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Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership

Two decades ago, people began using the “glass ceiling” catchphrase to describe organizations’ failure to promote women into top leadership roles. Eagly and Carli, of Northwestern University and Wellesley College, argue in this article (based on a forthcoming book from Harvard Business School Press) that the metaphor has outlived its usefulness. In fact, it leads managers to overlook interventions that would attack the problem at its roots, wherever it occurs. A labyrinth is a more fitting image to help organizations understand and address the obstacles to women’s progress.

Rather than depicting just one absolute barrier at the penultimate stage of a distinguished career, a labyrinth conveys the complexity and variety of challenges that can appear along the way. Passage through a labyrinth requires persistence, awareness of one’s progress, and a careful analysis of the puzzles that lie ahead. Routes to the center exist but are full of twists and turns, both expected and unexpected.

Vestiges of prejudice against women, issues of leadership style and authenticity, and family responsibilities are just a few of the challenges. For instance, married mothers now devote even more time to primary child care per week than they did in earlier generations (12.9 hours of close interaction versus 10.6), despite the fact that fathers, too, put in a lot more hours than they used to (6.5 versus 2.6). Pressures for intensive parenting and the increasing demands of most high-level careers have left women with very little time to socialize with colleagues and build professional networks—that is, to accumulate the social capital that is essential to managers who want to move up.

The remedies proposed—such as changing the long-hours culture, using open-recruitment tools, and preparing women for line management with appropriately demanding assignments—are wide ranging, but together they have a chance of achieving leadership equity in our time.

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Why Men Still Get More Promotions Than Women

Though companies now invest heavily in mentoring and developing their best female talent, all that attention doesn’t translate into promotions. A Catalyst survey of over 4,000 high potentials shows that more women than men have mentors—yet women are paid $4,600 less in their first post-MBA jobs, hold lower-level positions, and feel less career satisfaction.

To better understand why, the authors conducted in-depth interviews with 40 participants in a mentoring program at a large multinational. All mentoring is not created equal, they discovered. Only sponsorship involves advocacy for advancement. The interviews and survey alike indicate that, compared with their male peers, high-potential women are overmentored, undersponsored, and not advancing in their organizations. Without sponsorship, women not only are less likely than men to be appointed to top roles but may also be more reluctant to go for them.

Organizations such as Deutsche Bank, Unilever, Sodexo, and IBM Europe have established sponsorship programs to facilitate the promotion of high-potential women. Programs that get results clarify and communicate their goals, match sponsors and mentees on the basis of those goals, coordinate corporate and regional efforts, train sponsors, and hold those sponsors accountable.

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A new study from Lean In and McKinsey finds exactly how much more likely men are to get promoted than women

New research by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. yields some disturbing findings about women's prospects for advancement in the workplace. 

Though women and men say they want to be promoted in about equal numbers (75% and 78% respectively), women are significantly less likely to make it to the next tier in their organization.

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THE ECONOMICS OF PAID AND UNPAID LEAVE

The Council of Economic Advisers, June 2014 

The composition of the workforce has drastically changed over the last half-century. Almost half of the workforce is now women, married couples are increasingly sharing childcare responsibilities, and people are living—and working—longer than in the past. Given the growing number of dual-earner families, today’s workers are trying to balance work, childcare, and eldercare, as well as other responsibilities. In particular, families increasingly need to take time off around the birth or adoption of a child, for their own medical needs, or when a family member becomes ill. This evolving need for caregiving, whether for self or family, requires the ability to take time off from work. Formal sick leave policies allow workers to take a leave, usually for a short period, to recover from an illness, attend a doctor’s appointment, or care for sick family members. Formal family leave policies—both maternity leave and paternity leave—allow recent mothers and fathers to take an extended absence from work while guaranteeing that they can return to their job and continue progressing in their careers. 

Gender Intelligence

In this groundbreaking comprehensive analysis, based on more than twenty-five years of in-depth surveys involving 100,000 men and women across dozens of Fortune 500 companies, Barbara Annis and Keith Merron provide a deeper understanding of the multiplicity of forces that have combined to create and perpetuate gender inequality. Gender Intelligence exposes common false assumptions that prevent men and women from successfully performing together at work—myths exacerbated by worn-out theories of gender blindness and sameness thinking. It show how a small but growing number of courageous, leading-edge companies have broken through the barriers to successfully advance women, making the remarkable transformation from compliance to choice—from pressure to preference—and show how it can be done in any business.

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Speaking While Female

Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on Why Women Stay Quiet at Work - Many articles have discussed the tightrope phenomenon; where women are reserved to talk at meeting or assert ideas as they are often interrupted or ignored only to have male counterparts reiterate their thoughts and received credit. Sheryl and Adam also provide real solutions to the issue and examples that have worked for others in similar situations.

When Talking About Bias Backfires

Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg on Discrimination at Work - Outing Implicit Bias is not enough. Studies have indicated that outing implicit bias without sending iterating that it is not acceptable and needs to change has negative or no impact on changing work culture and issues related to bias. The impact occurs when implicit bias discussions are followed by the message that it is not tolerable and actionable measures are put in place to speak out when it occurs and have the discussion.

The Most Undervalued Leadership Traits of Women

by Glenn Llopis, for Forbes

Based on his own personal experience growing up in a matriarchal family, Glenn highlights the key Leadership Traits that women naturally possess and how these can be better leveraged to serve women in the workplace. He also references a previous post that discusses how women are natural leaders given their multiple roles and responsibilities that make them "the masters of opportunity management" in the workplace.

"The best women leaders I know have circular vision that enables them to be well-rounded people.  For example, they have their finger on the pulse of the culture and can talk to you about the latest pop-culture news – but then easily switch gears to give you their perspective on what is taking place on Wall Street.  Women leaders seeking a chance to be significant see the world through a lens of opportunity; they are especially in search of those opportunities previously unseen (perhaps this is why the women I know enjoy a good treasure hunt)."

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The Opt-Out Generation Wants back In

by Judith Warner, The New York Times

This is an interesting follow up article to"The Opt Out Revolution" (2000) , an article about successful professional women who decided to "opt-out" to exercise one's right to decide (and afford) to become a stay-at-home parent. This article candidly looks at their lives ten years later examines where these women are now and the outcomes of their original decision to leave the workforce.
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Shedding the Superwoman Myth

by Debora L. Spar, The Chronicle Review

Debora provides insights on why "Women need to realize that having it all means giving something up—choosing which piece of the perfect picture to relinquish, or rework, or delay." ..."No man can do that, either; no human can. Yet women are repeatedly berating themselves for failing at this kind of balancing act, and (quietly, invidiously) berating others when something inevitably slips."  
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Women, Work, and the Art of Gender Judo

Why practice gender judo if women are supposed to lean in and just ask for what they want? My interviews with 127 highly successful women show that more straightforward strategies can backfire. While plenty of glass ceilings have been shattered, most good jobs — from senator to scientist, comic to chief executive — are still seen as requiring what have traditionally been perceived as masculine qualities. Lawyers are aggressive; chief executives are decisive; techies are nerds; comics are obsessed with sex. So women have to behave in “masculine” ways to be seen as competent.
One problem: Women are still expected to be feminine.
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The Motherhood Penalty vs. the Fatherhood Bonus (A Child Helps Your Career, if You’re a Man)

by Claire Cain Miller, NY Times September 8, 2014

"The data about the motherhood penalty and the fatherhood bonus present a clear-cut look at American culture’s ambiguous feelings about gender and work. Even in the age of “Lean In,” when women with children run Fortune 500 companies and head the Federal Reserve, traditional notions about fathers as breadwinners and mothers as caregivers remain deeply ingrained. Employers, it seems, have not yet caught up to the fact that women can be both mothers and valuable employees."
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Why Are There Not Enough Women Architects?

by Mark Lamster, Dallas Morning News, 8/29/14 (Excerpt from the Article, go to link above for full article) Mark attended a panel of 3 women fellows from the Texas AIA (9 total women out of 130 fellows) and this was part of his response to moderating the panel.

Those wishing to understand the high attrition rate among women in architecture should focus their attention on the assumptions implicit in those words, which are still disturbingly pervasive. Simply put: lack of workplace flexibility chases women out of the profession. The problem is especially acute in architecture, where young professionals — who are theoretically at the point in their lives when they will be starting families — are expected to work extremely long hours, often off the books. And architectural wages are nowhere near those of other professions (attorney, doctor, banker), which make large child-care bills easier to manage.
The problem demands systemic change within the architectural profession, a shift in the expectations and demands that are forcing women out, to one that actively and aggressively promotes equality. Lip service won’t do.
Those who would defend the status quo should consider how much we have to gain by a reordering of priorities — the contribution of 50 percent of our workforce. While we can dismiss the twaddle about women’s “gossamer” minds, it is true that women bring a different experience to the practice of architecture. As was noted during our discussion, statistically women are more likely than men to participate in the field of sustainability. Because they are more directly engaged in child-care, they approach our private and public spaces (or lack thereof) with a different set of assumptions.
One can’t help but wonder: How different would our cities be if the architectural profession was more equitable? Frankly, we shouldn’t have to wonder. It’s time to find out

How women are climbing Architecture's Career Ladder

by Lamar Anderson, Curbed.Com (3/17/14)

In celebration of Women's History Month, this article is a "Women in Architecture 101" for those new to the discussion and yet unaware of the complexity of challenges and issues surrounding the topic. There is reference to the The Missing 32% Project - Equity in Architecture Survey (Thanks!) and relevant anecdotes from women in various stages of their professional career development. A bonus survey of Pump Rooms in various firms serves to bring awareness and a gentle reminder that Equity starts with Action.
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Why do Women really leave Architecture? is the wrong question.

by Vanessa Quirk for Archdaily (2/20/14)

"Maria Smith, shortlisted for The Architect’s Journal’s Emerging Woman Architect of the Year, has just published an article in The Architectural Review titled “Why do Women Really Leave Architecture?” – an article that, like many over the last year, attempts to tackle the tricky question of why women (who make up over 40% of architecture students in the US but only 23% of the profession) leave architectureFor the first few paragraphs, I was nodding in agreement, eagerly reading something that - finally - promised to offer a different perspective on the “women in architecture” question.

Unfortunately, a few paragraphs later, all that promise falls terribly flat. Smith spends a good amount of time setting up a fabulous argument, and then – disappointingly – falls into the very traps she was hoping to break wide open. By the article’s conclusion, I was less satisfied than when I started, wondering: is this even the right question we should be asking?"

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Why do Women really leave Architecture?

by Maria Smith, Architectural Review(2/14/14)

Trying to tackle a complex issue is noble. But the set of solutions offered unfortunately don't address the depth of the challenges that women are facing: socioeconomic, biases, personal work/life flexibility challenges plaguing the modern family. See below for a counterpoint by Vanessa Quirk for Archdaily.

"Women in architecture. There, I said it. Whether you’re in the ‘why do we need to talk about this, I just want to be good at my job’ camp or the ‘we must do more to bring our backward profession up to the 21st-century standards it lags so embarrassingly behind’ camp, ‘Women in Architecture’ is probably a phrase that irks. I waver daily between those camps but I am firmly in the ‘get involved or stop whinging’ camp so, here we go: why do women leave architecture?"

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