Question 1. The article opens up with the following statement, “When you put all the pieces together, a new picture emerges for why women don’t make it into the C-suite. It’s not the glass ceiling, but the sum of many obstacles along the way”. What are the obstacles the authors are talking about here?
Eagly & Carli (2007) describe five obstacles that women encounter in their professional careers. The first obstacle is called “vestiges of prejudice.” Men still reap the benefits of better wages and quicker promotions. The problem is not a glass ceiling at the top of a career, but the sum of discrimination that has occurred at all levels along a woman’s career path. The second obstacle is “resistance to women’s leadership.” There are traits of style that are associated with men (agentic) and another set which are associated with women (communal). If women use the traits associated with men’s style, they are criticized for not having the traits associated with women. If men use communal traits associated with women, they are not penalized for using those traits. Men have the freedom to choose the traits that work for them while women are criticized for being either too communal or too aggressive (agentic). The next obstacle is “issues of leadership style.” Women struggle with developing an effective leadership style that incorporates the communal style preferred in women with the agentic style that is assumed to be critical for success. The fourth obstacle is “demands of family life.” While both women and men are involved in child rearing and family life, research shows that women take more time off and provide more hours for child care. Even for those women who have a substantial support system, many managers making employment decisions continue to see women as having family life responsibilities which would prevent them from taking on higher level and demanding positions. The final obstacle is “underinvestment in social capital.” Social networking has been and continues to be an important aspect of career advancement. Balancing work and family can hinder the ability for many women to socialize and build professional networks. For those who find the time, it may be difficult for women to break into social networks with a majority of men who plan their time around traditional masculine activities. The “Labyrinth of Leadership” describes the twists and turns such as the five obstacles that must be understood and navigated by women.
2. The authors offer a number of actions an organization can take to see more women stay in leadership positions and to have more in the executive suite. Select five from the list, which did you chose and why? Do you think they will work?
1. Increase people’s awareness of the psychological drivers of prejudice toward female leaders, and work to dispel those perceptions. While diversity training does not change behavior, spending time increasing awareness through discussion and examples of prejudice will have an impact on the workforce. Real-life examples of drivers of prejudice and stereotypes that make people stop and think about the personal impact to them is also effective and can work to change attitudes and behaviors.
2. Avoid having a sole female member of any team. Studies show that women outnumbered by men will be ignored by men. I personally experienced this situation and know that this suggestion plus feedback to the team will improve women being heard. I was the only female Accounting Director across the agency and had five male peers. At our first meeting, I made a suggestion that everyone ignored. One of my peers brought up the exact same thing about five minutes later and as they started to discuss the idea, I quickly spoke up and said, “I thought it was a great idea when I brought it up five minutes ago.” They all looked at me for a moment and while there was an uncomfortable silence, I felt that they paid attention to my comments after that. About six months later, another female Accounting Director was added to the group, and while we didn’t think and speak exactly the same way, we were able to support each other in future meetings and increase our ability to collectively contribute to the group.
3. Help shore up social capital. Women can be helped by strong sponsorship and network connections. That sponsorship is very important to a woman’s career, and is another personal example from my experience. I had both female and male mentors who provided career advice and were instrumental in my career growth and advancement.
4. Prepare women for line management with appropriately demanding assignments. In order to be competitive for advancement, women must have experience in mission, or line, management as well as demanding assignments. For example, I worked in one mission area and became a subject matter expert, but I was limited to that one area. One of my bosses mentored me and challenged me to take a new position to learn more about the organization and to increase my skills and experience in another area, and that experience eventually qualified me for an important promotion.
5. Encourage male participation in family-friendly benefits. If benefits are seen just for women, then males will continue to see women as a family caregiver instead of an equal partner in career opportunities. I have seen male managers take paternity leave when their child is born, and they are much more willing to work with their female employees on flexible arrangements for maternity leave and family-friendly work schedules.
I chose five actions that I believe have worked for me throughout my career.
3. What are your thoughts about what is presenting here? It has been almost 4 years since the article was published? Is the content still relevant? Any changes?
I agree with what the authors have presented in this article. Although this was written almost four years ago, this information is still applicable and relevant. There are recent articles that still talk about women earning less and receiving fewer promotions than men. I feel as though many of the obstacles don’t currently apply to me, but could apply to newly hired females who still need to navigate through their career paths. Where you sit reflects your perception and in my organization’s recent annual employee survey, there were comments about men not holding enough managerial positions because our workforce is sixty percent female. While improvements have been made in corporate America, it is impossible to ignore that there are still countries where females are second class citizens and do not have the same rights as men. Many of the societal issues discussed in this article apply both in the United States and internationally in our global economy.
Eagly, A. H., & Carli, L. L. (2007). Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership. Harvard Business Review, 85(9), 63-71
RE: DB#3 XXXX
I didn’t list performance evaluations as one of my top five actions to make changes under question #2. Can you expand a little more on why you chose that action? Do you think the performance criteria favors men more than women, and if so, why?
I also wondered about studies of groups other than just males vs females.
Thanks again for your comments to my post.
RE: DB #3 – QQQQQ 9/11/2011 | 8:01 PM
I’m curious about third party performance evaluation tests. How have they been used and what do the statistics show about their effectiveness? Do you think that performance evaluation has been biased against women?
I agree with your assessment about the working hours. There are some jobs and positions where the hours are long or there are people that have to be on call to get the mission done, so it would be hard to change the working hours, whether the employees are male or female, and whether or not they have families.
RE: DB #3, Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership 9/11/2011 | 8:08 PM
Interesting comments. You and I have similar comments, but I didn’t think about the labyrinth of leadership for men. The career path process is confusing for everyone, isn’t it?!
i also liked your comment about the tokenism. I currently don’t feel like a token, but there are times in the past that I did, and I’m sure that you did too.
I also didn’t comment about how much things have changed since I started my career 31 years ago, but so much has changed for women since I started my career. We all have many stories that we can share with people just starting their careers.
RE: Discussion Board 3- 9/11/2011 | 8:18 PM
I enjoyed reading your perspectives. I do agree that the Federal Government does a good job in ensuring that there are laws and benefits that protect both men and women for family needs. There are laws in place that prevent discrimination and they have made a difference for females and minorities. As I look back over my 31 years of experience in Federal Government, so many things have changed for the good. But there are still differences as you point out with women making 81 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
You mentioned leadership styles. Have you seen differences between male and female or are you currently seeing styles that are blended by both male and female supervisors? Do you think there is still a perception that women and men manage differently?
RE: DB#3 – MMMMMM 9/12/2011 | 9:58 AM
We had many of the same thoughts in our responses. Reflecting on this subject, I realize that because of what I have seen and witnessed over the past 30 years, I think there have been great strides. But when I see the statistics of pay and promotions, there is still a disparity for women. And I still see younger men in management positions who seem to favor a male dominated role at work and with family. It will be interesting to see how things progress over the next 30 years.