Rolling out some new Blogs
Employers Must Act Now To Mitigate The Impacts Of The Pandemic On Women’s Careers
It may be years before we comprehend the full ramifications of COVID-19 on our society and places of work. But while we are still learning to navigate the pandemic, we each have had to adapt our daily lives to respond to it. Working women, in particular, are being impacted in profound ways, facing tremendous challenges and commonly taking on expanded duties at home while continuing to juggle their careers.
In order to understand how and to what degree women’s day-to-day lives have changed – and how they feel these changes could impact their careers – we recently conducted a survey of nearly 400 working women around the globe at a variety of career levels and spanning various industries.
The pandemic is taking a heavy toll on the daily lives of working women
What these women shared sheds light on the extent to which the pandemic is affecting their work/life balance, mental and physical health, and confidence in their long-term career prospects.
Over 80% of the women we surveyed said their lives have been negatively disrupted since the onset of COVID-19. Additional caregiving responsibilities, extra household responsibilities, and heavier workloads were cited as common impacts, causing many women to experience negative tolls on their mental or physical well-being or feel unable to balance their work/life commitments.
Alarmingly, nearly 70% of women who have experienced these disruptions are concerned about their ability to progress in their career. And 60% questioned whether they actually want to progress when considering what they perceive is currently required to move up in their organization.
We should be concerned about these results in terms of the immediate impacts on women’s daily lives, the potential long-term effects on their future careers, and the broader threat to the progress made in recent years in achieving gender equality in the workplace. But our research also reveals how leaders can take action to mitigate these impacts.
Actions taken by employers will be critical in ensuring women continue to thrive
Our survey asked women what employers could do to support them in progressing during and beyond the pandemic. Using their answers and other insights from our research around key barriers and enablers, we believe there are six important steps organizations can take to ensure women continue to progress:
1) Make flexible working the norm. Going beyond “working from home” to offer a range of options that enable everyone (not just working parents) to have a manageable work/life balance is critical for making progress on gender equality. Of the 60% of women surveyed who said they questioned whether they want to progress in their organizations, more than 40% cited lack of work/life balance as a reason. Moreover, just under half of those surveyed cited having more flexible working options as something their employer can do to help them stay longer term. But this is not just about policies – these options must also be underpinned by a workplace culture that supports employees in taking advantage of them without any fear of career penalty.
2) Lead with empathy and trust. The need for leaders and managers to have open and supportive conversations with their teams has never been stronger, and 44% of women surveyed said that having more regular team check-ins to understand how individuals are doing is a key action leaders can take. Open dialogue can help leaders understand any short-term constraints their employees face and make sure their long-term prospects within the organization are secured.
3) Promote networking, mentorship and sponsorship as ways to learn and grow. 46% of women surveyed told us that the provision of such opportunities would entice them stay with their employer longer-term. These resources can be meaningful platforms for career growth, provided they are offered in ways and at times that accommodate different schedules and needs.
4) Create learning opportunities that fit within employees’ daily lives. With 40% of women saying they want more learning and development opportunities, introducing approaches to learning and development that provide access to expertise and skills in flexible and practical ways can be key to supporting women, many of whom remain keen to take on more responsibilities despite the constraints imposed on them by the pandemic.
5) Ensure that reward, succession, and promotion processes address unconscious bias. With over half of those surveyed citing getting a promotion and/or a pay raise as actions employers can take to make them stay longer-term, it remains critical that organizations address unconscious bias in their reward and succession processes. This includes looking at these processes in the context of remote working and addressing any negative perceptions of unavoidable commitments outside work, such as caregiving responsibilities.
6) Above all, make diversity, respect, and inclusion non-negotiables. Of those women who said they were questioning whether they wanted to progress in their organizations, around a quarter cited lack of diversity, poor or no role models, and poor culture, and 30% cited non-inclusive behaviors experienced (e.g., microaggressions, exclusion from meetings/projects) as reasons. Beyond having the right policies and processes in place to advance gender diversity, leaders must address these non-inclusive “every day” behaviors, such as microaggressions and exclusion, through clear and visible action since this is clearly still a significant factor to ensure women remain engaged.
We are at an inflection point. With no end to the pandemic currently in sight, organizations must meet the call to support the women in their workforce and ensure they can thrive both personally and professionally—or our economy and society could face long-standing repercussions.
November 2020, CICO writerStaff Reporter Emma Codd
Growing A Culture Of Innovation: 5 Lessons From Google
Organizations are facing unprecedented change and challenges stemming from a confluence of natural and artificial conditions. These forces are driving many to rethink the tools and technologies they use, and the places they need to be, to grow and to innovate. Below, Vinton G. Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, shares five lessons on growing a culture of innovation.
1. Sustained competitive advantage cannot be achieved with technology alone.
To create a more innovative business, you must rethink how people, structures, and processes interact every day—we refer to this as organizational culture. The teams you rely on to build must have systems and processes that keep them engaged, amplify their ability to produce, and keep them consistently forward-looking.
At Google, we’ve spent years thinking about how to maintain and improve a culture that fosters transformation and innovation. This has led to alignment around certain core principles that have informed our approach and supported Google’s culture for two decades.
2. Measure, make decisions, and be transparent in that process.
Measurement is at the heart of everything we do at Google. We measure everything—from how our systems are running, to how productive we are, to how people are feeling. All the data we gather is extremely valuable, because it exposes problems faster than if we simply scratched our heads and wondered. Once we gather that data, we still need to spend some time interpreting it, but at least we have a basis for judging how well our organizational structure is working.
It’s important to recognize that a feedback system only works when people believe changes will be made as a result of their feedback.
A culture of measurement results in a collection of anecdotal information as well as quantitative data. Both are necessary to inform change. We perform a number of different measurements—for example, encouraging everyone to participate in an anonymous employee satisfaction survey every year. That data and that feedback loop facilitate our decisions to change how we’re doing things, as needed.
Once we’ve gathered the data and made a decision, it’s time to actually put those changes into motion. It’s important to recognize that a feedback system only works when people believe changes will be made as a result of their feedback. So the trick is to ask the questions and then actually do something with the result.
Transparency is another important part of Google culture. It’s important that we be transparent about the feedback we heard, and how we went about addressing it. Being transparent as a company increases customer trust on one hand, and employee trust on the other. It’s important that people understand why we prioritized the changes we made. That’s core to the company’s DNA.
3. Don’t be afraid of failure.
Sometimes science learns more from failure than it does from success. If you ask why something didn’t work, you often learn more than you would have if it actually did work. And so, even at Google, we try a lot of things out that don’t work—and we learn from them and refine our practices. And eventually, we hope, we get to the point where the things that we want to work actually do work. Science is a lot like that. Google is a lot like that as well.
You have to have the willingness to allow failure. I’m not suggesting we should fail all of the time—that would be a problem! I’m talking about the freedom to try things out without absolute certainty of success. This is the fundamental difference between engineering and research.
With research, you don’t start off knowing the answer. With engineering, you think you know the answer, and you just have to build it. But what can happen with engineering is that you build it and then it doesn’t work. These two disciplines interact in the most wonderful ways. The engineer says, “I built it and it didn’t work.” The researcher says, “Why not?” And the engineer says, “I don’t know, can you help?” Together, they discover there’s a fundamental reason why this particular path for implementation didn’t work—and they learn from that. And then you get to develop a new design that takes this into account.
At Google, we’ll go down a number of different paths as we explore new capabilities in the system, and we often encourage people to go down these paths, even if they might end up at a dead end. And we share, blamelessly, with others the fact that there was a dead end, so everyone learns. That’s how we advance everybody’s ability to carry out their work.
4. Don’t forget that culture is always a work in progress.
Over time, as the mix of people joining the company changes and as the scale of the company gets bigger, we have to remind people about the cultural norms that we would like to maintain.
You have to periodically refresh the cultural elements that matter.
For example, one of the things that Google tries to accomplish is to give people the freedom to try things out, which resulted in a policy of allowing engineers to spend 20% of their time doing things that they weren’t originally assigned to do. People use 20% time to learn outside of their assigned duties and it actually acts as a stabilizing component of employee satisfaction.
The idea of 20% diminished for a while as we grew, until we reminded everybody that that 20% was fundamental to Google and was a cultural element that we wanted to maintain. It’s important to remember that you have to periodically refresh the cultural elements that matter.
5. Stay open.
If I were trying to give advice to an enterprise CIO, one of the things I would say is this: Don’t think that you have all the answers. In fact, the probability is very high that you don’t have very many of them at all. Take advantage of opportunities to share knowledge with your colleagues, your friends, even your competitors to better understand what others have learned in order to solve the same problems you have. Openness is your friend. The same thing is true when it comes to not taking all the credit. It’s important to acknowledge other people’s contributions because it gives them the incentive to continue contributing. And so this kind of openness of spirit is just as important as openness of ideas.
Technology alone does not guarantee success. You need a culture that supports change and acceleration—which paves the way for innovation. People have always powered technology, and today that’s especially true as teammates must collaborate and solve big problems together, even if they’re not in the same room. Fostering a culture of innovation helps lead to identification of new opportunities, and quick action to create new ideas and get ahead of the competition.
The Pandemic Plutocrats: How Covid Is Creating New Fintech Billionaires
Stay-at-home consumers and stimulus checks have been a boon for online installment financing, digital banks and day trading.
In 2015, Nick Molnar was living with his parents in Sydney, Australia, and selling jewelry from a desktop computer in his childhood bedroom. Hocking everything from $250 Seiko watches to $10,000 engagement rings, the 25-year-old had gotten so good at online marketing that he had become Australia’s top seller of jewelry on eBay, shipping thousands of packages a day.
That same year, he teamed up with Anthony Eisen, a former investment banker who was 19 years his senior and lived across the street. They cofounded Afterpay, an online service that allows shoppers from the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada to pay for small-ticket items like shoes and shirts in four interest-free payments over six weeks. “I was a Millennial who grew up in the 2008 crisis, and I saw this big shift away from credit to debit,” the now 30-year-old Molnar says today. Either lacking credit cards or fearful of racking up high-interest-rate debt on their credit cards, Molnar’s generation was quick to embrace this new way to buy and get merchandise now, while paying a little later.
Five years later, Molnar and Eisen, who each own roughly 7% of the company, have become billionaires—during a pandemic. After initially tanking at the start of lockdowns, shares of Afterpay—which went public in 2016—are up nearly tenfold, thanks to a surge in business tied to ecommerce sales. In the second quarter, it handled $3.8 billion of transactions, an increase of 127% versus the same period a year earlier.
They are not the only ones whose fortunes have taken off in the last few months. According to Forbes’ analysis, at least five fintech entrepreneurs including the two Aussies have been vaulted into the billionaire rankings by the pandemic. Others include Chris Britt, founder of digital bank Chime, and Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, the co-CEOs of “free” stock trading app Robinhood. Several other founders from such companies as Klarna and Marqeta have also gotten boosts and are suddenly approaching billionaire status.
As in other sectors, the Covid recession has created both fintech winners and losers. For example, LendingClub, which offers personal loans to higher-risk consumers, laid off 30% of staff; small business lender On Deck was sold in a fire sale.
But for a sizable crop of consumer-facing and payments-related fintechs, the virus has delivered a gust of growth, just as it has for e-commerce behemoth Amazon and work-from-home players Zoom, Slack and DocuSign.
“Consumer fintech adoption was already strong pre-pandemic, especially among the 20s to early 40s age group,” says Victoria Treyger, a general partner who leads fintech investing at Felicis Ventures. “The pandemic has become a growth rocket, fueling the rapid acceleration of adoption across all age groups, including 40- to 60-year-olds.”
Several Covid-driven developments are helping specific types of fintech players. For example, consumers’ shift to more online spending and delivery services is a boon to certain companies powering payments. Marqeta, a specialized payments processor whose clients include Instacart, DoorDash and Postmates, has been in talks to go public at an $8 billion valuation, four times what it was valued at in March of 2019. That would give CEO Jason Gardner, who owns an estimated 10% of Marqeta, a stake worth $800 million.
Meanwhile, the $2 trillion-plus CARES Act Congress passed in March, with its $1,200 per adult stimulus checks, student loan payment holiday and (now expired) $600 a week unemployment supplements, helped many Americans keep financially above water—and some digital banks like Chime to prosper.
In the second quarter of 2020, amid Covid lockdowns and fears, consumers slashed spending on travel, restaurants and luxury items they usually put on their credit cards, but continued to spend on necessities and smaller items—the sort of things they’re more likely to pay for with debit cards. During that quarter, Visa credit card transaction volumes were down 24% from the year before, while debit card transactions were up 10%, according to research firm MoffettNathanson. And debit cards (rather than checks or credit cards) are the spending vehicle most frequently offered by fintech neobanks like SoFi, Dave and MoneyLion.
San Francisco-based digital bank Chime, in particular, has used the stimulus payments to its advantage. In mid-April, about a week before the $1,200 government-stimulus checks started hitting Americans’ accounts, the company advanced customers that money, eventually extending over $1.5 billion. “Following the stimulus advance, we had the largest day for new enrollments in the history of the company,” CEO Britt reports.
The pandemic has depressed total consumer spending, and the unemployment rate remains at a high 8.4%—two factors that affect Chime’s middle-income customer base. Yet on a per-user basis, “average spend per customer is up over last year,” Britt says. “Part of the reason for that is the government programs around stimulus payments and unemployment.”
Today, Chime’s annualized revenue is running at a $600 million rate, according to a person familiar with the private company’s numbers. At its eye-popping new valuation of $14.5 billion announced along with a $485 million fundraise in mid-September, venture capitalists are valuing the company at 24 times its revenue. Some investors are asking if Chime should get such a lofty value when Green Dot, a publicly traded fintech that offers checking accounts and prepaid debit cards for low-income customers, trades at two times revenue. “We really look more like a payments-processing business,” answers Britt. That’s because virtually all of Chime’s revenue comes from interchange—the fees merchants pay when Chime’s users swipe their debit cards. The company doesn’t make money on interest through its new secured credit card (that’s a starter card where the holder puts up money to cover his or her credit limit), although Britt says he doesn’t rule out lending in the future.
Now Britt himself has sailed into the “three comma club.” Forbes estimates his Chime stake is at least 10%, meaning his holdings are worth $1.3 billion-plus (Forbes applies a 10% discount to all private company holdings). And he’s planning an IPO. “Over the next 12 months, we have a number of initiatives to get done to make us even more IPO-ready,” he says. Then there’s the Robinhood phenomenon. The boredom of being stuck at home, wild stock market swings, and government stimulus checks have turned some Millennials and Generation Zers into day traders and options players. Robinhood’s most recent fundraising round in September gave it an $11.7 billion valuation and its cofounders a paper net worth of $1 billion each. But considering Morgan Stanley’s $13 billion February acquisition of E-Trade and Schwab’s earlier purchase of TD Ameritrade for $26 billion, some think Robinhood could garner a $20 billion valuation if it went public or were acquired.
If there’s one fintech segment that has been an unalloyed pandemic winner, it’s the business Afterpay is in: online point-of-sale installment financing. It’s benefitting from both consumers’ shift to online buying and their reluctance, in these uncertain economic times, to take on new credit card debt.
While Afterpay’s Nick Molnar and Anthony Eisen hit billionaire status in July, their competitors aren’t far behind. Take Klarna, which was founded in Stockholm in 2005 and entered the U.S. market in 2016. Two of the three founders, Sebastian Siemiatkowski and Niklas Adalberth, met while flipping patties at a Burger King in Sweden. They pioneered the buy-now, pay-later model in fintech, calling it “try before you buy” and letting people own products for 30 days before making their first payment. (That’s a lot more attractive than old-fashioned layaway, the store system once popular for Christmas gifts and large appliance purchases, in which buyers had to make all their installment payments before getting an item.).
Klarna charges retailers 3% to 4% of each transaction—slightly lower than the 4-5% Afterpay charges—to offer its service. One key difference that separates the two companies: Klarna is becoming a full-fledged financial services business. It became a licensed bank in Sweden in 2017 and offers longer-term financing of up to 24 months, with interest charged, for high-ticket items like laptops sold through a small number of retailers. Siemiatkowski has already turned Klarna into a digital bank in Europe with a debit card for spending on everyday purchases. He’ll likely do the same in the U.S. soon.
The pandemic has catapulted Klarna’s business onto a steep trajectory. By the end of 2020’s first half, its U.S. customer base hit nine million, up 550% from the same period the year before. Globally, 55,000 consumers are downloading the Klarna app every day, more than two times last year’s pace. Klarna is now available in 19 countries, has 90 million users and expects to bring in more than $1 billion in revenue this year. When it raised a new round of funding last week, its valuation nearly doubled from a year ago, hitting $10.7 billion.
Cofounder Victor Jacobsson has a 10% stake, while Siemiatkowski’s has 8% in the still-private company. (Niklas Adalberth retains just 0.4% after selling some shares to fund his philanthropic organization and investing in startups. Neither he nor Jacobsson are still involved in Klarna.).
Not surprisingly, as the installment purchasing fintechs gain more customers and attention, they’re also facing additional scrutiny from regulators. In March, Afterpay agreed to fork over $1 million, including $905,000 in consumer refunds, after California’s Department of Business Oversight (DBO) concluded the late fees Afterpay charges meant it was running an unlicensed lending business. “Afterpay rejects the view that the Company operated illegally,” the Australian company said in a statement. “While Afterpay does not believe such an arrangement required a licence from the DBO, Afterpay has agreed to conduct its operations under the DBO licence as a part of this settlement.” A spokesperson adds that Afterpay “has been applying for, and has been granted licenses [in other states] where needed.” In 2017, Klarna was fined $15,000 in New Hampshire for operating without a lending license. Today Klarna has such licenses in every U.S. state.
Another fintech winner in the installment-payment business is Silicon Valley-based Affirm, the creation of serial entrepreneur Max Levchin, a founder of PayPal, which itself jumped into the installment business just last month. Between November 2019and July 2020, Affirm nearly doubled its U.S. users to 5.6 million. It raised $500 million last week at a valuation of more than $5 billion, up from $2.9 billion last year. While Levchin’s exact stake is undisclosed, it’s likely worth hundreds of millions.
Affirm has also enjoyed a special Covid kicker from pricey home fitness gear. Since 2015, it has powered financing for Peloton, whose sales have surged as affluent young consumers, missing the motivation of group exercise classes, have flocked to buy the $2,000-plus stationary bikes with their streaming workout classes. Affirm also now finances purchases of Mirror, the hot $1,495 in-home fitness coaching device acquired by Lululemon this summer.
Of course, the fintech companies’ current lofty valuations depend on consumer spending staying strong and consumers retaining some of the online shopping habits they’ve developed over the past six months. With a pre-election agreement between Congress and the White House on a new stimulus package looking unlikely and the future course of Covid-19 unknown, there are no guarantees. But for now, these fintechs are riding high.
September 2020, CICO writerStaff Reporter Jeff Kauflin and Eliza Haverstock