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More regulation for cross-sector business?…or should we just shout louder? by Tariq Siraj

As the co-Founder of LinkedIn and Greylock Partners VC, Reid Hoffman has about as valid a platform as anyone to comment on the recent sexual harassment allegations within the Silicon Valley and wider venture capitalist markets. His article raises a lot of talking points:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/human-rights-women-entrepreneurs-reid-hoffman

If you’ve missed some of those headlines, here is a quick overview; first, a female engineer at Uber publicly opened up about her numerous reports of sexual harassment going ignored by the firm. More recently, three female entrepreneurs came forward about their experiences of sexual harassment and unwanted advances with Justin Caldbeck, co-founder of Binary Capital. In the wake of that, the New York Times published allegations that ‘500 Startups’ founder Dave McClure and VC Chris Sacca had also engaged in some sexual misconduct.

Caldbeck immediately apologised and announced an indefinite leave of absence, but one of the three women involved responded; “While we’re happy that he apologized…our strong preference would have been to not be in this position to begin with” – and that is the big point here and the focus of much of Hoffman’s article. How do we correct this? How do we stop it from becoming an unwanted part of the industry culture?

Interestingly, Hoffman first suggests an industry-wide HR function to govern this behaviour.

VCs preying on entrepreneurs – or vice versa – can slip under the radar as neither side operates under the same roof. Most companies in Silicon Valley are populated by forward thinking (and often young) people who build cultures of dignity and collaboration in gender – but they also have competent HR functions to ensure respectful behaviour within their organisations.

Of course industry regulators exist as the norm already, designed exactly for problems such as this – but a cross-sector authority created specifically to oversee engagements between different industries or sub-sets of industries is an interesting notion. It’s an idea that could very obviously be transplanted onto the insurance, trading, consulting or recruitment sectors – but of course the nature of global trade and commerce means it has relevance with every part of the economy.

Beyond a regulatory body, Hoffman also places emphasis on the individuals involved. He puts forward the idea that you should forfeit any notion of a romantic or sexual relationship if you are pursuing a business one – and vice versa. The two do not and should not mix.

He also simply proposes that those in power stop working with and investing in VCs displaying that type of behaviour.

Most importantly, however, he promotes the idea of speaking up.

Zero tolerance on this issue will only come about if everyone buys-in to that idea. As he says, staying silent and not acting just allows the problem to perpetuate and sends the public signal, “we don’t care”.

The hope is that those who were brave enough to come forward and very publicly put their names and stories on full view will open some doors for others. The three women involved in the allegations against Caldbeck have, between them, co-created Google Desktop and founded Journy – the successful transport app. It should at least give this much needed conversation some momentum.

Tariq Blog

 


Random Acts of Kindness – by Liz Watt

When the world around us frankly seems to be a scary and challenging place, as it does right now, it strikes me that it is even more important to value and appreciate the people around us, the happy day to day events and random acts of kindness.

I was reminded of this today, when I received a lovely and completely unexpected gift from a long standing contact of mine. What’s noteworthy about this I hear you ask?

BLT celebrates its 30th birthday this year I celebrate 29 years with the business. Back then, I was desperate to make my first placement and it duly happened in month 2. The person I placed was leaving Customs & Excise (as it was then) and I placed him into his first private sector role in one of the Big 10 accountancy firms. Fast forward 29 years, and that candidate is now a client, and one of my colleagues has just placed the newest member of his team with him.  He dropped in to our offices today with a bottle of champagne, to thank me for getting him started on his successful career. Of course, he has done all the hard work subsequently himself, not me – I just facilitated the starting point. But I was incredibly touched by this totally unexpected gesture.

And it made me reflect on the last 29 years and the values that are important to me and to the business. Treating people well, being professional and honest, creating and maintaining networks –I’m sure  these all have a part to play in the timeline that has seen my path crossing again with that of my erstwhile  placement.  We’ve obviously both moved on – we’re older for a start! He is now very senior in a major global organisation. And me? I’ve progressed from that rookie recruiter to be the MD of BLT and I now run a Coaching division for the company. But the values remain the same.

And our  clients’ lovely act of kindness restores my faith in the intrinsic decency of most people. You know who you are – thank you!

 

Liz Blog


BEWARE THE PROMISED LAND: politics, job searching, throwing punches and Chuck Berry

Election Blog

Change is a good thing – but not for its own sake, and not at the expense of what we believe is a good idea.

The general election here in the UK is on Thursday 8th June and many will be happy to see the back of the TV debates, polling updates, negative advertising and a seemingly never-ending quest for soundbites and headlines – and I’m no different. However I have found one thing about this campaigning period particularly interesting; it has reconfirmed the power of promises. 

They might be empty, genuine, well-intentioned or with some malice behind them. They might well be broken later or completely fulfilled – but fundamentally the offer of hope and the offer of a bright future is extremely powerful stuff – especially to someone who doesn’t have much of either.

The dangers of ‘The Promised Land’ can be summed up nicely in two of my favourite songs with that very title; Chuck Berry’s rock n’ roll classic is upbeat about ‘the poor boy’ taking a life-changing road trip and landing in the perfect place at the end. Bruce Springsteen’s version is more downbeat, intense and hard to work out.

If you just go for the headline, you don’t know which version you might end up with.

This is by no means an indication of where I stand on the political spectrum or who I will be voting for on Thursday, but more than ever during this election build-up it seems evident how easy it is to promise the world when you’re not in a position of power and, conversely, how difficult it is to engage in those debates when you have an actual record to defend.

There are no U-Turns when you’ve never had to make a meaningful decision. The challenger only needs to attack, and then make grand promises about how they’ll make things better.  The belt holder needs to somehow throw punches while keeping their guard up the whole time.

I thought Theresa May was right to stay away from the TV debates; 7 people standing on a stage shouting across each other, desperately trying to get the headline the next morning does not make for particularly adult or reasoned political discussion. Also, when only one of the seven is from the government, it regularly ends up in a 6 vs 1 slanging match.

It might seem crass to draw parallels with job searching – but as a head hunter I can’t escape those instincts, and there are clear similarities.

Change for change’s sake

I guess I’m supposed to promote the idea of leaving your current employer – but change just for the sake of changing is usually a misguided attempt at finding that perfect scenario and it most often doesn’t leave you in a better position. Change for change’s sake is a strand of thinking which results in a highly unpredictable President in the US, extreme right wing contenders in France, Holland, Austria and elsewhere, and very left wing options in various places too.

Over the years I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve spoken with who have found themselves in the wrong job – either because they made a change for the sake of changing, or because an organisation (or recruiter) promised them some nirvana situation to solve all of their problems.

We all probably wish our situation was at least slightly better than it is, but our reasoning behind how we improve that needs to stay as logical and sensible as ever. Picking something or someone because it’s non-traditional or offering a different path is fine – but not at the expense of what actually matters to you for your career, or what you believe is needed in your local or national community.

I think most promises are well intentioned. I don’t believe any potential new employer – or indeed your existing one – actually want you to make a bad career choice. If they make you big promises they are most likely aspirational if not a current reality.

Also, I don’t think any of the mainstream political leaders here in the UK sit up in some dark tower stirring a pot and cooking up nasty or evil schemes to keep homeless people on the street, or make sure the disabled have no assistance, or indeed support the idea of bombing people to further a cause. None of them has a monopoly on wanting a better, fairer society – it’s just the approach in how we get there that differs.

As Chuck and Bruce have shown, everyone has a different version of The Promised Land.

 


What do you think about “Pawternity leave”?

An article on the BBC website recently caught my eye: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39579540

A new dog owner in Columbus, Ohio, working for Scottish brewer, Brewdog, has been given a week’s paid leave from work to spend with her new puppy. Brewdog has announced  one week’s paid leave for all workers who adopt a puppy or rescue dog. The sceptical amongst us might think it’s a clever PR stunt, particularly as Brewdog have just opened a 100,000 sq ft (9,000sq m) North American brewery in Columbus.

Whatever the reason,(and it would appear that Brewdog has always been a dog friendly employer) it’s a welcome perk. While money will always be important, there are benefits which firms can offer which really make a difference to employees, don’t necessarily cost the employer a fortune, and take into account an employee’s individual circumstances.

Whether it’s a day off for your birthday, a Christmas shopping day, some time to spend with your dog, children or granny, the appeal of the non- financial perk will only increase in the future. And, as employers look to secure talent from the millennial generation and beyond, the recognition that everyone’s personal circumstances are different requiring a varied suite of benefits will differentiate one employer from another.

Pawternity Leave

 


What’s the latest in the Gender Pay Gap?

UK companies with 250 or more employees will have to publish their gender pay gaps within the next year under a new legal requirement. About half of the UK workforce will be affected by the new reporting rules, which encompass 9,000 employers and more than 15 million employees.

Firms must publish a snapshot of their employee pay as at 5 April 2017 if they are a private business or charity, or 31 March 2017 for those in the public sector.

All the data will eventually be available on a government database, and the early results are starting to filter through. According to a recent report in the Independent,  asset manager Schroders reported a pay gap of  31 %, while at utility firm SSE the pay gap is 23.4 %. PwC reported a 15% difference in pay and Virgin Money 36 %.

As with everything, it’s all very well having the statistics, but what’s really important is what happens with it…otherwise all we have is yet another government database groaning with a weight of information and data.

An interesting viewpoint from  Sam Bowman from the Adam Smith Institute, described the new reporting measure as “counterproductive”.

“It reinforces the idea that the gender wage gap is caused by discrimination by firms against women,” he said.”In fact, it’s more to do with the fact that women are expected to take quite a lot of time out of their jobs after they have children, which interrupts their career progression, and many switch to part-time work when they do return to work.We have more of a motherhood pay gap than a gender pay gap. That gap can be closed by encouraging men to handle a more equal share of child-rearing time and by consumers preferring firms that take the lead in giving flexibility to working mothers.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that the UK is in 20th place, according to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Pay Gap Index…..while the country with the smallest gap is ……….Iceland !

 

Gender Pay Gap


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