By: Janice Krupic, President & CEO
Paragon Leadership International


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Recently, my colleague shared that her daughter’s middle school was hosting a gender equality forum.  My first internal reaction was, “Really? How sad”. Sad not because they were having the forum, but sad because in the year 2018 there is such a need for the conversation. A need across all ages, ethnicities, and industries.

Seventeen years ago, when I founded Paragon Leadership International, a global executive coaching firm, one of the first service offerings we developed was an “Executive Women’s Leadership” series. It was shortly after the post-9/11 recession, and there were plenty of nay-sayers who knew for sure that there would not be the demand for such an offering and no one would sign up; But signed up they did. This program was so successful that other competitors used our model to launch similar series, and we ran our offering, along with a companion offering, for seven consecutive years.

But, nearly 8 years after launching the first offering, an interesting phenomenon became apparent. Women were no longer wanting to participate in a specifically women’s leadership offering but wanted to be integrated with non-gender specific development.  Organizations followed this request, and we began to see large corporations shy away from their women’s affinity groups, or women leadership networks. We were feeling hopeful because we began seeing an increase in women being promoted into senior level leadership roles, and even being appointed to board seats.



However, with a year of incomprehensible news of the treatment of women, I am beginning to question where the tide is shifting.

The first news that comes to mind is the ongoing investigation and fallout of the Larry Nassar scandal.  If what Mr. Nassar’s ‘many’ female victims had to endure wasn’t reprehensible enough, the list of MSU medical professionals and high-level administrators tied to the investigation seems to be never-ending. As proud as I would like to be of my alma matter, this ongoing revealing of the treatment of girls and women, and the covering up at many leadership levels, makes me want to temporarily put away my “green & white” flag.

Or, the big pressed stories that hit the entertainment industry, and the many women who fell victim to the outrageous abuse from men who appear to have never-ending egos or, on the other end, non-existent morals or scruples. These stories only recently came to light because of the highly-pushed and publicized “#metoo” and “Times Up” movements. These movements rely heavily on the courageous conversations these women in the entertainment industry are having, and how these women in positions of power use it.

Just last week, the CEO of Intel, Brian Krzanich, resigned after violating the company’s “non-fraternization policy” with a subordinate employee. His resignation adds to the growing number of executives leaving their positions, such as leaders from Nike, Lululemon Athletica, Guess, and many others.

Another questioning instance is the equally incomprehensible stories that did not hit the front page of the press, such as workplace violence against farmworker women. These women are fighting the same war as the women in the entertainment industry, if not a harsher and daily one. Among the factors that women farm workers face, 90% of them identified that sexual harassment is a major problem. Many of these workers (in the thousands for context) must engage in some form of a sexual act with their supervisor, forced by their supervisor, to keep their job, or they will put up with endless amounts of harassment, both sexual and non-sexual. To choose otherwise means they  face endless amounts of harassment, both sexual and non-sexual, or have to find work elsewhere, which given limited opportunities is often unrealistic.

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These sexual violence scandals make me wonder if there is a correlation between the fear factor of sexual harassment and a woman raising to an executive or board level. 60% of women in the workforce have received unwanted sexual attention, while 1 in 3 women have been sexually harassed at work. Contrary to this, only 1 in 10 men have been sexually harassed at work. Seeing as there are more men holding executive and board roles in the workforce supports this claim, however, this may just be a factor of gender bias.

Maybe we have not come as far as we think we have in gender equality.  In fact, I am disappointed to report that of Paragon’s current company client base, ranging from small-mid size private firms to Fortune 100 organizations, 26% of women are represented in senior executive roles – versus the 74% of men represented at the executive level – while only 5% of women are represented as a chief executive officer, and 22% are represented on public boards.

So, is the tide shifting? And if it is, is it shifting in the wrong direction?  Did we not make the impact and progress we thought we did? Or, is it a matter of women being more courageous in speaking the truth? Just within this year, I personally know of greater than fifteen women who fell victim to gender equality, or abuse from their male bosses and were either asked to leave their company or exited themselves as they decided they had had enough. Whatever the reason, whether we are female or male leaders in small or large organizations, we cannot sit back and let this type of treatment and inequality continue.

It seems that the tide is shifting back for women, and others, in the direction to speak up and engage in the courageous conversations, and I am glad, because it is needed!

 Paragon Leadership will be hosting a “coffee chat” on gender equality on Wednesday, August 8 from 7-8:30pm at The Red Dot Coffee Company (505 N. Center Street, Northville, MI. 48167). If you are so moved, please join us for a conversation on how to treat all genders fairly and respectively. RSVP at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/paragoncoffeechat.

Space is limited. Register early.

 Email us at futureface@paragon-lead.com with questions


Working Outside the Box

A corner office? An office with windows? How about sitting in a cube? Office space today is quickly changing. Open office spaces quickly gaining popularity in many major companies, such as Deloitte, Herman Miller, and Steelcase.  Many organizations are changing office layouts and the way their office space is utilized; efficiency is key. Advancements in technologies and increased real estate costs are the main drivers for this shift. Companies are creating unconventional ways of providing alternative office space settings, depending on the nature of the work while utilizing the same amount of space. Many companies are becoming more mobile, which is diminishing the need for each employee to have their own personal office. Steelcase is one of the organizations that is currently experiencing these new changes. Take a look at what they plan for the future: http://www.steelcase.asia/en/resources/360-ezine/Documents/360_Issue63.pdf

Collaboration…Brainstorming…Teamwork… Newer office designs provide greater opportunity to engage more fully in these types of workplace activities.  Many companies start by taking down walls and removing cubicles to allow for more openness. By not having personal offices, workers interact with each other more often and shed their “behind closed doors” mentality. This open assignment approach allows for workers to network freely with each other; creating greater opportunities for new ideas to spring forth. However, there is some criticism that open office space is distracting and unproductive. Nevertheless, Herman Miller CEO, Brian Walker, believes sharing workspace beats owning a private office; http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2014/06/why_the_ceo_of_iconic_office_f.html. He believes new and interesting ideas ultimately lead to greater organizational productivity.

In addition to open workspaces, technological advances are also changing office environments and the ways in which communication takes place.  According to Mark Gardner of Deloitte Consulting, equipping workspaces with projectors and screens allows the ease of video conferencing and virtual meetings. The open space is often large and can accommodate many people, thus opening the possibility for spontaneous meetings throughout the day.

Results show collaborative spaces are effective. Companies that have made changes in this direction have received positive feedback from employees, and they often realize the benefits with increased productivity. Funding that would have been used to create more traditional cubicles and offices, is now geared for technology, as well as equipment that facilitates greater spontaneity and innovative interaction. Today, it’s all about collaboration. Organizations need to keep pace with the changing times. Capitalize on the staff and the technology available, and shy away from the traditional office arrangements. Success lies in innovation and creativity, and creating space that fosters synergy is likely to help the organization become the leader of the future.

Look for our next blog, “Innovation – no longer a “nice to have” but now a “must have” for today’s leaders.

IMG_2204Written by:  McKenzie Borland, Intern at Paragon Leadership International.  Paragon Leadership International is a MI headquartered executive coaching and leadership development firm. 





Creativiity + Hollywood = ideas for innovation in business


Female Presence on your board is good for business.



The word of the week after speaking with our clients is …..INNOVATION. This article is a great read on where innovation comes from and the difference between innovation and invention. get Inspired!  :http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-28248286/where-does-innovation-come-from/

Employee Engagement is critical, find out why your employees are quitting.


Women “Support the Cause” and Bring “Passion” to their Role in Non-Profits

Paragon Leadership recently conducted a poll of women leaders to discover their views regarding participation in non-profit boards and public service activity.  We were interested in learning the motivations for serving on a non-profit board and whether gender differences impacted these motivations.  Are there gender differences?  If your initial reaction to this question is “yes”, that is what we found when polling an audience of women leaders from both the profit and non-profit sector.

When asked the #1 reason women serve, or desire to serve on a Board or non-profit/public service, the overwhelming majority responded that women are driven to support the cause.  The results of the poll were as follows:

What is the #1 Reason Women Serve on Board or Non-Profit/Public Service?

71%   Support the Cause
19%   Networking
10%   Advance Career
0%    Learn New Skills

When asked the #1 reason men serve, or desire to serve on a Board or non-profit/public service, the women we polled believed men were most interested in networking and advancing their career.  Clearly the women in our poll thought men were more motivated for their own advancement than support of the non-profit cause.  The results of the poll were as follows:

What is the #1 Reason Men Serve on Board or Non-Profit/Public Service?

50%   Networking
45%   Advance Career
5%     Support the Cause
0%     Learn New Skills

Although the response above is from one group of women leaders, the results are aligned with what gender research tells about how men and women differ when it comes to motivation.   Management Research Group (MRG) did a study regarding how motivation was influenced by gender.*  They  found that women tend to be lower on “winning” and “controlling” than men.  Women were less motivated by being competitive and needing to be in charge than men.  Women were also higher on “expressing” and more compelled to share their “inner-self” without filters.  The research also found women to be higher on “giving” and “receiving”.  Women were less motivated by “maneuvering”.   Overall, women gain greater satisfaction with “affiliation”, being nurtured and being able to share their feelings and are less motivated in an atmosphere of competition.

*IDI Technical Consideration Reports, MRG
As heads of talent, business executives or other leaders who manage people, what does this all mean and why should you care?

In the leadership work that Paragon does with emerging talent, high potential and executive leaders, we find it is critical that managers understand differences in gender motivation and how it impacts the workforce.  This should be taken into account when:

  • Assessing “fit” of an individual to a role or company culture
  • Wanting to become or remain competitive by creating a highly engaging culture, one where employees are not only desiring to stay but are spreading the word to other possible recruits
  • Creating a diverse and inclusive culture to compete in the global economy
  • Attracting and retaining millennial associates, in a culture that is seen as socially responsible

Below are the other survey results our poll with women leaders showed:

In this poll question, we were interested in learning what might be holding women back from participating in non-profit or public service and found the answer divided between lack of right connection and no time.  The results of the poll were as follows:

What is the greatest obstacle standing in the way of women getting more involved with non-profit or public service?

50%   No Time
45%   Lack of Right Connection
5%     Little Interest
0%     Limited Knowledge

Finally we surveyed women on the most important attribute they feel women contribute to a board or non-profit organization.  The majority felt women brought passion to the position, followed closely by skills then influence.  The results of the poll were as follows:

What is the #1 attribute women can offer a Board, non-profit organization or the public sector?

45%    Passion
30%    Specific Skill
20%    Influence
5%      Fundraising Ability
0%      Networking Ability

What do you think about the findings?  We would love to hear any reaction you may have and how this plays out in your organization.

Want to learn more about Paragon Leadership and how we can help your emerging leaders?  Check us out at www.paragon-lead.com or email us at futureface@paragon-lead.com.