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
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. Read More
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)."
by Despina Stratigakos, The Design Observer
This critique by Despina Stratigakos from The Design Observer explains the complex and varied reasons women architects are overlooked. "The reasons we forget women architects are varied and complex. Until recently, historians assumed that there were no female practitioners before the mid-20th century and so they did not bother to look. Nor was it likely that they would stumble upon these designers by chance, given that traditional research methods focus on archives and libraries, institutions that have been slow to collect women’s work." 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