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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
By: Laura Santana and Katherine Pappa
Research consistently shows the value women leaders bring to their companies. Women are critical to success, yet barriers remain to the advancement of women at work.
How can companies step up to the challenge of developing, retaining, and promoting talented women? Read More
The difficulties associated with proving and addressing gender discrimination in hiring processes have presented policymakers with a major challenge over the past few decades. In an attempt to overcome gender-biased hiring, a vast majority of symphony orchestras revised their hiring practices from the 1950s. Many orchestras opened up their hiring process to a range of candidates, rather than only hiring musicians who were handpicked by the conductor. As a result of these changes, most orchestras now hire new players after about three rounds of live or recorded auditions: preliminary, semi-final, and final. Additionally, as part of these revisions, a number of orchestras adopted “blind” auditions whereby screens are used to conceal the identity and gender of the musician from the jury. In the years after these changes were instituted, the percent of female musicians in the five highest-ranked orchestras in the nation increased from 6 percent in 1970 to 21 percent in 1993. Given the low turnover found in most symphony orchestras, the increase in female musicians is significant. In this seminal study, the authors examine whether these new hiring practices were responsible for the increase observed in women’s employment in symphony orchestras. Read More