Apr 26, 2010

Women as Top Executives in Corporate America

An array of business books exist that outline success stories or provides a “how to” approach as how an individual progresses through their career, among them: Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, The 8th Habit, The Leadership Challenge and The One Minute Manager. Most of them (including the ones listed above) were written by men and for men – very few include a women perspective (Bierema, 2005). The “glass ceiling” is a catchphrase that’s commonly heard in business journals, business textbooks and in business news articles. It was developed to describe how companies fail to give women top leadership positions due to gender discrimination versus by educational or experience requirements (Eagly and Carli, 2007). In an investigative article published in the Journal of Organizational Change Management, women and men appeared to have distinctive reactions to the “glass ceiling” effect, where women appeared to validate its existence and recognize its danger, unfairness, and prevalence to them” (Ryan, et al, 2007). Men in the other hand, appear to be skeptical about its existence in the workplace and appear to question its validity and research (Ryan, et. al, 2007).

Interesting enough, men and women appear to score the same in terms of “initial competence,” or the desire to achieve personal goals. But, men rank higher in “external competence,” which is that competitive drive to have more power than their colleagues. The difference lies in the fact that this competitive drive is still perceived different for each gender – as an ambitious men who’s willingness to reach the top means loosing friends on the way, risking their health or dedicating less time to their families is perceived as a man to look admire. Women who possess the same drive, in the other hand, are seen with resentment. In her book “AmBITCHous,” Debra Condren, PH.D (2006) commented that, “High-achieving women all harbor the same dirty little secret: no matter what the backgrounds, we all struggle with socially sanctioned failure to embrace our ambition” (p. 11).

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