Lately, it seems I see more women CEOs at larger companies or maybe they are just more visible. Since I am woefully out of the corporate loop, I asked online career transformation coach, Julie Ann Erickson some questions about women’s roles in the workplace.
Q. I don’t know stats, but it seems like there are now more women CEOs and women taking on more powerful, visible roles in companies. What are your observations?
A. Yes, there are more women in visible roles – it differs by industry as to which roles they play. In more corporate environments (banks, manufacturing, consumer goods – the traditional Fortune 500 type companies), women are more and more prominent in marketing, human resources, legal, and slowly sales. Women have more high-level roles in technology, Internet-based companies and in non-profits and health care. However, men still occupy more of the very technical roles, and still dominate in the CEO front in all industries.
Q. I’ve been away from the corporate world for quite awhile. What about middle management? My experience was that women bosses often incorporated more global, collaborative, inclusive management techniques. I saw male counterparts taking a more linear, hierarchical approach. What do you see and do you think this has evolved?
A. I’ve talked to a number of people and the majority opinion is that leadership style is more dependent on personality than on gender. As more women occupy management roles, we see that they apply the same business school lessons that men apply. Most business schools teach a little about inclusive management, but not very much. The emphasis of most managers is to get the job done, not the quality of relationships with their staff. If developing good relationships is a way to get things done, they’ll do that. It’s a means to the end, however. Also, structure and cultural norms play a huge role in how people manage. Most companies are set up on hierarchical lines, which dictate more linear, hierarchical management.
Actually, the biggest issue I hear about is not about whether people are collaborative or hierarchical managers – it’s whether they are micro-managers or delegators. I work with people to develop their “must have” lists – what they require in a job to do their best work. This includes culture and scope of responsibility. Virtually everyone says they want a boss who trusts them to do their job and doesn’t micro-manage. They’ve had men and women bosses who are micro-managers – no gender difference there.
Q. What do women need to do to be more successful and rise to higher levels in business?
A. Do a great job in delivering results AND understanding the underlying power dynamics of the organization. Just delivering results isn’t enough. You have to know how to “fit in” and deliver intangibles for the people in power. Take some time to listen, ask questions and then analyze the organization. Find out who has power and what they need. Solve their problems. In a new job, find out the easy wins for the most powerful people. Accept that there are relationships that you may not be aware of which may explain why someone gets a promotion and you don’t. Remember that like attracts like – people tend to hire people just like themselves, people they are comfortable with. So you may not get promoted where you are – you may need to move to another company where either there are people like you or where there is demonstrated awareness of the value of diversity (of gender, race, national background, socio-economic status, thinking).
I hear stories about both old boy and old girl networks now. At a major bank, a man who came in from another bank hired a number of former colleagues – all men. All the women were pushed out. An advertising company is led by a woman who has both men and women reporting to her; the women rise very quickly there. She, however, reports to men in the global holding company. Men still hold most of the corporate power in the business world.
For some research findings and more information on this subject, Erickson suggests the following:
This is a post by Nancy LaFever. You can read more from her at the Centre for Emotional Wellbeing blog.