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Survey says successful male and female executives balance work, home lives; also follow similar strategies up the ladder. Plus: corporates putting faith in blind trusts.
Lisa Yoon and Joan Urdang, CFO.com | US
May 16, 2003
Where's Ally McBeal when you need her?
A new study on executive lives may put to rest a question debated since the rise of women's lib: Can women have it all?
Apparently, the answer is yes. The Families and Work Institute, Catalyst, and Boston College looked at 1,200 "very senior" women and men executives to determine what helped or inhibited their success -- both on the job and at home. The companies studied were Baxter International Inc., Citigroup, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, The Dow Chemical Company, Eli Lilly and Company, Goldman, Sachs & Co., IBM Corp., JPMorgan Chase, Marriott International, and Procter & Gamble Co.
The results? The authors of the study ("Work & Family Leaders in a Global Economy") say their findings challenge such common assumptions as "the higher women climb, the more they have to give up in their personal or family lives." Other myths, according to the authors: women and men use different personal strategies to succeed, and executives have to be work-centric to make it in business.
Most executives in the study do not place the same priority on their lives at work and as they do their home lives. However, a sizable minority (32 percent) do focus equally on both work and play. For these executives, the effort pays off in the form of more professional success and less stress.
"Executives who give equal weight to work and personal life feel more successful at work, are less stressed, and have an easier time managing the demands of their work and personal/family lives," says Ellen Galinsky, president of Families and Work Institute. "Women who are dual-centric have advanced to higher reporting levels and feel more successful in their home lives."
What's more, participants described women's and men's strategies for professional success as much more alike than different. So-called "masculine" strategies, such as "taking risks and challenges" and "standing up for what I think," and "feminine" strategies, such as "being collaborative," are shared by all.
Putting Faith in Blind Trusts
Executives at Hyperion Solutions Corp. think that the way to earn investors' trust is to go the way of the blind trust.
So officers at the Sunnyvale, California-based enterprise-software maker have agreed to put their stock options and company stock into individual brokerage accounts managed by professional investment advisers. The vehicles lessen conflicts of interest and diminish the likelihood of insider trading, since investment decisions, such as when to sell company stock, are made without the knowledge of company officials.
While the plan is voluntary, all of Hyperion's eligible officers with vested stock options have agreed to participate. "This is a new era of responsibility in corporate life," says CFO David Odell. He says the blind-trust-like arrangements increase corporate accountability. "It is a best practice in corporate governance."
Blind trusts -- typically used by politicians and public officials -- are growing in popularity with senior executives. "We've seen the use of blind trusts in Corporate America increase fourfold since 1999," says Edmond M. Ianni, vice president of private client advisory services at Wilmington Trust Co.
That trend is likely to continue, as the sting of scandals -- like the insider-trading charges against former Capital One Corp. CFO David Willey (see "Down With the Ship") -- create questions about the motives of top executives. "Now people want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety," says J. David Washburn, an attorney in the Dallas office of Arter & Hadden LLP, "and blind trusts do that."
They also have a legal advantage. The Securities and Exchange Commission's Rule 10b5-1(c), which went into effect in October 2000, says that blind trusts can be used as a defense against charges of insider trading.
There may be some ancillary financial benefits to the approach as well. Although it's too early to gauge how the Hyperion executives are faring, according to Wilmington Trust's studies, in the past two years executives who used blind trusts achieved average returns almost 13 percent higher than those of executives who sold their stock during open-window periods. "It forces you to take an analytical, not an emotional, approach to managing your investments," explains Hyperion's Odell.
Still, blind trusts have one important drawback: shareholders may feel that managers, as passive investors, don't have as much skin in the game, says Colin Blaydon, director of the Foster Center for Private Equity at Dartmouth College. "Investors want to feel that the executives' interests and their own are aligned."
"Regularly invite bargaining unit members to departmental and University events, and create opportunities for informal interactions at the work site, such as brown bag lunches and impromptu pizza parties."
-- Robert Culver, VP of finance and administration, Yale University, in a Feb. 11 memo to faculty and managers on how to improve labor relations.