working women

Best and Worst Lists

Its better to be positive, than negative.  I get it.

Its certainly better business to create a “Top / Best” companies list than a “Worst” companies list.  A quick Google search reveals the “positivity” bias.  If you look at the search results carefully, there are more and longer “Best companies for women” lists than “Worst companies for women” lists.  Might this bias be hurting women who are looking for a complete picture?  What happens if you can’t get a job at one of the employers that’s “best” to work for?

Don’t get me wrong.  I applaud all attempts to highlight good behavior and positive outcomes for women.  The latest “list” initiative to reward companies who are good to women has been launched by Sallie Krawcheck’s newly renamed 85Broads women’s network (relaunched recently as Ellevate).  The PAX-Ellevate Women’s Index fund invests in 400 large companies where women are directors or senior managers.  It ostensibly rewards investors with performance commensurate with having a diverse — and therefore — meritocratic leadership.  I think the idea is interesting and there is certainly research supporting the fund’s premise that gender-diversity is an investment “performance factor”.  Lists and funds like these can certainly can do no harm to inspire other companies, but I worry that mere omission from a “top” list doesn’t really get anyone off their butts to look seriously at whether they need to change.

Sometimes criticism is just what the world needs.  If negative feedback is unrepresentative or from a few disgruntled employees (as opposed to the norm), a company and employees can probably safely ignore it.  However, when there are consistent, or common complaints of the kind that might land a company on a “worst” list, we should all arguably pay more attention.  Its not just that company’s problem — its a social, cultural problem — and we should celebrate that a ranking, however imperfect, made us sit up and pay more attention to the issue.

My pledge is that when Fairygodboss gets into ranking and list-making activities (and we certainly will), we’ll make BOTH “best” and “worst” lists of companies and we will base rankings on what employees have to say.  Until then, stay tuned for my next post on some of the more interesting lists out there.







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