking and markets division. The reason for that—a slowdown in revenue from trading and advising clients—may well have industry-wide reverberations. And as we’ve learned to our cost over the last couple of years, when the financial industry isn’t making money, the rest of us may well have good reason to be nervous.

Wall Street Hearts Gay Marriage

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Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but last night, while the eyes of the Wall Street media were still focused on Goldman Sachs’ sex-discrimination suit, the American Foundation for Equal Rights–the group that spearheaded the battle to fight California’s gay marriage ban–held a fundraising benefit in Midtown Manhattan, and executives from KKR, Blackstone, Carlyle Group, Goldman Sachs and others from the investment banking, hedge fund and private equity industries were in attendance to support the organization.

Such a public display of affection for the rights of gay and lesbians is a complete about-face by the upper echelons of the finance industry compared to how they dealt with this issue just a few years ago.

In Vault’s annual Banking Survey, administered each spring for more than a decade, we have asked professionals in the industry to comment on their firm’s diversity efforts with respect to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, as well as with respect to women and minorities. It wasn’t too long ago that a majority of those surveyed would respond to the GLBT question with, at best, “no comment,” while freely providing scores of information about diversity efforts with respect to women and ethnic minorities. In addition, even when we did receive a comment, and a positive comment at that, about a firm’s GLBT diversity, the commenter, more times than not, did not wish to go on record; to boot, PR heads of firms continually lobbied for the removal (from the survey write-up) of any mention of GLBT diversity–even if their firm was painted in a very positive light.

In the past couple of years, however, this has been changing. We now receive just as many (or almost as many) comments about GLBT hiring practices as we do about women and ethnic minority practices. And PR representatives are now more than happy to highlight their efforts to hire and accommodate GLBT individuals.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that the finance industry (or America’s other corporations in other industries) have come close to embracing gay and lesbian rights in the workplace, but we have come a long way, paving the way for top-ranking executives, such as Ken Mehlman, a partner at KKR, perhaps the most well known private equity firm on the planet, to come out and speak their minds.

Last week, Mehlman (who, prior to joining KKR, ran George Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004), publicly acknowledged his homosexuality. In an interview, he told The Atlantic, “Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I’ve told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they’ve been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that’s made me a happier and better person. It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”

Kudos, Mr. Mehlman, and here’s (glass raised) to hoping that your courage will inspire other current and future professionals, as well as encourage current and future corporations to take an increased pride in the individualities of their employees.

–Posted by Derek Loosvelt, In the Black

Written by Phil Stott

September 23, 2010 at 11:36 am

What’s Your Breaking Point?

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A rocky job market affects more than just the unemployed and recent graduates—even those still employed are feeling the sting. With little certainty of finding placement elsewhere, labor statistics show that few professionals are willing to leave their jobs, despite a rise in reported employee dissatisfaction and especially dispiriting working conditions recently seen in the news. To gauge this sense of career confinement, in a recent poll Vault asked its readers “What would be the last straw to make you quit your job?”

One workplace issue which held the collective attention this past summer was the threat of bedbug infestations in New York City—and it would be hard to blame anyone who runs screaming from an office crawling with them. However, just 2 percent of Vault readers said these vermin would prompt them to resign. But quitting may not be necessary: Bedbug infestations have thus far resulted in complete shutdowns of a Victoria’s Secret, Manhattan offices for Google and Cadwalader, and most recently the flagship Niketown store. And you can’t quit if there’s no job to go to.

Fewer still indicated that they would pack it in for an impending company merger. Yet, if we’ve learned anything from the year’s rash of buyouts, industry consolidation doesn’t leave much room for staff: The merger of Pfizer and Wyeth, for instance, resulted in thousands losing their jobs and facilities shutting down around the globe. Now, with the completion of United and Continental Airlines’ amalgamation, another drastic round of layoffs won’t be far off.

The prospect of benefit reductions also failed to influence resignation decisions, with just 5 percent stating that would be their breaking point. Sadly, this has been reflected in practice: One of last year’s more shocking developments was the news that insurance company WellPoint reduced its own employee health benefits, even while encouraging staff to protest health care reform. In spite of that, there was no surge of people lining up to leave Wellpoint in response.

The point at which respondents begin to rankle, it seems, is the prospect of outright mistreatment. While toxic offices have inspired some of our favorite films, from Office Space to The Devil Wears Prada, they remain a professional hazard. Abuse can take different forms at different levels: Some superiors will demoralize staff to the extremes seen in the tragic suicides at Foxconn, while sexual harassment may (allegedly) come from such diverse figures as the New York Jets or the CEO of Hewlett-Packard. That kind of treatment would apparently cause 31 percent of respondents to move on.

And then there’s the suffering endured at the hands of customers and clients. By now we’re all familiar with one such incident, when an allegedly unruly passenger prompted the abrupt resignation and emergency chute escape of JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater. And he’s likely not alone in his frustration: some 9 percent of respondents to the poll said they’d have likely done the same.

Ultimately, however, stability rules the day: Nearly half of our respondents confirmed the notion that the only way they’d quit is with a new job waiting for them. But even if that seems the safe bet, it’s not always the wisest—by continuing at a job that doesn’t meet your standards, not only do you risk stagnating but your industry does as well. As posited by author AnnaLee Saxenian in a Wired article, “Job-hopping, rather than climbing the career ladder within a corporation, facilitates flows of information and know-how between individuals, firms, and industries.” When the workforce is able to distribute its talents effectively to where they are required, that’s when growth becomes possible.

While one hopes that a healthy dose of self-esteem should sufficiently compel disenchanted employees to say enough is enough, the viral popularity of “folk heroes” like Steven Slater and TheChive.com’s fictional “Jenny” still indicates a sense of powerlessness in the workforce. Their exploits, real or not, reflect what many wish they could do themselves—throw caution to the wind, and “deploy the slide” as a defiant act of personal satisfaction. But without dramatic improvements in the rate of job creation, most will remain in a holding pattern.

— Alex Tuttle, Vault.com

No News is Good News? This Week in Employment

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It’s probably not been the worst week on the employment front when you cast your mind back over the previous seven days and two of the most significant “work”-related stories you can come up with involve scandals rather than layoffs or predictions of further doom for the economy. Not that either the stories of the alleged harassment of NFL reporter Ines Sainz or the allegations of institutionalized sexism at Goldman Sachs are issues to be taken lightly. But the very fact that they brought the usually under-reported issues of diversity and equality into the spotlight this week suggests that concern over the wider narrative of the past few weeks—the likelihood of a double-dip recession—has once again receded. That impression is borne out even further over the total lack of interest in this week’s initial claims for unemployment number—something that had been subject to serious scrutiny in recent weeks. The reason for this week’s neglect? It hardly changed at all, dropping by 3,000 claims to 450,000—and where’s the fun in writing about a number if you can’t sensationalize the “unexpected” nature of it from week to week?

In further contrast to all of the “he said, she said” titillation, the most significant story of the week—at least as far as job creation goes—almost slipped under the radar altogether. I’m talking, of course, about the small business lending bill, which passed in the Senate on Thursday. Again, it likely suffered because it’s not the stuff great headlines are made of: basically it involved both political parties finally figuring out a compromise that involves creating an institution that will lend money to banks on the condition that they then lend it to small businesses. Not glamorous, nor a quick fix, but potentially a huge benefit to job creation efforts—provided it makes it through the House next week.

Also in government-run hiring initiatives, this week saw one of the most significant layoff notices in…well…maybe ever. The Cuban government announced that it would be laying off 500,000 workers—as in half a million people in a country with a population of just under 11.5 million. While the government plans to transition many to private sector work—relaxing rules in order to increase the private sector in the process—it seems like the country is in for an extended period of upheaval ahead.

Back on U.S. soil, the most significant layoff announcement of the week looks kind of paltry by contrast: that dubious honor goes to FedEx, which is laying of 1,700 workers as it seeks to consolidate its operations. It will also be closing some 100 facilities throughout the country. Even that, however, doesn’t appear to be a sign of a negative outlook on the economy—at least not according to BNet’s Carol Tice, who wrote the following on the development:

“the layoffs are happening because FedEx has finally figured out what to do with a 2006 acquisition, Watkins Motor Lines […] FedEx had taken some time to size up that business, and figure out how to use it with fewer people. That’s what companies are supposed to do after they make acquisitions. While people are moaning about the layoffs happening now, the real question to ask is why they didn’t happen a year or two back.”

So now you know.

There was even some hiring news this week—albeit the kind of hiring news that has the potential to flat-out depress just about everyone, especially with robo-call mania not even having peaked yet in the run-up to the November mid-terms. What kind of news could that be, you ask? It would appear that the first presidential campaign hire for 2012 has been made. Or the first hire in Iowa, at any rate. Either way: it looks like it’s going to be a long road to the next election. Oh well: at least hiring in the political echo chamber should remain robust.

–Phil Stott, Vault.com

Written by Phil Stott

September 17, 2010 at 3:00 pm

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