Hello SOTGC community,
You may have been paying attention recently to the observations regarding women and their presence – or lack thereof – in the C-suite. On one side, we hear reports of the skewed stats demonstrating the embarrassingly low figure of the female presence in the upper echelons of management. On the other side are joyous cries that women have finally succeeded in maintaining a status in this highly coveted and elite group of power, citing examples like Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg, and Meg Whitman. For some people, the mere recognition of this supposedly sudden influx of women being admitted behind the velvet rope in upper management, solidifies progression to them, “We have examples A, B, and C, so we MUST be moving forward!” Granted, the success of these particular women – as well as the handfuls of others who have joined their ranks – would never have been entertained years ago, but are their achievements really painting a full picture, one that comes full circle and encompasses all aspects of the C-suite vs. women debacle? Merely having a few handfuls of accomplished women residing in management’s penthouse does not a victorious C-suite make.
Let’s not forget the sacrifices that come with an opportunity in the C-suite: a workload that is increasingly demanding and high-stakes decision making that would make anyone’s head spin. Are these really the key components of success that are making women scramble to get to the top? More and more we’re seeing women getting stuck in mid-management or leaving companies altogether. Corporate politics combined with this equation is leaving women feeling overwhelmed, yet unchallenged. In 2012, global marketing consulting firm McKinsey & Company, conducted a study on the advancement of women in the workplace. The interesting part? “Interviews with some 200 successful women yielded intriguing insights: despite their career success, 59 percent of women said they did not aspire to the C-suite.” Once we begin to understand why women are leaving their interest at the door, we can begin to work towards a more powerful resolution. The focus seems to be on the low numbers of women in leadership positions, yet completely disregards entrepreneurs, flex managers, non-profit executives, and generally overlooks most talented and capable creatives who don’t fall into the mold of what a C-suite executive looks like. At the end of the day, the way in which many women are now viewing and defining success may actually embrace a more multi-dimensional involvement, branching away from a singular and lineal movement in one direction.
It’s no secret that diversity within leadership teams (i.e. larger numbers of women being directly involved) generate higher company satisfaction, deeper engagement, profitable collaboration, and financial gains. As the tide turns, the future only holds rising success for those companies who are fluidly evolving to embrace communication and interactive changes within the corporate environment. Either the 4% of CEO positions in Fortune 1,000 companies being held by women needs to increase, or we need a better qualitative analysis of coming up with upper management numbers.
How about we push aside the already tired pretexts that women just aren’t doing the right things in order to get recognition, that they have poor negotiating skills, that other duties call their focus away from their careers, or they just undervalue themselves economically. Let us not devalue these notions, but instead focus our direction on the actual structure and environment of the C-suite in general. The actual business culture of upper management itself requires a certain lifestyle that may not necessarily speak to everyone. And that’s not to say those people aren’t cut out for the task, but rather, the task isn’t flexible enough to accommodate diversity.
Maybe it’s time we look inwards and restructure a framework that isn’t working for all of the team members involved. Why not make the C-suite more attractive to a diverse workforce, one that will foster productivity, creativity, and innovation. If we stop trying to force a round peg into a square hole, we may see those numbers of women in the C-suite rise. In the meantime, expect ambitious women to increase as role models and sponsors for each other, and to create their own versions of success.
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