Do stereotypes about their strengths and suitability for certain roles act as a glass ceiling for women managers?
Here is a quick quiz to find out whether your organization is as woman-friendly as that suitably diverse poster of happy employees on your Company Home Page claims.
Take a quick look at the statements below, and think about how many of these you’ve had to hear- in some form or the other- over the last 12 months.
- You guys are so much better at all this emotional stuff than us.
- Could you help organize <Insert Colleague’s Name here> farewell party?
- It is easier for you to sell, yaar. At least the client will listen to you. With us, he won’t even pick up the phone.
- Why don’t you think of a nice catchy slogan? I am not as creative as you!
- So, who looks after your kids while you’re at work?
- Is your partner/spouse/significant other OK with these late night meetings?
- Office party! I’ll take care of the beer, you order the pizza.
- Why don’t I work on the spreadsheet and then you can put the presentation together?
- Of course your favourite cricket player is Kohli. He is the cutest one in the team, right?
- What do women want? We want to hear from you!
If you’ve heard less than 2 of these statements- You are clearly a man. Thank you for taking part in this exercise, anyway. Help us spread the word by doing your best not to repeat these to your female colleagues without context in the future. Correct your friends when they make gendered assumptions, or inadvertently box women into certain roles.
If you’ve heard 2 to 5 of these statements: Congratulations! You work in a team or workplace that is more progressive than most. Hopefully your organization will allow you the freedom to excel at diverse roles and responsibilities without letting your gender come in the way. We are curious to find out how many of you there are in the world, though, so tell us in the comments section.
If you’ve heard more than 5 of these statements: Why am I not surprised? Men never get asked who looks after their children, and women are all born party planners and agony aunts. A recent ILO report that even as women have made great strides in the number of middle management positions they hold, less than 5% of organisations have women CEOs (The BSE 100 has just 4 companies with a woman CEO, but the numbers are abysmal across countries).
One of the key reasons for this is that women continue to be silo-ed in specific functions such as human resources, public relations and communications instead of gaining a more holistic experience across fields and verticals. Not only does this do a disservice to women employees who may be looking for a more complete management experience, but also to these fields, which are somehow implicitly reduced to “softer” or “easier” roles than being the integral functions they are.
In addition, respondents from across developing and developed nations mentioned the following as the top 5 reasons that act as barriers to women’s leadership:
- Women have more family responsibilities than men
- Roles assigned by society to men and women
- Masculine corporate culture
- Women have insufficient line or general management experience
- Few role models for women
Interestingly the study also highlights two other reasons for women not making it to management positions. One, being the gendered job descriptions and the very first assignments, projects and tasks that are given to men and women.
“While women nowadays are as qualified or have higher academic achievements than their male counterparts recruited by firms, they often are not given the same level of responsibility, visibility and variety of positions that may “stretch” them and prepare them for higher positions.”
So make a change in your organisation today. Retire your gendered assumptions to the same closet where your company’s Dot Matrix printers and Pagers have been confined. Learn to judge each role and position independently on merit. Look around and question why so many of the senior women are hurtled between roles in Marketing, HR and Customer Service alone. And be careful what you may be saying to your colleagues- both male and female. Beware the persistence of stereotypes!
How did you do in the quiz? Tell us in the comments below.