It’s not a pipeline problem. It’s about loneliness, competition and deeply rooted barriers.
The New York Times article “Why Women Aren’t CEOs” was the most popular article on the site over the weekend. The story’s transparency is crucial because it refutes the idea that advancement is progressive and exposes the nuanced gender dynamics that impede women from thriving. Below is a summary of the most important tidbits from the article:
- More than 40 years after women began pouring into the workplace, only a handful have made it all the way to the top of corporate America. The percentage of chief executives of Fortune 500 companies who are women just passed 6 percent, creeping up (and occasionally dropping back) at a glacial pace.
- …Women who aspire to power evoke far more resistance, both overt and subtle, than they expected would be the case by now. The impact of gender is hard to pin down decisively. But after years of biting their tongues, believing their ranks would swell if they simply worked hard, many senior women in business are concluding that the barriers are more deeply rooted and persistent than they wanted to believe, according to interviews with nearly two dozen chief executives, would-be chief executives, headhunters, business school deans and human resources professionals.
- What they say: Women are often seen as dependable, less often as visionary. Women tend to be less comfortable with self-promotion — and more likely to be criticized when they do grab the spotlight. Men remain threatened by assertive women. Most women are not socialized to be unapologetically competitive. Some women get discouraged and drop out along the way. And many are disproportionately penalized for stumbles.
- “You’re the only woman,” she said. “It’s very lonely. I was at a high level playing in a golf foursome with all high-level men. One said, ‘I didn’t know you knew how to play.’ I said, ‘You never asked me.’ I never drank with them. I never tried to be one of the guys. I spent more energy on performance.”
- When women act forcefully, research suggests, men are more likely to react badly. A Lean In/McKinsey & Company survey in 2016 of 132 companies and 34,000 employees found that women who negotiated for promotions were 30 percent more likely than men to be labeled intimidating, bossy or aggressive.
- “I got a guy his C-suite job,” she recalled. “I’m sitting there at the C-suite table and he takes a massive swipe at me on my business: ‘She’s not doing this right.’ I go down the hall, and I go to my friend and say, ‘What the hell just happened?’ And she said, ‘Did you forget the boys play a 24/7 game of dodge ball? You just walked into the gym. You whip the ball, and if it happens to knock somebody on the head, so what?’ And my husband said, ‘Why the hell did you help him get his job two years ago?’ ” Her turning point came when she was outmaneuvered by male colleagues during a corporate reorganization. Believing she was not going to rise further, she asked for an exit package. Looking back, she is convinced that being a woman hurt her. “I rewrote the entire strategy for the company, doubled its share price,” she said. “We had a little bit of a dip. All of the guys had missed their numbers more. There’s a guy positioning himself as the successor. He hasn’t made his number in seven years. He’s tall and good looking and hangs around the right circles.”
- “We are never taught to fight for ourselves,” said Ellen Kullman, the former chief executive of DuPont. “I think we tend to be brought up thinking that life’s fair, that you thrive and deliver, and the rest will take care of itself. It actually does work for most of your career. It doesn’t work for that last couple of steps.”
- Many women, accomplished as they are, don’t feel the same sense of innate confidence as their male peers. Gerri Elliott, a former senior executive at Juniper Networks (who said she did not personally encounter bias), recounts a story related by a colleague: A presenter asked a group of men and women whether anyone had expertise in breast-feeding. A man raised his hand. He had watched his wife for three months. The women in the crowd, mothers among them, didn’t come forward as experts.
Read the full story here.