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商业 - 科技

未来的科技界会不会由这些女性主宰?

Leigh Gallagher 2018年04月03日

如今,科技界一些增长最快的公司的首席运营官都由杰出女性担任。她们未来会成为CEO,还是代表着新的玻璃天花板?

如果只是说莱克西·瑞斯是一个“办事靠谱”的人,这还不足以展现她的才干。在快速增长的初创公司Gusto(小型企业薪酬与人力资源软件云端提供商),为了理清她作为领导的职责需求,她通过名为“¿Dónde está Lexi?”的详细列表来记录其日程,这份列表事无巨细地对其时间安排进行了划分。这份文件细分为四大首要价值和五项季度要务,从“推动营收”一直到“个人事务”。每一项要务都包含一组行动以及执行计划细节,包括牵涉的人、方式和“节奏”,从每周与销售团队的会面到与丈夫一个月两次的市内约会。她在一份单独的表格上列出了她的实际日程,以15分钟为单位,用醒目的颜色进行了标注。

数年前,当她准备离开工作了8年的谷歌之时,瑞斯在搜寻工作方面也保持了同样的谨慎态度,并列出了四大标准(包括1000亿美元的目标市场额,以及具有弹性的工作)以及与Gusto会谈的每一个小时的详细记录。

瑞斯的习惯展示了人们眼中首席执行官所应有的机构敏锐度、动力和对完美的追求。但她并不是Gusto的首席执行官(她在笔记中记道,在获得工作之前,她花了21个小时与公司首席执行官会面,包括三个小时的登山。)她于2015年10月加入公司,担任首席客户体验官。去年,她升任首席运营官,在科技界最热门的一些公司,这一职责的重要性几乎可以与首席执行官比肩。

To say Lexi Reese is a get-things-done kind of person is an understatement. To navigate the demands of her leadership role at fast-growing startup Gusto, a cloud-based provider of payroll and human resources software for small businesses, she maintains her schedule with an elaborate spreadsheet called “¿Dónde está Lexi?” that meticulously categorizes exactly how she spends her time. The document is broken down into four overarching values and five quarterly priorities, ranging from “drive revenue” to “personal.” Each priority contains a set of actions and details of her plan for execution, including who’s involved, format, and “cadence,” from weekly meetings with her sales team leads to twice-a-month dates in the city with her husband. A separate tab lays out her actual schedule, down to 15-minute increments in color-coded glory.

A few years ago, when she was ready to leave Google after an eight-year stint, Reese applied the same meticulousness to her job search, identifying four criteria (including a $100 billion addressable market and a “stretch” role), and logging, in fine detail, every hour she spent talking with Gusto.

Reese’s habits show the organizational acumen, drive, and perfectionism that you’d expect from a CEO. But she isn’t Gusto’s chief executive (though, according to her notes, before getting the job she did spend 21 hours, including a three-hour hike, meeting with the guy who is). She joined the company in October 2015 as chief customer experience officer. And last year she was promoted to chief operating officer—a role that’s becoming almost as important as CEO at some of the tech world’s hottest companies.

Courtesy of Intercom

有这么一句名言:“如果想办好一件事,把它交给那些忙碌的人。”也可以简化为,“把它交给首席运营官。”在硅谷,越来越多自身条件优越、业绩突出的首席运营官希望获得更多的尊敬和重视,瑞斯便是其中的一员。她还具有这些优秀副手所拥有的另一个共性:女性的占比异常的高。

不妨看看过去12个月中热闹的科技公司所做出的首席运营官任命:爱彼迎的比琳达·约翰逊、WeWork的詹妮弗·博伦特、房地产和科技公司Compass的梅埃勒·盖威特以及视频流平台(亚马逊子公司)Twitch的莎拉·克里门斯等等。仅在2月底,萨瓦娜·萨克斯便被任命为美容订阅服务Birchbox的首席运营官。同时,Pinterest宣布移动支付公司Square前高管弗朗索瓦丝·布洛芙将成为公司首位首席运营官,这也让她成为了众人瞩目的焦点。

这些女性只是众多科技行业现任首席运营官的冰山一角罢了。Instagram的马恩·列维、在线地产巨头Zillow的艾米·博胡廷斯基、Etsy的琳达·芬得利·科佐罗斯基、Stripe的克莱尔·休斯·约翰逊、企业软件公司Infor的帕姆·墨菲,可谓是不胜枚举。当然,其中有一个人可能是最近这场运动的中坚力量——谢丽尔·桑德伯格,她刚好是在10年前离开了谷歌,开始担任Facebook的首席运营官。

企业界,尤其是科技行业,在塑造女性首席执行官方面遇到了不少困难。但就这一领域的首席运营官一职而言,女性可谓是赶上了好时候。鉴于科技行业女性领袖的匮乏以及最近“兄弟”文化的泛滥,女性运营领袖的崛起正值行业的发展关键时期,而且其不断增长的比例在高增长型科技初创企业尤为明显。在这一领域,快速的增长、较高的财务风险及其备受瞩目的特性为这一职务增添了额外的分量。

然而,科技领域的男性首席运营官比女性首席运营官要多得多,所有的高管级别职务都是如此。例如,在50家估值最高、设有首席运营执行官一职的私营“独角兽”公司中,70%的首席运营官都为男性,30%为女性。然而,与30%形成鲜明对比的是,同一组别中女性首席执行官的比例仅为4%。(尽管独角兽公司前50强之外也存在女性创始人,但这一数字依然是相形见绌。)2017年,《财富》500强公司的女性首席执行官占比为6.4%,女性首席运营官占比约为10.7%,与这一数字相比,上述30%的比例看起来更加惊艳。事实上,在经济最活跃的一些领域,高管职务向女性倾斜的变动正在发生,寥寥无几的女性首席执行官依然在提醒着性别平权人士现实中依然存在的种种棘手障碍,但这一现象也让他们有充足的理由去憧憬美好的未来。

为了深入了解女性首席运营官占比颇高的现象,《财富》采访了19位现任或前任女首席运营官、多名男性首席执行官、招聘人员、风投资本家和其他管理专家。尽管众多的女性首席运营官并未将其看作是一个趋势,但那些紧密关注这一动态的人士却注意到了这个现象。2015年开始担任Zillow首席运营官的博胡廷斯基说:“我曾经思考过‘女性首席运营官’现象。我自己也注意到了这一点。”帕拉奥托高管猎头公司Egon Zehnder合伙人玛莎·约瑟芬森叹息道,“纯粹只是个表面现象,但它显然不容忽视。”

首席运营官的职责是出了名的难以界定,主要因为它的形态一直在不断地变化:它的职责取决于公司、行业和首席执行官。然而,不管最终的形态如何,其影响力是毋庸置疑的。它几乎是最接近首席执行官的角色,而且有着最宽泛的全企业监管职责。纵观美国企业史,这一职务一直都是通往最高职务的跳板。

There’s a famous saying: “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” You might just as easily say, “Give it to a COO.” ¬Reese is part of a growing cohort of high--profile, high-performing chief operating officers who command increasing respect and attention in Silicon Valley. She’s also emblematic of another commonality among these stellar seconds-in-command: An unusually large percentage of them are women.

Consider the female COO appointments at buzzy tech companies in the past 12 months: Belinda Johnson at Airbnb, Jennifer Berrent at WeWork, Maëlle Gavet at real estate and technology firm Compass, and Sara Clemens at video-streaming platform (and Amazon subsidiary) Twitch, to name just a few. In late February alone, Savannah Sachs took on the role at beauty subscription service Birchbox, and Francoise Brougher, a former top exec at mobile-payment company Square, made headlines when Pinterest announced she would become its first-ever COO.

These women join a very long list of tech-¬industry COO incumbents: Marne Levine at Instagram, Amy Bohutinsky of online real estate giant Zillow, Etsy’s Linda Findley -Kozlowski, Claire Hughes Johnson of Stripe, Pam Murphy at enterprise software firm -Infor—there are too many to list them all here. And, of course, there is the person who is arguably the spark for this recent movement: Sheryl Sandberg, who left Google to become Facebook’s COO exactly 10 years ago.

The corporate world—and the tech industry in particular—has a lot of trouble minting female CEOs. But when it comes to the COO role in this sector, women are enjoying a golden age. The rise of these operations masterminds comes at a pivotal time, given the sector’s abysmal dearth of female leaders and the recent revelations of the pervasiveness of “bro” culture. And their growing representation is especially noticeable in the universe of high-growth tech startups, where rapid growth, high financial stakes, and the glare of publicity give the role extra heft.

As is true with all C-suite positions, there are still far more male COOs than female COOs in the tech world. Among the 50 highest-valued privately held “unicorn” companies, for example, of those with COOs, 70% have men in the post, 30% women. But that 30% is a striking contrast to the mere two out of 50 CEOs in the same group who are female. (While there are female founders outside the unicorn top 50, the numbers remain scant.) Compared with the 6.4% of Fortune 500 companies that had female CEOs in 2017, or to the 10.7% of Fortune 500 COOs who are women, that 30% looks even more significant. And the fact that this C-suite shift is happening in the most dynamic sector of our economy gives advocates of gender parity in the workplace plenty of cause for hope—even as the minuscule number of female CEOs reminds them of the stubborn obstacles that remain.

To explore the female-COO phenomenon, Fortune talked to 19 female current or former COOs, a handful of male COOs, recruiters, venture capitalists, and other management experts. While many female COOs were reluctant to call this a trend, those who closely follow such things have noticed the phenomenon. “I’ve thought about the ‘woman thing,’ ” says Bohutinsky, who was named COO of Zillow in 2015. “I’ve noticed it myself too.” “It’s so superficial,” laments Martha Josephson, Palo Alto–based partner at executive search firm Egon Zehnder. “But it is definitely a thing.”

The COO role is famously hard to define, largely because it is a shape-shifter: It varies company by company, sector by sector, and CEO by CEO. Yet whatever its shape, its scope of influence is undeniable. It is almost always the role closest to the CEO, and the one with the broadest cross-enterprise oversight. And throughout the annals of corporate America, it has been a stepping-stone to the top spot.

Courtesy of Rent The Runway

高管猎头公司Crist Kolder对673家《财富》500强和标普500公司的调查显示,首席运营官一职是通往最高职务最常见的路径;超过40%的现任首席执行官都是从总裁/首席运营官一职提拔而来。可口可乐现任首席执行官詹姆士·昆西在擢拔之前曾在穆泰康手下担任首席运营官;凯文·约翰逊在担任星巴克首席执行官之前曾担任首席运营官。苹果的蒂姆·库克可谓是当前最引人注目的首席运营官升任首席执行官的案例。在大型公司中,这一路径对于女性高管来说亦是十分普遍:在过去12个月曾担任《财富》500强企业首席执行官一职的36名女性当中,有15名曾担任首席运营官,包括洛克希德马丁公司的玛丽莲·休森、金宝汤公司首席执行官丹尼斯·莫里森以及Guardian Life Insurance首席执行官迪安娜·马利根。

这一模式也带来了一些显著的问题。科技行业当前聘请女性首席运营官的趋势是否会催生更强大的女性首席执行官候选阵容,继而担任属于她们自己的顶级职务。或者,首席运营官职务自身是否有可能会成为一面玻璃天花板,在这个职务上,功勋卓著的女性领袖会永久性地扮演支撑者的角色,推动行业的发展,这样就不会破坏首席执行官的兄弟营。

显然,有关首席运营官的任何调查都难以回答这一问题。一个重要的指标显示,首席运营官职位的数量实际上正在减少。克里斯特·科尔德称,设有首席运营官一职的《财富》500强和标普500强公司已从2000年的48%下降至去年的29%。这一下滑始于2001年经济衰退之后,在2008年再次加速,因为财政压力迫使一些公司取消了这一职位,并将其职责分派给了其他高管。董事总经理乔什·克里斯特指出,这些职责一直在向其他日渐关注运营的高管转移,尤其是首席财务官。

然而最近,首席运营官的位置似乎成功回归人们的视野。辉瑞、餐厅连锁巨头Darden以及英美烟草集团在过去几年中先后设立了首席运营官一职,而零售商科尔士百货和塔吉特于2015年增设了这一职位。同时,在那些保留了首席运营官职务的公司中,这一职务通常仍被看作是成为下一任首席执行官的跳板。确实,大多数大型公司的首席执行官,不管是男性和女性,都由公司内部培养产生,其中的大多数来自于所谓的线性责任职务,也就是监管负责赚钱的业务部门,通常是总裁、部门总裁或首席运营官。

首席运营官的地位比其他首席级别的职务更高,在现实中几乎总是如此。Korn Ferry副董事长兼首席执行官简·爱迪生·史蒂芬森指出,“首席运营官一职能够让某人在不担任首席执行官的情况下,凸显其相对于其他人的非凡资历。”

事实证明,首席运营官一职如今在科技领域变得更加受欢迎,原因何在?答案在于,它有助于公司理性地去看待众所周知的“高增长型科技”领域,其中涵盖那些近些年相对较新,但营业额、规模和影响力飙升的科技企业,既有原型独角兽,也有上市巨头。

一方面,随着公司的发展,这些公司的创始人如今更不大可能退居二线,或甘心被人取而代之。曾几何时,投资者和董事会都会迫使创始人让出首席执行官的职位,并聘请有着丰富阅历的企业领导担任这一职务,案例包括eBay的梅格·惠特曼或谷歌的埃里克·施密特。在人们看来,引入外来高管意味着公司的规模已经足够大,而且做好了接受“成人监管”的准备。

但是这一浪潮在进入21世纪后开始转变,而且这一变化在2009年7月马克·安德森和本·霍洛维茨创建其以自己名字命名的风投资本公司之后呈加速蔓延之势。当时,这家公司的核心理念就是要把初创企业的创始人培养成为首席执行官。他们的逻辑在于:科技行业大多数伟大的公司,包括微软、英特尔和苹果在内的长期领导者,均由创始人经营了很长一段时间。随着风投资本公司投资初创宠儿的竞争愈演愈烈, “善待创始人”已经成为了谈判的筹码。

然而,善待创始人这种做法也存在缺点:年轻的创业者突然会发现自己正在经营一家公司,但通常精研某一产品或具有工程背景的他们缺乏或毫无管理经验,而首席运营官恰好可以弥补这一短板。

Compass首席运营官盖威特说:“在硅谷,创始人就是地球的上帝。”她此前曾先后担任Priceline(如今的Booking Holdings)首席运营官和Ozon.ru(人称“俄罗斯亚马逊”)首席执行官。她说:“突然间,首席运营官这一职务有了重要的存在价值。他/她会尽其所能分担统一团队共识、大规模的流程建设以及其他所有通常让创始人感到厌烦不已的事情,同时还能让创始人得以保留,可谓是皆大欢喜。”

与此同时,首席执行官在所有领域的职责已经发展成为了一种更加外向型的职能。首席执行官如今被视为公众人物,大量出现于社交媒体,各类会议,全球客户路演等诸如此类的活动。在他们奔波于各种交际场合之时,总得有人出面打理公司。

这些变化让公司二把手的职责变得更加重要。然而,一个不容忽视的额外因素在于:聘请谢丽尔·桑德伯格担任Facebook首席运营官。当23岁的马克·扎克伯格2008年把桑德伯格(时任谷歌全球在线销售和运营副总裁)从谷歌挖过来时,Facebook还没有盈利,而且尚未确定公司未来的商业模式。在3年的时间中,公司实现了盈利,而且其员工数量从130名增至2500名,同时用户数量翻了十番。桑德伯格将其打造谷歌大获成功的广告平台的经验带到了Facebook,帮助这家初出茅庐的公司赚钱,推动其发展,并实现平台的专业化。她承担了从营销到文化和政策的所有事务,并帮助带领Facebook开展了首次公开募股。从纸面上来看,扎克伯格和桑德伯格是一对格格不入的组合,一位是毫无社交经验的工程师,但另一位却是异常成功,并在麦肯锡和华盛顿特区有着广泛关系网络的资深人士。然而,这两者之间的合作是Facebook成功的基石。(桑德伯格拒绝就此事发表评论)

几乎是在同时,其他公司开始尝试复制这一模式。Egon Zehnder合伙人约瑟夫森说:“很多人都要求我帮他们寻找‘另一位谢丽尔’,不下十次,我找得目光都呆滞了。所有的投资者都想要为自己找一个‘谢丽尔’,就好像这跟在亚马逊上下单那么简单。”放心,我会为你物色另一位高管,他曾帮助打造了一个市值高达5000万美元的上市公司,创建了一个全球性的女性赋权品牌,而且常常有传言说他还是总统候选人。

然而,有了桑德伯格-扎克伯格模式这一成功的案例,各大公司也就更愿意将女性作为候选人。另外几个因素也助长了这一新出现的女性首席运营官热。如今,业界存在一大批经验丰富的女性高管,她们一直在科技行业摸爬滚打,靠自己的努力进入了公司的顶层,同时也颇为担心科技公司高管层的多元化问题。尤为重要的是,事实在于,那些世人认为女性更为擅长的技能——执行多重任务、建立共识、更看重工作的意义和使命而不是头衔,无论正确与否,让她们尤为适合扮演这一关键的二号角色。

According to a study by executive search firm Crist Kolder of 673 companies in the Fortune 500 and S&P 500, it is the most common path to the top job: Upwards of 40% of sitting CEOs were promoted from the president/COO role. James Quincey, the current CEO of Coca-Cola, was COO under Muhtar Kent before taking over the top job; Kevin Johnson was COO before becoming CEO of Starbucks. Today’s highest-profile COO-turned-CEO? Apple’s Tim Cook. This path is just as common for women at large corporations: Of the 36 women who have held Fortune 500 CEO jobs in the past 12 months, 15 were previously COO, including Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson, Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison, and Guardian Life Insurance CEO Deanna Mulligan.

Given this pattern, some obvious questions emerge. Will the current wave of women COOs in tech give rise to a new, more robust pipeline of female chief-executive candidates, teed up to take top spots of their own? Or does the COO role risk becoming a glass ceiling in itself—a position from which accomplished women leaders stoke the industry’s growth, in a perpetual supporting role, without breaking into the CEO boys’ club?

Any study of the COO is, by definition, hard to tackle. By one important measure the role itself is actually in decline. According to Crist Kolder, the percentage of Fortune500 and S&P 500 companies with a COO has fallen from 48% in 2000 to 29% last year. The decline began after the recession of 2001 and accelerated again after 2008, as financial pressures led some companies to eliminate the role and spread its duties among other senior management. There has also been a shift toward other executives becoming more operationally focused, especially the CFO, says managing director Josh Crist.

More recently, however, the COO position appears to have made a comeback. Pfizer, restaurant giant Darden, and British American Tobacco have all created a COO role in the past few years, and retailers Kohl’s and Target added the position in 2015. And at the companies that do maintain the title, the role is still very often seen as a stepping-stone for the next CEO. Indeed, most big-company CEOs, men and women, are groomed internally, with most coming from roles with so-called line responsibility, or oversight of a business unit responsible for making money—typically, president, division president, or COO.

It’s also almost always true that the COO spot occupies a space higher than other C-suite positions. “It’s a way to designate someone’s extreme seniority relative to others without making them the CEO,” says Jane Edison Stevenson, vice chair, board and CEO services, at Korn Ferry.

So what to make of the evidence that the COO position—and its significance—is becoming so much more prevalent in the tech sector? For an answer, it helps to zero in on the field commonly known as “high-growth tech”—the universe of relatively new tech companies, ranging from proto-unicorns to publicly traded giants, that have seen their number, size, and influence soar in recent years.

For one thing, the founders of these companies are now much less likely to step aside—or be replaced—as they grow. It wasn’t so long ago that it was standard practice for investors and boards to move the founders out of the CEO’s chair and replace them with heavily credentialed corporate leaders: Think Meg Whitman at eBay or Eric Schmidt at Google. The high-powered import was seen as a sign that the company had gotten big enough that it was ready for “adult supervision.”

But that tide started to shift in the 2000s. The change accelerated after Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz launched their eponymous venture capital firm in July 2009 and made central to their mission a vow to keep founders as CEOs. Their rationale: Most of the great companies in the tech industry, including long-term leaders like Microsoft, Intel, and Apple, were run by a founder for a long period of time. As competition among venture capital investors for stakes in promising companies became more intense, being “founder-friendly” became table stakes.

There’s a drawback to founder-friendliness, however: It has meant that young entrepreneurs, typically with a product or engineering background but often with little to no management experience, have found themselves running companies. Enter the COO.

“Silicon Valley has been living in this world of the founders being God on earth,” says COO Gavet of Compass, who was previously COO of Priceline (now Booking Holdings) and before that served as CEO of Ozon.ru, known as the “Amazon of Russia.” “Suddenly the COO makes a ton of sense,” she says. “He or she has done his or her fair share of team alignment, process building at scale, and all the things that usually bore to death the founder, but then you get to keep the founder. So everybody’s happy.”

At the same time, the role of CEO in all sectors has evolved to become much more external. CEOs today are expected to be public figures, with a robust social media presence, conference gigs, worldwide customer tours, and the like. While they’re pressing the flesh, someone needs to run the shop.

These shifts have made the role of the second-in-command more pivotal. But there’s one additional factor that can’t be overlooked: the hiring of Sheryl Sandberg as chief operating officer of Facebook. When a 23-year-old Mark Zuckerberg hired Sandberg in 2008 from Google, where she had been VP of global online sales and operations, Facebook was not making money and not sure what its business model should be. Within three years the company was profitable and had grown from 130 employees to 2,500, while users had grown 10-fold. Sandberg brought her experience in building Google’s enormously successful ad platforms to Facebook, helping to monetize the nascent company, grow it, and professionalize it. She took on everything from marketing to culture to policy and helped steer Facebook through its IPO. On paper, Zuckerberg and Sandberg were an odd couple—he the socially awkward engineer, she the über-¬successful, well-¬connected veteran of McKinsey and Washington, D.C. But their partnership stands at the core of the company’s success. (Sandberg declined to comment for this story.)

Almost immediately, other companies tried to replicate the model. “I’ve been asked a dozen times for ‘a Sheryl,’ to the point where my eyes glaze over,” says Josephson, the partner at Egon Zehnder. “All the investors need ‘a Sheryl’ as if it’s something you can order from Amazon.” Sure, I’ll just find you some OTHER executive who helped build a half-trillion-dollar public company, created a global brand around women’s empowerment, and is an oft-rumored presidential candidate.

Still, the success of the Sandberg-¬Zuckerberg model has stuck, making companies all the more amenable to bringing in women as candidates. A few other factors are contributing to this new eagerness. There’s now a strong pool of seasoned female executives who have spent their careers in tech working almost all the way to the top, along with a heightened concern about diversity in tech’s C-suites. And not least, there’s the fact that the skills that, rightly or wrongly, women are perceived as excelling in—multitasking, consensus building, caring less about the title than the meaning and mission in their work—lend themselves particularly well to the critical No. 2 role.

Gusto首席运营官莱克希·瑞斯; Taskrabbit首席执行官兼前首席运营官史黛西·布朗-菲尔波特; Booking.com首席执行官兼前首席运营官吉莉安·谭斯; Fab前首席运营官贝斯·费雷拉; Compass首席运营官马莱·加威特REESE: COURTESY OF GUSTO; BROWN-PHILPOT: BENJAMIN RASMUSSEN; TANS: COURTESY OF BOOKING HOLDINGS; FERREIRA: LISA HOULGRAVE; GAVET: COURTESY OF COMPASS

很多人认为这是好消息,因为很明显该现象说明女性在努力争取更高的管理职位。“说明很多才能出众的女性在商界出人头地。”哈佛商学院兼哈佛大学高级领导力行动主席罗莎贝丝·莫斯·坎特表示。

“如果女性能担任的最高领导职务是首席运营官,该职位确实有很多女性,那么对女性来说已经是巨大胜利。”总部位于旧金山的猎头公司Rich Talent Group创始人嘉娜·里奇表示。

如果说这些就是为了接下来笔调突转,你猜得没错。虽然首席运营官看似职位很高,但往往只是首席执行官的副手,而且多为幕后工作。两个职位之间的矛盾在硅谷体现得格外明显,因为硅谷(通常为男性)充满创新精神的天才创始人影响力巨大。首席执行官负责提出愿景,首席运营官则负责实现愿景。首席执行官主外,首席运营官则主内。首席执行官主要负责产品和工程方面的决策责任,其他鸡零琐碎的枯燥事务都落在首席运营官头上。

红杉资本合伙人阿尔弗莱德·林曾担任Zappos首席运营官兼总裁,他表示二者关系就像“冰与火”,具体来说由创始人/首席执行官为创新想法注入企业家精神和无限激情,但“也需要冰冷的管理技巧,”他表示。“处理激情与管理之间的矛盾正是开创伟大公司的关键。”但首席运营官的视野要更高,处理起来会遇到挑战:接近金字塔顶端并不意味着真正在顶端。史蒂芬森表示,如果最终目标是当首席执行官,那么担任首席运营官可能最终沦为“沉默的助手”。

当然了,身居如此高位仍然会很有满足感,而且确实有影响力。米歇尔·扎特林是网络性能和安全公司Cloudflare首席运营官兼联合创始人,她与公司另一位联合创始人兼首席执行官马修·普林斯合作就很符合阴阳调和的关系。“如果非要描述我的工作,就像幕后的首席黏合官吧。”她表示。工作内容包括设立公司组织架构,搭建集中规划流程,让所有人了解公司的目标,也要掌控进程,随着公司发展到员工超过600人,相关工作也要随之适应。她还负责解决麻烦事。“如果黑白分明,团队很快就能解决。”她说。“一般交给我的都是处于模糊地带的事。”她经常想起高中篮球老师跟她说过的话。“有次她告诉我,‘你得分从来不会最高,但是只要你在场上,整个队伍表现会更好。’”

但并不是每个首席运营官地位能像扎特林一样,毕竟她还兼任共同创始人。从外部聘请的首席运营官,不管是男性还是女性,有时都得身兼危机管理和导师的角色,尤其是创始人年轻又缺乏经验的创业公司里。(许多女科技首席运营官比首席执行官合伙人年长几岁,并非全是巧合)。Facebook早期有不少故事,不少提到桑德伯格和投资人指导扎克伯格公开演讲以及什么时候不能穿帽衫等等。即使最著名的首席运营官也要习惯随时待命,有时要决定总部外面摆放圣诞树的大小,有时要帮首席执行官找手机充电器(本文采访的首席运营官确实做过这两件事)。

如果出现极端情况,女性首席运营官的角色可能更接近扮演类似于办公室主任,更差情况下像保姆。这也是女性领导支持者最想避免的情况。“我看女性承担的职责时,出发点一定是女性能施加多大战略影响力,而这也是女性地位提升的关键所在。”萨莉·赫尔格森表示,她是领导力专家,也是即将出版的《女性如何崛起》一书合著者。

凯伦·皮考克离开Intuit接手创业公司工作时,也有类似顾虑。她在Intuit担任高级副总裁,手下超过500名员工,负责25亿美元的小企业部门业务,包括QuickBooks品牌。找工作时她咨询的好几位顾问给出了同样的建议:“不管以后做什么,千万别当首席运营官。”顾问团认为皮考克已经可以胜任首席执行官,事实上她也确实有几份类似工作邀请。但她也在考虑首席运营官的机会,考虑过程中她仔细研究了这一职位可能遇到哪些问题。她发现如果首席运营官和首席执行官的合作关系基于共同价值观,两人技能互补,而且首席执行官愿意“分而治之”,且两人对出现争端后如何处理有明确预期时,情况会好许多。正因如此,皮考克决定加入用户通信平台Intercom担任首席运营官前,花了5个月时间认真了解联合创始人兼首席执行官奥恩·麦卡布。

硅谷很多女性首席执行官在公司愿景和战略方面确实发挥了重要作用。知情人士透露,WeWork首席执行官珍·贝伦特近日谈妥了日本巨头软银注资44亿美元。Etsy的科兹洛夫斯基负责利润生产和接触用户的各项业务。Compass的加威特表示“重要决策之前,(她和首席执行官罗伯特·里夫金)都会先谈一谈。”

担任公司二把手的首席运营官需要哪些素质?要专注、高效,还要善于学习。他们要特别擅长多任务处理,还有近似的“模式转换”,虽然本质上是单任务模式但要在大量任务之间切换。(“我在模式转换方面堪称一绝。” Stripe公司的约翰逊说。)时尚租赁公司Rent the Runway首席运营官莫林·萨利文表示,最重要的素质是“既能飞上5万英尺高空,又能迅速潜下5英尺甚至5英寸的地面,还得应对自如。”

一年多前,中小企业高管二把手首席运营官的组织——首席运营官联盟创始人兼首席执行官卡梅隆·赫罗尔德组织了一次试验,他给60位创业者和60位首席运营官出题,问他们喜欢怎样启动新项目。结果呢,赫罗尔德表示,95%的创业者非常鲁莽,而95%的首席运营官特别“重视事实”。“他们简直完美补充了创业者的弱项。”他表示。他还介绍说,去年会员中的女性已从20%增加到35%。

我跟19位女性首席运营官谈过后,可以坦率地说,她们真的很厉害。每个人都很准时甚至早到。谈话中她们准备充分观点明确。如果忘带充电器,她们很可能立刻拿出一个备用的给你。她们语速很快,我感觉要是把采访笔记交给她们,过一夜她们就能把拟好的草稿交回给我。

像皮考克和里斯一样,很多人找现在这份工作时都非常谨慎。她们认真研究了哪些说法有效,哪些没用。按照科兹洛夫斯基的说法,弄清楚首席执行官的需要是成功的关键因素。至于什么没用:“如果职位描述写着‘我只是需要个帮手’,或者‘能不能把我不想做的事都甩给你?’,以后麻烦就大了。”

首席运营官角色的改变是否对女性首席执行官候选人有利?多数知情人士表示乐观。毕竟已有很多先例:《财富》500强榜单上“传统经济”中坚力量的大企业里,不少女性首席执行官就是由首席运营官一职提拔。美国好时公司的米歇尔·巴克就是最新一例。其他著名的由首席运营官升任首席执行官案例包括Booking.com的吉莉安·谭斯、TaskRabbit’的黛西·布朗-菲尔波特、纳斯达克公司的阿迪娜·弗莱德曼,还有SoulCycle的梅兰妮·威兰。

很多在任首席运营官希望桑德伯格之后的一代人可以发挥更大作用,也进一步提升女性形象。“不管在公开场合还是公司内部,首席运营官不会再是‘次要’角色,也不会安安静静躲在幕后。”Zillow的博霍廷斯基表说。“通过前例,我们相信会有更多女性担任首席运营官,还可能走上首席执行官职位,而且更多女性开始敢想象朝着这些目标努力。”

但并非所有人都同意。“我觉得说女性以后机会多还太早。”纽约风投公司FirstMark Capital董事总经理贝斯·费雷拉表示,她之前在电商公司Fab担任首席运营官,还在Etsy创立初期负责运营。“我认识很多首席运营官,男女都有,他们都曾听说过好消息,‘首席执行官’肯定是你来当,结果最后并不是。”她表示,高层职位选择男性的几率还是比女性高很多。

但费雷拉等人也指出,多亏#MeToo活动,还有其他揭露男性主导公司和行业导致弊端的行动,现在女性机会真的更多。费雷拉表示过去两个月里有四家公司邀请她担任首席执行官;而之前四年里很少有机会,即便有也都不是好机会。(“都是些麻烦缠身可能倒闭的公司。”)

Korn Ferry公司的史蒂芬森表示,她发现董事会也开始考虑将首席运营官当成首席执行官候选人。但她也指出,由于女性领导风格不一样,董事会考察女性候选人时也应采取不同的方式。举例来说,女性“不会疯狂追求首席执行官的位子,”她表示,这一特点“对首席执行官候选人来说算不上加分,也不算减分,只是风格不一样而已。”2017年史蒂芬森曾合著一份猎头公司光辉国际的报告,题目为《女性首席执行官有话说》,报告调研了57位现任和曾任首席执行官的女性,发现其中只有12%明确知道自己想当首席执行官,超过半数完全没想到,直到有人明确表示她们很有潜力。

对某些女性高管来说,首席运营官职位也类似。纽约证券交易所首席运营官史黛西·康宁汉姆表示,公司总裁汤姆·法雷找她出任首席运营官时谈了三次她才答应。“这是很典型的反应,”康宁汉姆表示,“我只想着自己缺乏的能力。”

但如果观察《财富》500强女性首席执行官的发展轨迹可以发现,首席运营官确实是个很不错的跳板。几乎每位接受采访的首席运营官都表示,曾有人找她们出任首席执行官。马莱·加威特相信用不了几年,科技行业就能涌现很多位高权重又经验丰富的女性首席运营官,董事会可以从中挑选首席执行官。她表示,最主要的问题还是董事会是否信任她们。“很快就能知道。接下来两年到五年就能看出来。”

有些董事会已经回答了这个问题。宠物狗按需服务公司Wag最近获得日本软银一笔3亿美元的投资。几乎与之同步,Wag董事会决定撤下现在的男性联合创始人兼首席执行官,换上一位更有经验的高管。

新任首席执行官到底是谁?她叫希拉里·施耐德。(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审稿:夏林

Many see all of this as good news, for the obvious reason that it means women are reaching new levels in executive ranks. “It indicates how many talented women there are that can really make a business work,” says Rosabeth Moss Kanter, professor at Harvard Business School and chair of the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative.

“If the most senior role available is the COO role, and a lot of them are going to women, to me that’s a huge win for women,” agrees Jana Rich, founder of San Francisco–based executive search firm the Rich Talent Group.

If these optimistic words sound like a setup for a big “but,” you’re onto something. As senior as it is, the chief operating officer role is often a counterpoint to the CEO in ways that keep the COO far behind the scenes. And that tension can be particularly strong in Silicon Valley, where the mystique of the (usually male) creative-genius founder holds tremendous sway. The CEO has the vision; the COO executes on that vision. The CEO is external-facing; the COO is internal-facing. The CEO holds on to the make-or-break responsibilities of product and engineering, while the unglamorous work of running everything else falls to the COO.

Alfred Lin, a partner at Sequoia Capital who was previously COO and chairman of Zappos, refers to it as the balance of “fire and ice”—the founder/CEO brings the entrepreneurial spirit and passion for bold ideas, but “you also need the icy-cold skills of management,” he says. “That tension is the tension that makes for great companies.” But for a COO with sights set higher, that dynamic can present challenges: The closest thing to the top isn’t the top. For those whose goal is to become CEO, being COO may risk being seen as a “silent sidekick,” Stevenson says.

To be sure, these kinds of roles can still be extremely fulfilling—and influential. Michelle Zatlyn is the COO and a cofounder of web-performance and security company Cloudflare, and her partnership with cofounder and CEO Matthew Prince fits this yin-and-yang model. “If I had to say what my job was, it’s like the chief glue officer behind the scenes,” she says. That includes setting up the company’s organizational structure, establishing a centralized planning process so that everyone knows the company’s goals and can monitor progress, and scaling all of that as the company has grown to more than 600 employees. She also tackles anything thorny or problematic. “Anything that’s black-and-white, our team just solves,” she says. “What comes up to me is all the grays.” She often finds herself thinking back to a conversation she had with her high school basketball coach. “She told me once, ‘You’re never the highest scorer, but the team always does better when you’re on the court.’ ”

But not every COO enjoys the kind of status within a company that a cofounder like Zatlyn has earned. For COOs—male or female—who are brought in from the outside, especially at startups where the founder is young and inexperienced, the role can sometimes comprise a combination of crisis manager and teacher. (Not coincidentally, many female tech COOs are several years older than their CEO partners.) There are many stories from Facebook’s early days about Sandberg and the company’s investors instructing Zuckerberg on topics like how to handle public speaking and when to shed his hoodie. And even the most high-profile COOs are accustomed to jumping in wherever needed, whether that means choosing the size of the Christmas tree that will sit outside headquarters or tracking down the CEO’s phone charger (both tasks that COOs mentioned in this story have tackled).

Taken to extremes, this dynamic can put the female COO in a role akin to chief of staff or, at worst, babysitter. That’s the role that advocates for women in leadership are most eager to steer clear of. “I’m always going to come at this from the point of view of how much strategic influence are women exerting, and that being the sort of be-all and end-all of what we’re trying to achieve here,” says Sally Helgesen, leadership expert and coauthor of the forthcoming book How Women Rise.

Karen Peacock had some of these concerns in mind when she left Intuit to seek a more entrepreneurial role. As a senior vice president, she had responsibility for Intuit’s 500-person, $2.5 billion small-business unit, including its QuickBooks brand. As she started the job hunt, several of the advisers she consulted gave her the same advice: “Whatever you do, don’t become a COO.” Those advisers thought Peacock was ready for a CEO role—and indeed, she says she was offered several such positions. But she also considered COO opportunities, and as she did so, she studied the reasons the role can be problematic. She found that the COO-CEO partnership tended to work better when it was based on shared values, where the two have different skill sets and the CEO is willing to “divide and conquer,” and where there are clear expectations on how to handle disagreements. Before deciding to join Intercom, a customer messaging platform, as COO, Peacock spent five months getting to know the cofounder and CEO, Eoghan McCabe.

To be sure, plenty of Silicon Valley’s female COOs wield influence over vision and strategy. Sources say Jen Berrent, the COO of WeWork, negotiated the company’s recent $4.4 billion investment from Japanese giant SoftBank. At Etsy, Kozlowski has responsibility for everything revenue-generating and customer-facing. Gavet of Compass says that “every big decision comes from a conversation that [she and CEO Robert Reffkin] have had together.”

So what are these second-to-none COOs like? They tend to be focused, efficient, and quick learners. They are experts at multitasking—and even more so at its second cousin, “context-switching,” which is essentially single-tasking but switching from task to task a lot. (“I can context-switch like no one you’ve ever seen,” says Johnson of Stripe.) Maureen Sullivan, COO of fashion-rental startup Rent the Runway, says a key trait is the ability to “fly at 50,000 feet and dive down to five feet or five inches and not feel turbulence.”

A little over a year ago, Cameron Herold, founder and CEO of the COO Alliance, an organization for No. 2 executives at small and midsize companies, ran an experiment in which he gave 60 entrepreneurs and 60 seconds-in-command a personality test designed to reveal how they like to start new projects. The findings: 95% of the entrepreneurs shoot from the hip, Herold says, and 95% of the COOs came up as “fact finders.” “They’re almost the perfect cleanup act to the entrepreneur,” he says. He says the group has seen women rise from 20% of its membership to 35% in the past year. (For an in-depth look at COO support groups, see Fortune.com.)

After speaking with 19 of them, I can say that these women COOs are also, to put it bluntly, ballers. They’re on time or early. They come to a conversation with prepared and thoughtful points. If you forget your charger, they may have one already plugged in and waiting for you. They talk fast. I got the sense that if I handed them my reams of notes, they would turn my story around overnight and hand it back to me fully drafted.

Like Peacock and Reese, many of them took a meticulous approach to the search for their current jobs. They have studied what works and doesn’t work. According to Kozlowski, clarity in what the CEO needs is the most important element for success. What doesn’t work: “When your job description is ‘I just need help,’ or ‘Can you do all the things I don’t want to do?,’ then you know you’re in trouble.”

Are these changes to the COO role creating a pipeline of female CEO candidates? Most sources I spoke to are optimistic. There is plenty of precedent, after all: Consider the Fortune 500 women who have been promoted from COO to CEO at “old economy” stalwarts, including, recently, Michelle Buck of the Hershey Company. Other recent notable female COO-to-CEO promotions include Gillian Tans of Booking.com, TaskRabbit’s Stacy Brown-Philpot, Nasdaq’s Adena Friedman, and SoulCycle’s Melanie Whelan.

Many sitting COOs hope that the post-Sandberg generation has raised the profile of the role and the women who hold it. “You see it in both the public and internal sphere not as a ‘secondary’ role or as the quiet or background role,” says Bohutinsky of Zillow. “That has set an example for seeing more women in this role and imagining more women in the CEO role—and, for more women starting to imagine these roles for themselves.”

Not everyone agrees. “I don’t think it’s a layup,” says Beth Ferreira, managing director at FirstMark Capital, a New York City venture capital firm, who was previously COO of e-commerce company Fab and ran operations in the early days of Etsy. “I know many COOs—men and women—who have been told as things evolve, ‘the CEO job is yours,’ and it doesn’t happen.” She says she sees men still chosen for stretch roles far more often than women.

But Ferreira and others point out that, thanks to the #MeToo movement and the exposure of the downsides of male-¬dominated companies and industries, we are at a turning point when it comes to opportunities for women. Ferreira says she has been approached about four CEO roles in the past two months; in the four years prior to that, she says, she got very few, or else they weren’t appealing opportunities. (“They were, like, companies that were going to hit the wall at any moment.”)

Korn Ferry’s Stevenson says she has noticed a shift on the part of boards to start considering positions like COO more frequently as developmental roles toward a CEO seat. But she also notes that differences in the way women lead may mean that boards have to look at female candidates differently. Women, for example, “don’t pound the door down to CEO,” she says, a trait that “doesn’t make her a better or worse CEO candidate, it’s just different.” A 2017 Korn Ferry report Stevenson coauthored, “Women CEOs Speak,” which surveyed 57 current and former female CEOs, found that only 12% knew they wanted to be a CEO—and that more than half gave no thought to being one until someone explicitly told them they had the potential.

For some women executives, a similar dynamic has been in play around the COO position. Stacey Cunningham, COO of the New York Stock Exchange, says that NYSE president Tom Farley had to ask her three times to take on the role of COO before she said yes. “It’s that classic thing,” Cunningham says. “I focused on the skills I didn’t already have.”

But if the Fortune 500 women CEOs who have moved up from the role are any indication, the COO job can indeed be an effective primer. Almost every COO I talked to says she has gotten inquiries for CEO positions. Maëlle Gavet believes that within a few years, tech industry boards will have a substantial cadre of high-powered and well-rounded female COOs to choose from to fill CEO seats. The main question, she says, will be whether the boards trust them. “We’re about to find out. We’re literally going to find out in the next two to five years.”

Some boards are already answering the question. Wag, an on-demand dog-care service, recently lined up a $300 million investment from SoftBank. In tandem with that move, Wag’s board decided to replace its male cofounder and CEO with a more experienced executive.

The new CEO? Her name is Hilary ¬Schneider.

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