Bluegem Learning Vice President Jane Joseph, who leads the UK side of the business, gives her thoughts on the issue of "the glass ceiling".
"Recently a friend of mine sent me a photocopy of an article written in The Evening Standard called “What glass ceiling?” The article asked and addressed one simple question …where are all the women? Women comprise approximately 47% of the workforce but only 4% of the senior positions in blue chip organisations. So where is the female talent? The article quotes from a report by a research company called Catalyst who have been looking into the issue of gender inequality and have looked to dispel 5 of the myths, which exist to explain why women do not rise to the top as readily as the male counterparts.
Myth 1 – Biology
The maternal instinct is the problem, the genetic pull for women to stay at home to raise children and because of this they tend to sacrifice their careers. According to Catalyst the real reasons that women find themselves on the bottom of the management totem pole is that
ü They are shut out of most informal networks
ü They do not have sufficient role-models
ü Suffer from gender stereotyping
Not quite the genetic explanation we were expecting is it?
Myth 2 – Glass Ceiling
Suggesting that women and men start off equally and it is only when you get to senior positions that you see a difference. Again the research shows that women start off behind men and very rarely catch up. Catalyst calls if less of a glass ceiling and more of a lead weight.
Yes, a humongous weight that drags women back from the moment they enter into the workplace and aspire to gain the credibility and position that their excellent exam results or their natural abilities suggest they should attain. No matter how we try to dress it up for 2014 that lead weight is gender bias.
Myth 3 – Queen Bee Syndrome
Now didn’t you know that it’s women’s fault why enough women are not rising to the top. Well, women are their own worse enemies; aren’t they? Once one woman makes it she will cripple any other female from getting to where she is.
However the research shows that women are more likely to assist other women, when they achieve success in their field and that they are more likely to champion the cause of women, when they reach senior positions.
Myth 4- Simply having a mentor will do the trick
Although having a mentor is a good thing, most male mentors tend to mentor men and vice versa. Therefore, because males tend to be higher in the organisations, they tend to have more clout than their female counterparts.
Catalyst suggests that more than a mentor women need to find an ally. A person who can assist them in being seen and gaining the reputation and work that will help them to promote themselves and be placed on the pathway that leads to senior management.
Myth 5 – Time
Time will cure all gender equality ills and that the next generation of women will rise to the top as swiftly as men.
However in 2015 gender legislation will be 40 years old (Sex Discrimination Act 1975). Many women have been campaigning and championing the cause of equality for many years. Helen Morrissey a chief executive of Newton Investment Bank states that although there has been some progress in the Boardroom what needs to be addressed is the pipeline to getting women into these positions.
This suggests to me that no matter how much time passes if women are prevented from getting into the pipeline that feeds the top jobs then we will still be having this conversation in another 40 years.
So if you are in an organisation where women seem to lag behind their male colleagues, don’t believe the hype or the myth about why women just don’t seem to make it. If talented women are not rising to the top, there is something fundamental that needs to be addressed in the organisation that you work in. It is also true to say that where one discrimination issue flourishes there tend to be others lurking just beneath the surface.
No doubt we will return to this topic in the future as it seems to be one that, for now, rumbles on."
Jane will be writing future articles for the blog, so watch this space.