Women in the corporate workplace have had lots of press lately. First, the September issue of Fortune magazine with its list of the 50 most powerful women. Then came the report by Lean In and McKinsey & Company, Women in the Workplace 2015, and Sheryl Sandberg’s summary of the report in the Wall Street Journal. It’s a mixed bag of positive and negative. Let’s take the “glass half full” view and celebrate 50 incredibly powerful women.
A friend recently worried aloud that men need protecting. Women are succeeding in higher education and may take over business! Relax. Yes, women are proportionately over-represented in the educated talent pipeline. But in business they are under-represented above the entry level, and under-compensated, compared to men. I’ll let others address why men are less successful in school and keep working on why women aren’t proportionately represented at the top.
New research confirms what we know. Being one of very few women in a “male-dominated” organization or field can be stressful. Researchers found high levels of the stress hormone cortisol (“linked with later negative health outcomes”) in women in this situation. Even in industries where women are well represented, men dominate upper levels of management. It is stressful to walk the tightrope of the “double bind” and work to be heard and seen as competent. So my guess is that this research is applicable to many many women in business.
Everyone knows that having women on a company’s board of directors is good for the company’s bottom line. Research shows that a critical mass of THREE women results in better corporate governance. Less likely to feel like an outsider, a woman is more likely to speak up and be heard when she is one of three. Good decisions and good results follow from a balance of feminine and masculine strengths. Knowing this, leaders should not be satisfied with one (token) woman. Yet a new study shows that, at the executive level, most companies have just one woman. They have “checked the box.” With only one woman, they may miss out on the value of true gender diversity.
Workplace “Queen Bees” claim more affinity with men than women and distance themselves from other women. If the Queen Bee isn’t dead yet, I would like to accelerate her demise! Gender diversity in leadership is good for business. And women won’t reach the upper ranks of business in sufficient numbers to deliver the upsides without the full support of their own.
Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant make some pretty obvious points in the first of their four-part New York Times series on women at work. Their punchline is that raising awareness of gender stereotypes and bias is not enough. Only by expressing disapproval of the biases and resulting barriers facing women can we change the facts on gender diversity in leadership. I express disapproval. Now let’s change those facts!