What do women bring to the table?
Tarr-Whelan identifies five benefits organizations realize from having more women in senior jobs:
- Higher profits, more risk awareness, less hyper-competitive and a greater ability to survive financial downturns.
- Policies that contribute to individual and societal health – education, families, entrepreneurship.
- A stronger integration of work and family leading to higher productivity and quality of life.
- Increased commitment to both personal and corporate responsibility and broader and more long-term planning.
- Management that reflects the twenty-first century –teamwork, participative decision making.
But why are there still so few women in top management?
Suggestions that address this question have been offered by a Catalyst survey on 20 European countries and the USA, found stereotypes and preconceptions of women’s roles ranked the top barrier to women’s advancement.
Indeed, these findings were once again replicated more recently when analyzing data from 110 corporations’ Talent Management Systems and Catalyst found gender biases and stereotypes existed particularly in succession planning processes. Other career development barriers which particularly affected women and minorities included the lack of 360 degree performance appraisal.
Over a decade ago, Powell observed that men continued to dominate senior-level positions and it was difficult to eliminate bias and discrimination in the workplace. Men are likely to be more comfortable with other men – the “old boy network”.
Hiring and promotion decisions are often unstructured and open to bias.
More recently, the Harvard Business Review, Silverstein and Sayre, reported on a survey of 500 companies which found that candidates for senior executive positions typically went through only one to five interviews (32 percent) and half relied on the hiring manager’s “gut feeling” (a feeling that the candidate had what it takes to be successful in any job).
So much for objective selection procedures and acknowledgement of “similarity– attraction” theories!
Research continues to indicate that talented women at lower levels may not receive the necessary development opportunities compared to their male counterparts (Powell). Furthermore, some women may not go after higher-level jobs because of their family responsibilities and the lack of family-friendly and flexible working environments and/or an unwillingness to make the sacrifices necessary to succeed in them (Davidson and Fielden).
Morrison, White and Van Velsor reported that women had difficulties fitting into their organization’s culture, were seen by men as wanting too much for themselves or for other women, or had performance difficulties. Managerial women had to walk a fine line, they had to be tough but not too tough, they had to stand on their own two feet yet ask for help when needed, and they had to take career and job risks but still perform at a high level.
More than 20 years later, male-defined views of work and career success still represent the norm (O’Neil, Hopkins and Bilimoria). One consequence of these barriers is a tendency for women to leave large organizations and pursue entrepreneurial and/or small business careers.