Monday, October 15, 2007

Article of Interest: Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership

When you put all the pieces together, a new picture (the cartoon says it all) emerges for why women don’t make it into the C-suite (and, of course, why they start businesses). It’s not the glass ceiling, but the sum of many obstacles along the way.

Here's a quick clip:
In 1986 the Wall Street Journal’s Carol Hymowitz and Timothy Schellhardt gave the world an answer: “Even those few women who rose steadily through the ranks eventually crashed into an invisible barrier. The executive suite seemed within their grasp, but they just couldn’t break through the glass ceiling.” The metaphor, driven home by the article’s accompanying illustration, resonated; it captured the frustration of a goal within sight but somehow unattainable. To be sure, there was a time when the barriers were absolute. Even within the career spans of 1980s-era executives, access to top posts had been explicitly denied. Consider comments made by President Richard Nixon, recorded on White House audiotapes and made public through the Freedom of Information Act. When explaining why he would not appoint a woman to the U.S. Supreme Court, Nixon said, “I don’t think a woman should be in any government job whatsoever…mainly because they are erratic. And emotional. Men are erratic and emotional, too, but the point is a woman is more likely to be.” In a culture where such opinions were widely held, women had virtually no chance of attaining influential leadership roles.

Times have changed, however, and the glass ceiling metaphor is now more wrong than right.
Read more here at the Harvard Business Review article, Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership, authored by Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli.

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