Women’s Aspirations to the Corner Office
This week has been chock full of women and work themes. At the beginning of the week I was lucky enough to join a panel at IPG, my parent company, as we begin building a women’s network. I was even more fortunate to hear speakers’ Ilene Lang from Catalyst and Fran Rodgers from Families and Work Institute at the meeting. Since I was speaking in Dallas at a corporate event on women CEOs, the information was timely.
In my own research, one study stood out. Catalyst conducted a survey in 2004 on women and men executives’ aspirations to be CEO. They found that both men and women have equal aspirations to reach the corner office, whether or not they had children. Both men and women executives also have similar strategies for getting there — exceeding expectations, successfully managing others, seeking high visibility assignments and demonstrating expertise. Interestingly, they experienced similar barriers — not conforming to the company culture, lack of line experience and lack of awareness of organizational politics.
However the unsettling difference that did arise between men and women executives was that women endured a set of cultural barriers such as gender-based stereotypes, exclusion from informal networks, lack of role models and inhospitable corporate culture.
These gender-based stereotypes facing women surfaced in many global surveys that have been done around the globe. As Ilene Lang at Catalyst says, this global research finds that men are perceived to be better at “taking charge” and women at “taking care.”
Gender stereo-typing is subtle and not meant on purpose. When I mentioned this to a group of young women executives here in Dallas, they nodded in agreement.
The lesson I learned from this week’s immersion in women executives climbing the corporate ladder is that we still have work to do on fixing the workplace.