IT Employment

News flash: In most companies, it's harder for women

Recently About.com interviewed executive and leadership coach John M McKee about difficulties faced by women in corporate life for their Women in Business section. Having hired, promoted, fired and laid off thousands of people during his career, John has some strong feelings about this subject.
"In your book, 21 Ways Women in Management Shoot Themselves in the Foot, you address gender bias at work. While you admit men may not truly appreciate the unique challenges business women face your book seeks to help women better understand the male corporate culture. But to foster diversity and inclusion shouldn’t we be better educating the men, too? How can more women get more involved in shaping change within their own business environment?"

And so began a recent interview I did with About.com's "Women in Business" columnist and editor. (There's a link to the whole discussion at the bottom of this blog if you want to read it.) She wanted to talk to me about some of the reasons that women remain under-represented at the very senior levels in most organizations. In the US, less than 8% of the top jobs in large public organizations are held by women. It's a bit better in many other countries; but even there the percentage isn't equal.

I hear daily from clients, (disclosure: most of my clients are women,) about how it remains tough to move up the ladder. And, when I investigate, it's clear that most companies still have a strong male-centric bias. That perpetuates the problem of course.

Across the industrial spectrum, in organizations both small and large, we need more women leaders. The evidence is clear that women CEOs usually deliver better numbers than their male counterparts regardless of sector. And, as importantly, senior teams with greater diversity usually develop more creative approaches to challenges faced by the company. We need more creativity in these times.

For those readers who are light on estrogen as a result of your gender, here are 3 things from my interview that you should know:

1. Men and women really do communicate differently. Simply put, women talk to think and men think to talk. I think everyone can benefit from reading “The Female Brain” by Dr. Louanne Brizendine because it brings to the forefront the role anatomy plays in how differently women think and process information. I'll caution you beforehand that the blurb on the cover says that men may get brain envy after reading it. It's a fair comment. 2. Women are instinctively more egalitarian in their management style and men are more hierarchical. The guys need to learn and adopt this style in today’s environments where one’s title is less important than one’s contribution.

Resist learning and you do so at your own peril, men: Most new organizations are being started by women. More ladies than guys are graduating college. If for no other reason than your own career, get to understand the style differences. And then try them out for yourself. Everyone needs more arrows in their management quivers.

3. A woman’s life is not as simple as career and family. The research is clear that women still handle the majority of the workload on the home front – and remember, running the household was once considered to be a full time job. The impact children have on a woman’s career is very different than her male counterparts.

The US is far behind most western countries on this issue. Policies and mindsets need to be changed to allow women the opportunity to have children without penalties to their careers or else we will continue to see highly talented individuals leaving.

john

Leadership Coach

Link to the entire interview with About.com Women in Business is here.

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

36 comments
KSoniat
KSoniat

After 13 years in IT I was offered a manger position by my Director. He said I had to come in early, stay late, work any weekend anyone was implementing a project and if I had to fire a coworker and she cried I could not also cry. I turned it down, went part time and ultimately stayed home for 8 years. I may have that opportunity again some day, but my kids will never be little again, it is a personal choice I will never regret. Part of the discrepancy is pure number of years in the workforce. My current manager and director are both women. :)

dwdino
dwdino

... is that this is believed to be about gender. It is about performance on many fronts and professional interaction. I am not pigeon holing (sp) anyone or entire group, but differences highlighted above affect more than thought patterns.

Derek Schauland
Derek Schauland

I think that men and businesses have a ways to go to get things to be equal. I am not sure it is harder, because that depends on the company and the individuals in every case. Work is hard. Life is hard. But I think that communications need to improve to help everyone move forward in today's uncertain times.

daddylonglegs3000
daddylonglegs3000

I think women should stay home and take care of the childern. They are too emotional. The worse experiences in my life are usually with women. Women are devious and cannot be trusted in business. It took many years to come to this conclusion. But my opinion is based on my years of experience.

jdclyde
jdclyde

President and owner of the business, being a smart woman, I would say opportunities are there for the taking. Men and women think differently, so men have to change the way they think? Don't think so.

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

They're writing a story about women in business and they ask a GUYs opinion? ??? Am I the only one who sees the irony here?

RedKal
RedKal

It's 'harder' for women in business. There is no glass ceiling, that has been proven by multiple studies in recent years. There is no pay gap, also proven by studies (the one Obama had to yank off the White House site because we can't offend the wominz). Women make these kinds of choices, they make their own bed, but don't want to lay in it.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Men aren't? My father was a successful businessman. There wasn't a thing he wouldn't do to succeed. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to someday hear that bodies have been found.

jellybeanz
jellybeanz

...in all of your various miserable experiences with women is you. Maybe you should look in the mirror.

neilb
neilb

But I reckon my opinion is closer to the truth than yours. :)

macoafi
macoafi

Did you see the bit at the end where it said women are starting businesses? Way I hear it, they give up on trying to move up in the company they were already working for and just go start something of their own.

jdclyde
jdclyde

they couldn't find a woman to ask...... :D

mjc5
mjc5

I work with a woman engineer. We've discussed the implications of being a female in what is presently a male dominated group. What she has told me is pretty interesting. She believes that the concept of "Everything is harder for women" is counterproductive and makes it look like women can't compete with men, and that they need special treatment. And she has a point.

AV .
AV .

Many IT shops are very male-oriented. Some women can fit in, but when it comes to senior management the good ol' boys network kicks in. Its still a closed door for women. AV

mike
mike

I don't believe it is harder for women in the IT world. I actually believe it is easier for women. Almost all major companies with 100 or more IT staff, which I have worked for or with have had far more women in the IT department than men. Some have women in 9 out of 10 senior management positions including CIO, CSIO, Business Managers, Project Managers. This especially applies to Health Care organizations where the great majority of employees are so called "Application Specialists" where nurses or other health care workers have moved to IT. I think this is great because it generates a lot of work for me, an outside technical consultant because their IT resources and systems are generally a wreck. I see the same thing in any company that prefers to move people from non IT/IS departments to IT without the proper experience, training or aptitude.

KSoniat
KSoniat

I love my bed - and I love lying in it! I have a great family (which comes first) and I have a very fulfilling career (which while second, where I do an excellent job). My POINT was that it IS frequently situational. Instead of 22 years experience now I have 14. My choice. I've also worked places where I could never progress and I quietly found another place to work. You are a bit naive to believe in all cases women are promoted and paid equally.

KSoniat
KSoniat

Well if I must.... Thanks Santee. :)

jdclyde
jdclyde

as my boss did not start this business, but rather worked her way to the top.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

where I work, many upper level managers aer female. Most of my IT contacts are female, and managers over several areas of IT.

gotmink
gotmink

I believe a woman can do anything she puts her mind to - and often women are better studies than guys - I don't necessarily think it's hard for women either.

mike
mike

I can see by the variety of replies that I struck a nerve with a lot of people from diverse locations and working environments. Exactly what I expected, except the cheap shots. Cheap shots reflect a myopic thought process. Just for the record, I work in the low end and about as high end as you can get. I work where the work is and people are willing to pay my rate. I don't care who they are. To end my input to this discussion, I still believe that there is no glass ceiling and it is just as difficult for men as it is for women and the great majority of managers don't care what sex you are as long as you can do the job. In some places just being a woman is an advantage and in some being a man is an advantage but not because of sexism but because of the clients or customers preferences or other external factors like my previous example where in a hospital environment there are a lot more women in IT because the company promotes and moves people internally first, then goes outside to find people. One thing I am sure of. We don't need the government legislating their version of fairness. Quotas, financial incentives and other means designed to encourage hiring one sex, race or any other type of person, with the possible exception of the handicapped, is not something we need. I would like to see a discussion on importing IT talent from overseas using the excuse that US Citizens with the qualifications required can't be found. That's going to be a hot one.

mpouncey
mpouncey

Do you really blame women for the "IT resources and systems are generally a wreck"? This person is why this question was asked, backward and clueless. I have seen the good old boy?s club in action and it is very hard for women to break thru to get them to work on your side. People seem to gravitate to like people and form bonds either at work or after work. It is very hard for a woman to take someone out for a beer and talk about work. Remember to think before you write!

jdclyde
jdclyde

Driving 3 hours across the state with 6 teen boys, I always have pretzels, water, and Gatorade. They they spend the whole trip texting the kids in the other cars.... :)

KSoniat
KSoniat

This weekend I was chaueffeur for my daughter's confirmation retreat. 1 hour + drive up to lodge in AM and return around 3 to go to the school for confirmation practice and mass at 5:15. We got to pick up the kids at 6:15. It was a long day, and though they fed them lunch I brought waters, apples and fruit snacks for my riders which they gratefully accepted. :)

jdclyde
jdclyde

My boys were running Cross Country. They needed parents to drive the team across the state, so one of the boys mom stepped up. Some of the boys decided they did NOT want to ride with her! (freshmans mom). It didn't help that she later heard some of the boys arguing who would get to ride with me. Felt bad for her, but told her things would improve as soon as they got to know her, and it did. (they still argue who gets to go with me though. Have had a few dozen kids from the different sports and around school tell me I am the coolest dad in the world. B-) )

KSoniat
KSoniat

I had only skiied on the west coast - this was "made" snow and if you went too far left or right you could "fall off" the snow. Visually disconcerting. It had been 20 years - but after 2 runs on a crowded bunny slope we hopped on the ski lift and had a great time making runs the rest of the day. It was like riding a bike, came right back to me! It was definitely a great day - and I would not have missed it. My sons scout troop is going through some changes and my daughter is hoping it doesn't prevent going skiing again next year.

jdclyde
jdclyde

My boys still like me to be there. Dad still gets a hug hello / goodbye, even if friends or even girlfriends are there. B-) How was the skiing? :D

KSoniat
KSoniat

JD, It's not many dads who would do the same. I admire you for that. I cannot fathom any parent (their mom especially) who could walk away from that. I'm the only mom that went on my son's scout troop "family" ski trip. I slept on the floor of the ski lodge (with a camping pad and sleeping bag of course) with everyone else. They may roll their eyes at us, but sometimes when we can't make they ask why not, as if maybe they still want us there. ;)

jdclyde
jdclyde

But for the same reason as you, is why I recently took a part time position instead of going for full time positions that are available in my area. Sure, I would make a lot more money, but I would lose a lot more time. My boys just turned 17. They are off with their friends more and more, and doing things with dear ol' dad less and less. I have the rest of my life to work. I am going to enjoy what little time I have left before they are gone full time. 25/30 hours and out the door. And what my ex doesn't realize (they spend almost no time with her) is most of the time we spend together is from me dropping everything and going to THEIR events, not dragging them to mine. Life is good. I think I am making the right choice, just as I believe you did as well. I won't trade money/advancement for family.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

anyone looks good doing it. @ssholes look like @ssholes. Oooogly.

AV .
AV .

Some companies are like that, but its so the opposite where I work. All the senior management are men. There is no hope of me ever getting to the top. You know what? I don't think I'd want to be there anyway in that company. Maybe we should switch jobs, Scummy. :^0 AV

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Remember to think before you assign implication.

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