Educating and Training Girls – The next chapter for ‘Join My Village’


We are honored to be celebrating five years of Join My Village…. Five years of expanding access to education and training for girls and women as a means to break cycles of extreme poverty, and sustainably strengthen impoverished communities the world over.

Thanks to you and thousands of others who have taken actions in ways large and small, together we’ve been able to positively impact more than 5 million lives in India and Africa since 2009.
So now we’re looking ahead to the next five years – what it will take for Join My Village to continue to flourish so we can empower millions more girls and women to become agents of positive change for their communities.

Beginning today, you’ll notice a change to our website and social media posts. You’ll no longer see messaging that urges “clicks or likes” tied to unlocking donations from sponsors. The reason is quite simple: We want to focus on what truly matters, which is sharing the real life stories of the girls, women, families and communities which are being transformed through the work of Join My Village via our humanitarian partner on the ground, CARE.

What’s more, we are fortunate to have corporate sponsors (our founding sponsor is General Mills; while Merck enabled further expansion, including India) who are committed to providing charitable support to CARE that expands the impact of Join My Village. While your likes, shares and re-tweets are always appreciated and welcomed, our aim is to impact lives and communities in long-term ways – not to amass the largest social following.

join my village

You can expect to continue to see extraordinary field updates from the extended Join My Village team, including Henry’s reports from Malawi, and Sankalpa’s from India, in the form of photos, videos, and posts across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our website. In the coming weeks and months you can also expect to see more ways to take action around the issues that JMV is focused on.

We are excited about this elevated focus on the outcomes and stories that matter most, and we hope you are too. On behalf of the extended JMV team, our deepest thanks for helping to advance this important work, as we show the world that positive change in impoverished communities is not only possible, but is happening right now.

Author: Nicola Dixon is associate director of General Mills Community Action and the General Mills Foundation.

How to change the ratio of women on boards

Three ways to re-examine and recruit more female board members by the end of 2015

by Lydia Dishman

women on boards

Does gender really matter when you’re in a leadership position?

Not as much as you might think.

A new study from the Pew Research Center found that honesty, intelligence, and decisiveness are believed to be the most essential leadership traits, according to 80% of adults. Both men and women agree. Large swaths of both genders say that innovation and intelligence is in evidence in both men and women. As for honesty, ambition, and decisiveness —there’s no gender distinction there, either.

If that is the case, there’s even less of a reason for the disparity of female board members at public companies in the U.S. According to a new study from nonprofit research organization Catalyst, the U.S. has 19.2% of board seats at S&P 500 companies, lagging behind Norway, Finland, France and Sweden, each around 30%.

Statistics like these had Solange Charas, puzzled and frustrated. Before she started her own consulting firm, Charas spent more than 20 years in c-suites and a variety of company boards including heading up human resources at Praetorian Financial Group and EURO RSCG, a national director at Arthur Anderson, a leader of the international compensation team at Towers Perrin, and worked with the board of directors of Martha Stewart’s company (pre-IPO).

With this front row seat, Charas says, “The differences between high and low performing teams are pretty clear when you see how they interact, the way they make decisions, and the outcomes.” The impact of a dysfunctional group was felt all the way to the bottom line, she observed.

Despite the clarity, Charas admits when a board was dysfunctional, “I couldn’t understand how to effect a positive change,” she says.

Charas decided the best way to solve the problem was further study. So she earned a Ph.D. in order to do more extensive research into the reasons why some boards soared while others flailed, and more importantly, how to replicate the creation of successful teams at any company, and effect its financial performance for the better.

In the course of her research and her observations within companies, Charas found that diversity was key to having a high performing team. “There is a lot of empirical evidence that boards that have women outperformed [those that were all male],” she adds, because the addition of women adds to the group’s collective intelligence as well as social sensitivity.

Her own research culled from responses of more than 1,000 board and C-suite executives suggests that a team’s collective intelligence, which Charas calls TQ can increase the company’s bottom line performance.

So what is standing in the way of adding more women to boards and executive suites? “Change is a slow process,” Charas contends, “We need to change the mindset of the boys’ club.”

Which won’t be easy she cautions. “Research shows that women tend to pursue ideas that they believe are in best interest of shareholders even under pressure of other board members,” she points out. For men, even as high up the chain as Warren Buffett, “Collegiality trumped. Men think more about not making waves,” Charas argues.

That has to change for boards to become higher performing and contribute to corporate profitability, she says.

With no diversity quotas in place for legislative boards in the U.S. (voluntary boards must meet 20% of the underrepresented gender by 2020) other measures must be taken, Charas says.

That’s one reason she joined the Thirty Percent Coalition, an organization committed helping women hold 30% of board seats across public companies by the end of this year.

Charas says there are plenty of organizations that help women ready themselves to take a board seat —creating a supply of seasoned executives who will be able to step into those roles with ease. However, the Thirty Percent Coalition works to drive the pace of change from the other side of the equation by creating demand for those seats. To do this, senior business executives, national women’s organizations, institutional investors, corporate governance experts and the public sector work to influence corporations to strengthen their efforts to increase the number of women on their boards.

For example, investors can rally the boards of the companies they invest in through a lobbying effort, Charas explains, that boils down to this: “we want to see this because we know relationship between women and higher bottom line.”

Charas also points out that teams at public companies need to be more reflective of its consumer base. She cites statistics of the buying power of female shoppers and many studies show that women control up to .

Some industries are taking matters into their hands. The Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC) announced that the CEOs of REI, The North Face, Patagonia, and ten others signed a pledge to accelerate women’s leadership in their companies. This initiative should drive measurable change in an industry that accounts for 6.1 million U.S. jobs.

The REI Foundation is also awarding a grant of $1.5 million to the OIWC to support a major initiative that will build programs and services for the industry to better serve female leaders, offer matching funding for companies that support the OIWC, and create new opportunities for entrepreneurial women through advisory and mentoring programs.

Laura Swapp, REI’s director, Brand Partnerships and Multicultural Marketing and a vice president of the REI Foundation, tells Fast Company, “The evidence shows that balanced representation in executive ranks and on boards is correlated to stronger financial performance. So it is deliberate that our board is 40% women.”

Swapp notes that while REI is a co-op that is committed to representing all 5 million of its members’ interests, leadership statistics in the industry don’t reflect such diversity. “We think of the “need” in terms of an ecosystem which includes mentoring emerging women entrepreneurs, surfacing disruptive innovative ideas and increasing executive representation at the most senior levels. Boards are a big part of that picture.”

Charas says to achieve this, executives need to also rethink their recruiting strategy. With her extensive experience in HR, Charas contends that while it’s smart to hire people based on a cultural fit with the company, “we like to hire people who look like us and we sacrifice diversity for homogeneity.”

By not defaulting to friends and close associates, existing board members can inject a new dynamism by bringing in “strangers.” Charas says they should be screened for skill and motivation, but the new perspective tends to generate higher levels of governance quality.

Diversity generates new ideas, creativity and innovative, she says, but it’s important to find the balance between people who are disruptive and those who simply bring a different point of view. “You do want people who are going to embrace your beliefs,” she maintains, “Successful organizations are populated with those who go above and beyond because they like and believe in the company.” Regardless of gender.

Diversity – Top jobs still ‘impossible’ for many women

by Cathryn Newbery, People Management, CIPD, 26 January 2015

Diversity in the workplace lags behind shifting public attitudes

Are we doing enough to help women achieve their potential at work? The answer, in short, appears to be ‘no’. Although steady progress is being made towards achieving 25 per cent female representation in the UK’s FTSE 100 boardrooms ahead of Lord Davies’ deadline in just over 10 months’ time, a new report and practical guide from O2 and the CIPD has revealed that organisations’ efforts to encourage women to take up senior leadership roles are having little impact.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of the 2,000 women surveyed by the telecoms firm said they believed women don’t occupy enough senior positions in their company, with another 48 per cent saying they believed all decision-makers in their companies were male.

Breaking the Boardroom: A guide for British businesses on how to support female leaders of the future reports that 17 per cent believed it was “impossible” for a woman to reach a senior management role in their business.

Although more than a quarter (28 per cent) dreamed of being a chief executive, and a further 35 per cent aimed to reach board level, nearly a third (32 per cent) said their careers had failed to live up to expectations. Poor line management, a lack of training and development programmes, and negative office politics were all cited as obstacles to progression.

Crises of faith also threaten to derail women’s progress up the ranks, with more than a third (36 per cent) saying they lacked the confidence to ask for a pay rise or promotion.

“While the diversity debate has moved on outside of the office, not enough women are actually seeing this progress at work,” says Ann Pickering, O2’s HR director and a board member. “This jointly produced guide will help businesses support the talented women in their organisation, so they are able to reach the highest levels without the need for artificial quotas.”

“There’s been genuine progress towards government targets to improve boardroom diversity, but too much has been skewed towards non-executive positions,” says Dianah Worman, CIPD public policy adviser for diversity. “We’re calling on all parties in the forthcoming election to commit to a new voluntary target for at least 20 per cent of executive director positions in FTSE 100 firms to be filled by women by 2020.”

Read the Breaking the Boardroom guide at:

Emma Watson Just Gave a Young Woman the Most Wonderful Advice Ever

Emma Watson

Every time we think Emma Watson can’t get more amazing, she proves us gloriously, wonderfully wrong.

The Harry Potter actress, who this week was cast as Belle in Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, is also a humanitarian and feminist advocate. In July 2014, she became a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador working on the HeForShe campaign, and in September, she gave a rousing speech at the U.N. highlighting the importance of gender equality and the power of feminism.

Not content to keep her message confined to the U.N.’s stage, Watson recently took to Twitter with a message about gender equality. While promoting the HeForShe campaign, she answered questions and stemmed the worries of young women like her.

But she saved her best — and sassiest — response for a young woman who asked for advice on what to do about her father, who told her that engineering was a “men profession.”

Her reply? “Become an engineer.”

She didn’t stop there, however. Ranging from marriage to careers to military service, the questions touched on various issues. Her resulting words were practical, as well as inspiring, and ran the gamut from personal advice to more generalized wisdom for the world at large.

By Sophie Kleeman, 28 January 2015

Equality – what’s holding women back?

what's holding women back
In 2015 the promise of gender equality seems closer than ever. A new report by the Pew Research Centre shows that the majority of Americans think women are just as capable of being good political and business leaders as men. They are perceived as indistinguishable from their male peers when it comes to leadership qualities such as intelligence and capacity for innovation. On other qualities—honesty, fairness, compassion and willingness to compromise—many Americans actually judge women as superior.

It’s tempting to read the report as a sign of progress. After all, the 114th Congress includes a record number of women (104) serving in the House and Senate. On the corporate front, 26 women now lead as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies; that’s up from zero in 1995. But, in fact, the 104 congresswomen only make up 19% of Congress and the female CEOs are only 5% of all Fortune 500 CEOs.

In short, the numbers are creeping along, but they’re still staggeringly low. The success of a Hillary Clinton or a Mary Barra is encouraging—but these women are exceptions to the rule. What is holding women back from leadership positions in 21st-century America? According to Pew, the problem is that women still have to do more than men to prove themselves. This finding suggests a troubling assumption—that we still don’t expect women to be able to do what men can do. We allow that it’s possible, but our baseline expectations are that men are more capable. This puts women in the position of having to go above and beyond the standards to which men are held in order to demonstrate their competence.

Even then, women’s efforts are unlikely to be rewarded. As Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant pointed out in a recent New York Times op-ed, when male executives speak up, they receive 10% higher competence ratings; when female executives do the same, their ratings from their peers are 14% lower. Similarly, when male employees offer ideas, they receive higher performance evaluations; when women offer the same ideas, managers’ perceptions of their performance remain unchanged.

Then there are the structural problems involved with women having children. In Brigid Schulte’s fine book “Overwhelmed”, she describes some of the double-standards mothers face in the workplace. Research has found that pregnant women are perceived as “less authoritative and more irrational, regardless of their actual performance”. Mothers are often seen as less committed to work than non-mothers. Fathers, meanwhile, are not only viewed as equally competent as men without children, but also significantly more committed to work. As a result, while mothers are often penalised for their family commitments, fathers tend to be “recommended for management training more than men without children.” Researchers describe this phenomenon as a “motherhood penalty” and “fatherhood bonus”. And this is without considering some of the complications of parental leave and child care, which disproportionately affect female workers.

In light of the numbers and research, how is it possible that most Americans still express such positive views of female leadership? It’s hard to account for the discrepancy between the Pew report and the realities of the American workplace. Plain sexism isn’t a satisfying answer since people actually seem to think women are competent leaders. Perhaps it’s a matter of biases so ingrained that our actions still haven’t caught up with our enlightened views. Americans claim to hold equitable views—they know these are the right views to have, much like most people will certainly say they are not racist. But converting such views into practice is another matter entirely.

This is a loss for women, of course. But it’s also a social and economic loss for people and businesses generally. Research shows that everyone does better when women share the reins of power. Ms Sandberg and Mr Grant hammer this in: “Start-ups led by women are more likely to succeed; innovative firms with more women in top management are more profitable; and companies with more gender diversity have more revenue, customers, market share and profits.”

Such results seem to support gender equity, but clearly numbers aren’t enough to change corporate behaviour. Viscerally, Americans resist letting femininity and power go hand-in-hand; a female leader still strikes us as unnatural on an emotional level. At the end of the day, we simply lack enough compelling models for what female power should look like. This should change as more women manage to break into leadership roles. Soon, perhaps, a powerful woman won’t appear threatening or aspirational, but simply normal.

The Economist – Jan 23rd 2015, 16:36 BY E.W. | WASHINGTON, DC