Lack of Commercial Acumen


More recent studies on the obstacles ambitious women face in the workplace confirm what we already see and many of us experience — women keep getting edited out (unless they are put in a support role, where they've been all along).

This reveals a lack of commercial acumen.

Women analysts’ recommendations demonstrated a
better rate of return compared to risk versus the men’s. On that basis,
the study’s authors concluded that there is no discrimination against
women in equity research. But only one in six of the analysts at all
brokerage firms from 1994 to 2005, the period studied, were women, well
below the rate Groysberg measured in the 1980s.

[…] “Women are overcoming a set of patterns that
have existed forever,” says Rivkin. “The way the brotherhood is set up,
you create a sub-optimal organization.” “In a true meritocracy, it is a
different sort of person who advances.”#

What to say about many a founding team about page even today? How about when VC groups decide to halve a senior group by editing out the women in it?

The conversation about gender is a red herring, because the truth is diversity is much broader than gender and it is brought about by a desire to manage anxiety. Ethnicity, beliefs, age groups, years of experience, political capital in the firm, proximity, affiliation, biases of any kind… the list goes on.

I'd rather talk about performance and recalibrate how we measure ROI.

Seriously, a strong miss on the part of the sticklers for this kind of thing. Create a system that rewards only one kind of behavior, then call that behavior "winning" is leading in.

Do we know whether we're pulling the right query set?

Trader Ginny Clark, now at boutique firm Beech
Hill, was the first ever female trainee at Solomon Brothers and the
first female block trader at Merrill Lynch in the late 1970s. She lived
through an era of open discrimination and harassment that newly minted
MBAs today would find mythological. “I put up with so much crap,” she
says. In her early days on Merrill’s trading desk, “They constantly
tested me.” One trader went so far as to approach her naked she sat at
her trading desk, asking, “Can you handle this?”#

This says a lot more about the kind of person who does the testing. Everyone should be accountable for their thoughts, words, and actions, inclusive of the consequences.

More studies here#, if you like numbers.

If it's true that we're entering the collaboration age, where it's all about what customers want, and creating utility…. yet we persist in creating efficiencies in areas that are no longer valuable and miss on the commercial executions of valuing the right things (money is just one asset), that makes the proposition uncommercial.

Real strategy recognizes the nature of the challenge.

UPDATE: A recent conversation about lack of commercial acumen in tech boards brought about by Twitter's public filing. Once the topic was made public, many helpful voices added suggestions in support of a stronger commercial position. I would encourage everyone to keep front and center the common misconception “Since I don’t know them, they must not exist” [via Merchant]. It is a valid consideration across the board, including bloggers and pros beyond the usual suspects.



Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover
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