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Friday, August 24, 2007

Hittting the glass ceiling, more like a labyrinth


A new report in the upcoming Sept. issue of Harvard Business Review puts an end to the glass ceiling myth.
"The glass ceiling metaphor is now more wrong than right," the article says. It's shameful that of the top highly paid executives at Fortune 500 companies, only 6 percent are women. Why is this? The article says it's because what confronts women in their professional endeavors is not a glass ceiling but a labyrinth -- obstacles that women run up against at every level even though the final goal is obtainable.
What are the obstacles?
* Prejudice. Men as a group still have higher wages and faster promotions. The scarcity of female corporate officers is the sum of discrimination at all ranks, not just as women approach the top.

*Resistance to women's leadership. People associate women and men with different traits. People are more resistant to women's influence and dominant behavior than to men's.

*Issues of leadership style. Female leaders often struggle to cultivate an appropriate and effective leadership style.

*Demands of family life. Women continue to be the ones who interrupt their careers, take more days off and work part time. As a result, they have fewer years of job experience and fewer hours of employment per year, which slows their progress and reduces their earnings.

*Underachievement in social capital. Overall, women have less time to socialize with colleagues and build professional networks.

But rather than just bellyache, the authors offer some suggestions for management intervention that works:
Challenge the long hours norm, reduce the subjectivity of performance evaluations, avoid a sole female member of any team (outnumbered, women tend to be ignored by the men), prepare women for line management with appropriately demanding assignments and allow employees who have significant parental responsibilities more time to prove themselves worthy of promotion.

"Labyrinths become infinitely more tractable when seen from above, the article says. I agree. However, it usually takes a visionary to see their own workplace from above. Are there enough visionaries out there? Do you work in a labyrinth?

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