Entries in "women"

April 11, 2007

reviewing the reasons for the pay gap

Another book author is out promoting her latest conservative title, by publishing misinformed opinions about the reasons for the pay gap between men and women in the Washington Post. (If you have missed this, there's a good review of the recent events here, including links.)

I refuse to post to the original op-ed by said conservative book author, because, as I said above, she is misinformed. Basically, she argues that the pay gap can be explained by women's choices of more flexible work, but Elaine McCrate published a study in 2005 documenting that men have more access to flexible work schedules than women.

Here are some useful links to research explaining reasons for the gender pay gap:

And how do we solve the problem of the pay gap? Martha Burk reviews the slow movement of the Fair Pay Act.

March 22, 2007

Handbook on Women in Business and Management

I just received a copy, hot off the presses, of the book that Diana Bilimoria graciously invited me to co-edit with her two years ago. It is even listed on Amazon! With a wonderful jacket quote on the back from Jean Bartunek, a former president of the Academy of Management and one of the scholars whom I most admire in my field. I'm floating around on air...

Book Description
`This very impressive Handbook takes established research topics about women in management and treats them in fresh and novel ways. The chapters are intellectually interesting, sound, and provocative, and meet the editors' aspiration to stimulate high quality research on women's experiences in work organizations. I recommend it highly.'
- Jean M. Bartunek, Boston College, US

This comprehensive Handbook presents specially commissioned original essays on the societal roles and contexts facing women in business and management, the specific career and work-life issues of women in these fields, organizational processes affecting women, and the role of women as leaders in business and management. The essays shed light on the extant structures and practices of society and organizations that constrain or facilitate women's representation, treatment, quality of life, and success.

Despite decades of ongoing inquiry and increasing interest, research on women in business and management remains a specialized field without mainstream acceptance within business and management disciplines. The Handbook presents the current state of knowledge about women in business and management and specifies the directions for future research likely to be most constructive for advancing the representation, treatment, quality of life, and success of women who work in these fields. It provides the foundations for improved societal and organizational structures, policies, and relational practices affecting all in business and management. Thus, by enhancing the knowledge base that improves the work and life situations of women, it suggests ways to elevate the societal and organizational systems for all.

The Handbook will be an essential reference source for recent advances in research and theory, informing both scholars of organization studies, gender, diversity, and feminism; human resource specialists; and educators of and consultants to business organizations and management.

Contributors include: N.J. Adler, J. Beatty, D. Bilimoria, K. Bourne, R.J. Burke, M. Calas, C.L. Cooper, M.J. Davisdon, L.M. Dunn-Jensen, A.H. Eagly, C. Gattrell, L. Godwin, L.M. Graves, D.T. Hall, M.M. Hopkins, M.C. Johannesen-Schmidt, A.M. Konrad, M. Las Heras, D.A. O'Neil, S.K. Piderit, G.N. Powell, L.K. Stroh, V. Singh, L. Smircich, S. Terjesen, S. Vinnicombe, H.M. Woolnough, D.D. Zelechowski

I'm also having my first experience with the business of book publishing. I'm wondering who will ever purchase copies, given the astronomical price! (I'll be putting in an order in about 2 weeks for a big batch with my 50% editorial discount, so please let me know if you'd like me to reserve a copy for you.)

March 20, 2007

doodling, knitting, and generating creative ideas

Business Mom made a very interesting point in one of her recent columns (she has a blog, too) about the male culture of business. Why are there so many self-help workshops and advice books out there focused on helping women fit into the "man's world" of business?

Pragmatically, of course, it's because men do still dominate most business meetings in both numbers and airtime, and definitely make up the large majority of corporate board members.

Yet the tempered radical in me protests, and wonders whether I wouldn't be better off making small talk before or after a meeting about my knitting, rather than about the latest sports scores or even about my students' latest antics and accomplishments. After all, no matter how hard I've tried, I'm liable to confuse a football team with a basketball team if they're from out of town, and I have no memory for scores or great plays or bad calls by referees.

Business Mom makes the point that men doodle and play with their Blackberries and cellphones during meetings -- why can't I knit? It really does help me listen (really listen to others, rather than focusing on my next response in an argument) and develop creative ideas. I can still make eye contact with others, interject my ideas when appropriate, and even stop to jot down notes. And yet, when I have occasionally done this at work, I have been subtly discouraged.

Perhaps in the future there will be classes for men about how to make small talk with women about their knitting or cross-stitch or quilting projects, just as women are now tutored to speak footballese and encouraged to play golf. That would be a whole new world of work.

March 19, 2007

changing family dynamics? demand for flexible work increasing?

I commented last month on the push for workplace flexibility among fathers, and whether it is actually occurring or not. This morning, I found an entire issue addressing motherload, the overload that mothers face, in the American Prospect. (This is not a magazine that I normally read -- does anyone know something about it?)

The issue includes articles by Scott Coltrane (What about fathers?) and by Linda Hershman, What a Load, who indicts our nation's lack of progress in gender equity, and lays the blame firmly at the feet of fathers, who she says are getting a free pass.

Continue reading "changing family dynamics? demand for flexible work increasing?"

December 30, 2006

where will you be on January 4, 2007?

The president of NOW invites us to witness the swearing-in ceremony for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, and lays out an agenda for the next session of Congress. I have not followed NOW for a while, and I'm impressed that the agenda is not narrowly focused on Roe vs. Wade... it really is targetted to better the lives of women in America, in equitable ways.

Will you be watching Pelosi's swearing in? What are your hopes for the next session of Congress?

September 13, 2006

a brief followup on last week's entry on CBS evening news

So, will I look foolish in retrospect for succumbing to the marketing and giving Couric & Co a positive early review? Perhaps. The buzz among marketers is now about how quickly viewer ratings are dropping for the CBS evening news. However, I wonder whether the management at CBS is watching statistics like these, or statistics like these. Which is more important, in a business sense? TV viewers, or website visitors?

If the trend that is hinted at in this graph comparing web traffic for CBS.com and NBC.com continues, along with the trend shown in this graph comparing the CBS news site and the PBS online newshour site, CBS may be happy to keep Katie in the anchor chair, all criticism of whether she is a "tough enough" journalist aside. I must say, though, that I was intrigued with the idea of Gwen Ifill filling the CBS Evening News chair. Now *that* would be something to challenge stereotypes about women and serious journalism.

It's interesting that the way the website domain names are set up, it's difficult to directly compare, on Alexa, the visitors to the CBS evening news website and, say, the NBC evening news website.

September 06, 2006

the evening news

I do remember watching Walter Cronkite on the evening news as a child. I think I also watched Dan Rather for a while, and Tom Brokaw -- but of course, right about at the age when I would have started to pay more attention to current events, I moved to Switzerland, so I was removed from the high-stakes world of the American news media. That was in 1982.

Even after I moved back to the US in 1987, I don't remember often sitting down to watch the evening news. Certainly, I didn't do so once I started graduate school and got married, in 1993. Well before my daughter was born, my husband and I were accustomed to getting our news primarily via NPR during our commutes, and to eating dinner between 6:30 and 7, with the tv off so we could reconnect at the end of our workdays.

Once we became parents, in 2001, we didn't want our daughter exposed to the ugliest of the bad news in the world via video, so we made a special effort not to watch news shows while she was awake. Occasionally, I had time to catch the Today show at the top of the news hour at 7 am, when Katie Couric or Matt Lauer would send their viewers over to Ann Curry's desk for 5 minutes of headlines (or maybe it's only 2 minutes?) Sometimes I watched Katie and Matt for a few more minutes, but typically, I had to keep moving in order to get through my morning routines and out the door by 8:30 or 9.

When I heard that Couric was jumping from NBC to CBS, and from morning to evening news, I was intrigued. Would she be given a chance to reshape the evening news anchor role to fit her personal style? I created an account on CBSNews a few days ago, because I wanted to see how the network was preparing for Ms. Couric's official debut as news anchor for the 6:30 national news. Unfortunately, I didn't remember to set up the Tivo to record the debut show, thinking I'd be able to watch it live... but when I asked my daughter to change the channel, and she saw that I wanted to watch a news show, she asked why. I noted that the reporter in charge of the show was a woman, and she said, "So what? I want to watch Animal Planet."

(Hurray for the world she will grow up in, where it is not unusual to see women in positions of influence on television. May that be even more the truth by the time she begins making choices about what to pursue for her first career.)

So, I ran upstairs and turned on the second tv, and Tivo'ed the show.

Continue reading "the evening news"

September 03, 2006

employers vs. women, or employers supporting working families?

Equal rights for women have come a long way in the United States, since the Declaration of Independence over 240 years ago. Even in the 86 years since the ratification of the 19th amendment to the constitution, inequities between men and women have narrowed. No longer are women expected to quit their jobs when they marry, or when they become pregnant. Between 1960 and 1999, the percentage of of working mothers with infants had risen from 27 percent to almost 60 percent. And yet, huge inequities between mothers and other workers, and among women of different backgrounds still exist.

In an effort to draw attention to such inequities, last year WorldWIT initiated the Breastfeeding at Work Week, which highlights actions employers can take to level the playing field for mothers and others in the workforce, and encourage new mothers to continue breastfeeding their infants after they return to work. Since I am a strong advocate for breastfeeding, and for supporting working women in equitable ways, I am writing this blog entry as my first effort to honor Breastfeeding at Work Week for 2006.

Perhaps you have read about some of the challenges that mothers who wish to continue breastfeeding face, when they return to work. Recently, Jodi Kantor wrote in the New York Times about the differences between new mothers in white collar and working class jobs in terms of their access to support for pumping breastmilk at work. Kantor noted that "federal law offers no protection to mothers who express milk on the job", despite the efforts of Congressional Representative Carolyn Maloney, who has repeatedly introduced legislation which would create such a protection.

Why wouldn't Congress want to protect a woman's health after childbirth, and specify that new mothers who return to the workplace must be protected from harrassment? Read on for some historical background, and some predictions for the future.

Continue reading "employers vs. women, or employers supporting working families?"

August 14, 2006

Nurturing Identity, Professional Identity

In the body of this blog entry are the slides from my presentation today at the Academy of Management, with Latha Poonamallee. The presentation focuses on our ideas about how individuals develop or customize for themselves a new identity, focusing on the data from our interview study of how working professionals take on the identities of working mother and breastfeeding mother (or not).

(The study is still underway, and so if anyone viewing this entry is planning to participate in the study, we would ask you not to click through on any of the links below until after you have been interviewed. Thanks in advance!)

In the slides, there are a few links, which I am reproducing here so it is easier for readers to just click through and read the links:

Click through to read all the slides (either in PPS or in JPG), which are less about breastfeeding advocacy, and more about the experience of identity transitions...

Continue reading "Nurturing Identity, Professional Identity"

August 09, 2006

I'll be heading to Atlanta soon for the Academy of Management

I’ll be facilitating a roundtable in the ODC doctoral consortium on Saturday, and participating in the ODC board meeting on Sunday afternoon.

On Monday, I’ll be giving a presentation with my colleague Latha Poonamallee as part of this symposium:

Program Session #: 676 | Submission: 12162 | Sponsor(s): (GDO, CAR)
Scheduled: Monday, Aug 14 2006 12:20PM – 2:10PM at Hyatt Regency Atlanta in Inman

She’s Having a Baby!?: The Transition to Motherhood and Working Women’s Identity and Careers

Chair: Judith A. Clair; Boston College
Chair: Danna Greenberg; Babson College
Discussant: Laura Morgan Roberts; Harvard U.

In this symposium, we explore how women make decisions about, move through, and negotiate identity and career as they consider getting pregnant, and progress through their pregnancy and childbirth at work. While as scholars we theorize about the implications of having children for women’s careers, we less commonly discuss or study this “middle period” when women move from “working woman” to “working mother.” We view this period as consequential for women in that it sets the course for the future relationship women have with their careers and organizations. In addition, we find the identity and career issues as women make decisions about and move through pregnancy (and their bodies literally “blossom” before their own and co-workers’ eyes) to be rich with possibility for theory building. In addition to building scholarly knowledge, further insight into this period of working mothers’ lives holds practical implications for women and policy makers as women’s decisions and experiences have implications for their work identities and careers. Our goal during this symposium is to spark interest among scholars to further explore the dynamics of pregnancy decision making and the movement through pregnancy and childbirth in the workplace and its implications for working women.

Better Later than Earlier? Age at First Birth and its Impact on Perceived Career Success
Author: Jamie J. Ladge; Boston College
Author: Monique Valcour; Boston College

Private to Public: Emerging Images and Identities for Pregnant Women in the Workplace
Author: Danna Greenberg; Babson College
Author: Judith A. Clair; Boston College

Nurturing Identity, Professional Identity: Breastfeeding and the Return to Paid Employment
Author: Sandy Kristin Piderit; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Latha Poonamallee; Case Western Reserve U.

and on Tuesday my colleagues will present a paper on which I am a co-author, as part of this symposium:

Program Session #: 992 | Submission: 14998 | Sponsor(s): (GDO, CAR)
Scheduled: Tuesday, Aug 15 2006 8:30AM – 10:10AM at Hyatt Regency Atlanta in Cairo

Women Above the Glass Ceiling: Collusion, Voice and Exit

Chair: Susan Mary Vinnicombe; Cranfield U.; [E-Mail This Contact]

Hewlett and Luce’s (2005) recent study suggests that women are leaving the corporate world (off-ramping is the term they use) in greater numbers than men. An alarming finding from their study is that when these women want to get back into the corporate world (on-ramp), zero per cent of those who were previously in the business sector want to return to their former employers. Such a finding indicates that the women were not happy with their experiences in their organisations. The kaleidoscope career model (Mainiero & Sullivan, 2005) suggests that women face three career issues (authenticity, balance and challenge) that they then shift for a best fit at different career stages and thereby create different patterns, much like the kaleidoscope does. In mid career women are coping with family/relational demands and hence issues of balance move into the forefront. They continue to seek challenge and authenticity, but those issues make way for the need to achieve balance. In late career, women have resolved the balance issues to a large extent and the questions of authenticity take center. They continue to wish for challenge and want balance, but authenticity moves to the forefront. Researchers seem to agree that the mid life stage involves a re-evaluation and rebalancing of both personal and professional aspects of a person’s life. However, there are very few studies that have attempted to understand the nature and components of this rebalancing act.

Women Above the Glass Ceiling: Collusion, Voice and Exit
Author: Susan Mary Vinnicombe; Cranfield U.
Author: Halla Tómasdóttir; Cranfield U.

Turning a Blind Eye: Executive Women Conforming to the Gendered Organization
Author: Nurete Leor Brenner; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Lindsey Godwin; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Diana Bilimoria; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Deborah A. O’Neil; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Sandy Kristin Piderit; Case Western Reserve U.

Women Above the Glass Ceiling: Exit
Author: Deirdre Anderson; Cranfield U.
Author: Val Singh; Cranfield U.
Author: Susan Mary Vinnicombe; Cranfield U.

Women Above the Glass Ceiling: Voice Through Women’s Corporate Networks
Author: Val Singh; Cranfield U.
Author: Susan Mary Vinnicombe; Cranfield U.
Author: Savita Kumra; Oxford Brookes U.

If anyone would like to see a copy of either presentation, please comment here, or send me an email.

July 02, 2006

evolving notions of a mother's place

Societal expectations of mothers have evolved dramatically since the 1930s. Remember the old chestnut that women should be "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen"? Gone the way of the dodo bird, right? If it were, the Ohio state legislature would not have had any reason to pass a law last year, stating that "a mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location of a place of public accomodation wherein the mother is otherwise permitted." That's why a group of mothers and babies held a nurse-in yesterday at Crocker Park in Westlake. I attended to support their rights to breastfeed in public. The event is covered on page B1 of the July 2 Plain Dealer (which is now available online).

This right has been frequently challenged in recent years. Lots of people still think that mothers with nursing babies should stay home, or go home to feed their babies. Breastpumps, bottles, and artificial baby milk make it possible for anyone to feed a baby, and once that is possible, there's more room to argue that a mother should conform to notions of modesty that have been applied to all women equally in our society. This view privileges the sexual appeal of breasts to men, and argues that mothers should not appear in public when they are using their breasts to feed their babies. It's expressed by comments such as this one, responding to news coverage of a Milwalkee nurse-in:

"Honestly think somethings are done better in a private place and why on earth would anyone want to breast feed in a dressing room, working in retail I can agree with the employees most malls set up family restrooms for this purpose. You take away from business."

Obviously, this is not a view with which I agree. Restrooms are noplace where anyone should be eating. Family restrooms in malls are great places to change diapers, but they do not have a comfortable spot to sit down and nurse.

There's a lot of work still to be done before our society broadly accepts that a breastfeeding mother's place is anywhere...

Continue reading "evolving notions of a mother's place"

June 30, 2006

book in development: impacts of gender equity

I just read my copy of the newsletter for the Gender, Diversity, and Organizations division of the Academy of Management, which mentioned a very interesting new book which is in the development stages. It's called Living Life: Stories of Women, Men and Changing Roles in the 20th Century. The premise of the project is that stories about the progress of gender equity need to be told so that we can both cherish and protect these gains.

Click through on the book title to read more! There is an online survey that you can complete to share your stories with the project directors.

April 25, 2006

developing a career, growing a family...

How can one develop a career and grow a family at the same time? Especially in academia, this is a sticky question. The Tomorrow's Professor blog recently explored the question of whether there is a global warming trend toward women in academia, but concludes that in many traditionally male disciplines, the climate for women is still chilly. And in all this focus on women, the broader point about how men in two-career marriages can play more egalitarian roles in their growing families while moving into academic careers sometimes gets lost. (This is a more specific version of the broader question which I addressed yesterday in my post on what fathers want.)

I was particularly struck by this series of posts at Mommy Ph.D....

Continue reading "developing a career, growing a family..."

April 12, 2006

Anne Lamott at Amasa Stone at Case -- part 2

If you missed Anne Lamott's visit to the Case campus last Friday, I have written a little bit about it already... but part 1 was more about me than about her. In part 2, I want to try to remember what she said, which is tricky, because I did not take many notes.

John Ettorre called Anne Lamott "a poet and a mystic and a prophet and a patriot and the most honest, most moving, most luminous, soul-stirring Christian writing today, perhaps in the entire English language. And all from lefty Marin County, across the bridge from San Fran."

Continue reading "Anne Lamott at Amasa Stone at Case -- part 2"

April 08, 2006

A spiritual experience in Amasa Stone Chapel - part 1

The first thing I did after dropping my daughter off at preschool on Friday morning was to drive to Borders to pick up copies of the books by Anne Lamott, which I hoped to have her sign after her keynote appearance at the end of Case's Humanities Week. All day I was giddy with anticipation.

I walked over to the chapel just before 3:30, and as a Case community member I was allowed to enter. I was chagrined to discover that they had books for sale in the vestibule, and had worked with Joseph-Beth to arrange these sales. I knew that I was going to need to do penance for spending money on Anne's books at a "non-independent" bookstore... and sure enough, during her conversation with Tim Beal, Anne reminded us more than once to go look someone up at Amazon, but buy our books from an independent bookstore. In penance, I'm posting a link to this about.com listing of independent bookstores in Cleveland, which includes my favorites, Appletree books and Mac's Backs. I promise to buy all the books that Anne recommended during her visit, and to buy them from one of these stores.

(click through to read more)

Continue reading "A spiritual experience in Amasa Stone Chapel - part 1"

April 07, 2006

more musings on role models, in fiction and in history

The twelfth Carnival of the Feminists is up at Ragnells (ah, I mean, Star Sapphire's) blog, called Written World. It includes a link to my earlier post on Kim Possible and Wonder Woman (and ElastiGirl), along with several other posts on the same theme...

Continue reading "more musings on role models, in fiction and in history"

April 01, 2006

female role models, then and now

When I think back to the influences that made me into a feminist, one of my first memories is of watching Wonder Woman with my younger sister. (We never read the comic strip series but watched the tv series which starred Lynda Carter. In case you want to estimate my age, let me out myself -- I was ten when this show finished production.) I still remember running around the backyard pretending that I had bullet-deflecting armbands and could protect the world from bad guys. All too quickly, though, I learned that not even quick wits and a sharp tongue could always protect us from the painful criticisms that teenagers can inflict on one another.

Now, my daughter watches Kim Possible, and I've noticed that the message being sent about what it takes to be a "super woman" has not changed that much over the years.

Continue reading "female role models, then and now"

March 13, 2006

the work rhythms of academic and professional life

In this 2001 essay, Heather Menzies (with Janice Newson) asks why academics are not more concerned about the move to online education, and suggests, in her answer, that they are too overworked to speak up.

"Just how many hours a week are we actually working, not just on campus but catching up on e-mail and e-committee work at home in the evenings and on weekends? (In what seems to be the only study of its kind, the Association of University Teachers in the U.K. found that the average work week for academics had risen to 59 hours by the mid 1990s, with women clocking an average of 64.5 hours a week.)."

Reading this made me wonder whether it is a good thing that I can now read the Plain Dealer online before dawn.

Continue reading "the work rhythms of academic and professional life"

March 07, 2006

what do I need to know if I work at Bell South?

This is the sixth of a series of posts introducing the NEO community to the intrepid students who have taken on an optional assignment in MGMT 251 this spring. The sixth student I am highlighting is Matteusz Sladeuski, whose blog focuses on Mergers, Acquisitions, and Restructurings. He has made six entries so far, and his latest addresses the downsides of mergers. Please click through to read his commentary on why they can fail. Would you add any possibilities to his list? Read his entry and leave him a comment, please! I'm also looking forward to reading his commentary on the proposed acquisition of Bell South by AT&T and the opposition to the merger by Consumers Union and others.

P. S. The fifth entry in my series highlighting students' blogs is here, and lists the earlier entries as well.

P. P. S. Heads up for tomorrow: March 8 is Blog Against Sexism day. Look for a post from me about pregnancy discrimination and why it harms society...

March 04, 2006

working women stretched to the limit

The New York Times does not have the greatest track record in writing about workplace trends regarding women's participation. Last fall I wrote about Louise Story's flawed article, and later about the response from AlterNet and the National Council for Research on Women highlighting fact vs. anecdote contrasts in the media's portrayal of women in the workplace.

This week's article at first seems to be more grounded in scientific research, and less in subjective assessments of trends. The article, by Eduardo Porter, is entitled "Women in the Workplace: Stretched to Limit, Women Stall March to Work". It attempts to explain why the rate of workforce participation of women, which rose from about 40 percent in 1960 to a peak of 77 percent in 2000, has dropped off in the last 5 years.

The single explanation which resonated the most with my experience is the statistic provided by Suzanne M. Bianchi, a sociologist at the University of Maryland. "Professor Bianchi found that employed mothers, on average, worked at home and on the job a total of 15 hours more a week and slept 3.6 fewer hours than those who were not employed."

I am definitely feeling this limit this week. The stress of uncompleted tasks wakes me up in the middle of the night, especially during the workweek, though in my case the uncompleted tasks I stress the most about are work-related, rather than housework-related. I spend the wee hours of the morning catching up on emails to students, literature searches, data analyses, and drafting and revising research proposals. Then the early morning wakeful hours devoted to work tasks leave me worn out when the weekend rolls around and the opportunities to play with my husband and daughter open up.

The article seems to suggest that I am atypical, and provides statistics from sociologists arguing the balance of unpaid work between men and women is still unbalanced. I do not live the trends described in the article regarding housework -- we hire out at least half of those tasks, and the rest are unevenly divided, with my husband carrying more than half of the responsibilities for cooking, laundry, etc. I don't want my experience to invalidate that of other women who do want their husbands to wake up and do their share -- but I suspect that there are other dynamics at work as well.

The article does not mention another potential explanation for changes in women's workforce participation, which focuses not on husbands as a problem, but on the increasing demands made by employers on their staff, especially at professional levels. I'm surprised that the article did not include statistics about the increase in total work hours for both men and women in the last 45 years. Take a look at these statistics for the UK in the last decade, for example. Also, this background information from PBS is informative about the US experience generally. The presentation given on campus last week by Diane Bergeron indicated that the average number of work hours for associate and full professors in her survey sample was 55 hours per week, and the most productive individuals often work 70 hours or more! Surely, those types of demands for long hours made by elite organizations of their highly-educated staff (not just in universities, but in law offices, health care, and business) are going to put a strain on working professionals. Women in their thirties with children may be feeling this the most, but it affects many women without dependents, and many men, as well.

The long work hours being put in by professionals, and the unwillingness of employers to validate professionals who seek part-time work opportunities, seem like a much more likely explanation for the drop in female workforce participation than any gender war within marriages. They may also explain the high proportion of women experiencing mental health challenges, and our society's decreasing ability to eat well, exercise, and manage stress.

I hope we see followup articles in the New York Times exploring these issues.

August 01, 2005

women working together

To shatter the glass ceiling of the Technorati top 100, many women gathered last week at BlogHer, a conference in San Francisco. I've added the BlogHer blogroll to my righthand column -- it is currently 194 links long, and I expect it to grow as those like me, who only participated in the conference virtually, ask to be added to the list. It is mostly women bloggers, and a few blogs managed by women, like Christine Halvorsen's four blogs at Stonyfield Farms, or with women contributors, like Halley Suitt's role at tompeters! (Thanks to Donna, aka socalmom, for explaining the connections.)

Bloglines citations listed 74 references to BlogHer on July 31, and as of this moment a Technorati search on BlogHer lists 1573 blog posts on the topic, so this has definitely been a web happening.

A challenge to my readers: if the list of blogs that you read regularly is not more-or-less 50 percent female, check out the BlogHer blogroll, and add some female voices to your reading routines!

July 28, 2005

new ways of organizing work time

When I called for new ways of organizing careers in my previous post, I neglected to mention the desirability of new ways of organizing the work day. Both will help to address the underrepresentation of women in the upper echelons of business. For one interesting idea about reorganizing the work day, check out a recent article in Time magazine that talks about Best Buy's ROWE (results-oriented work environment) which sounds like the next generation of flextime. Yesterday on Talk of the Nation, Phyllis Moen (a prominent scholar of work-family issues) and two other guests discussed why so few workers are eligible for flextime and Best Buy seems to be finding a way of addressing those inequities -- their ROWE initiative is implemented for a whole work group at a time.

Aaron Shaffer commented on my previous post on the glass ceiling, asking how much of a change I would find reasonable, given the differences in testosterone levels between men and women (he linked to this 2000 article from the NYT magazine by Andrew Sullivan). I think the argument here is that men (with higher levels of testosterone) are more likely to aspire to win at all costs, and thus may have higher ambitions or more persistence in pursuing their ambitions, even in the face of competition from others who also aspire to sit in the CEO chair. However, there are specific elements of Sullivan's article that might contradict that argument -- in particular, his finding that blue-collar workers have higher levels of testosterone than white-collar workers. He offers no specific evidence that testosterone levels of successful venture capitalists or business leaders in other sectors are higher than they are for school principals or directors of nursing. In an unpublished draft of a chapter by Linda Dunn-Jensen and Linda Stroh, they present evidence from several studies that women's levels of ambition are as high as men's at the beginning of their careers, but may lessen over time. This is much more consistent with the notion of ambition being constrained by socialization as it is by the notion that ambition might be determined by hormones. Testosterone may be an influence, but I would expect it to be a small one.

What is most important to me is to see women rise to the top of the corporate world in sufficient numbers that they will be treated as individuals, and not as tokens. Here's a good summary of Rosabeth Moss Kanter's ideas about tokenism. With women representing less than 8% of top managers in the US workforce (as documented by the Economist article which prompted my comments yesterday), we are definitely still in the token role. We may not need that number to rise all the way to 46%, to be exactly proportional to women's representation in the overall workforce, but I think it's reasonable to expect it to rise to 30% or more.

July 27, 2005

Speaking of glacial change...

... last week the Economist published an article about the conundrum of the glass ceiling, stating that although "research by Catalyst found a strong correlation between the number of women in top executive positions and financial performance among Fortune 500 companies between 1996 and 2000" the following facts still hold true:

  • Women account for 46.5% of America's workforce and for less than 8% of its top managers, although at big Fortune 500 companies the figure is a bit higher.
  • [In a] large sample of British quoted companies, 65% had no women on their board at all in 2003.
  • Female managers' earnings now average 72% of their male colleagues'.
  • The management-consulting business.... loses twice as many women as men from the middle rungs of its career ladder.

How do they explain the persistence of the glass ceiling? They mention women's inability to access informal social networks, stereotyping of women as less capable of leadership, a lack of visible female role models, the flattening of corporate structures (which may make it more difficult to get promoted), and women's greater struggle with work-life issues (including taking time off to care for children, parents, and household demands). They also explore the possibility that women are less ambitious for top jobs, and that corporations are losing their best women to the more flexible world of entrepreneurial businesses.

What leverage do we have as a society to change this finding? And no, I don't believe the finding that diversity is associated with increased performance will be enough on its own to overcome stereotypes and unconscious patterns of informal social networking. We need to work from at least three angles:

  • We have to start young, and we have to work on males' beliefs about themselves, not just women's beliefs about their capacity. Some of that work is already being done -- my husband, for example, pulls his weight with the "second shift" tasks in our household. Still, he's uncomfortable with the idea of taking a paid paternity leave, even though his company offers one, and women will never make it to the top in large numbers if men continue to believe it's their responsibility to take care of their households only through paid work.
  • We have to find new ways of organizing careers that appeal to many (rather than being relegated to minority status as mommy tracks) and that allow people to move into and out of full-time work. In the US, that may mean moving away from associating health insurance with employment -- a huge political task.
  • And we have to build networks of supporters for these initiatives which include members of the current, largely male, elite. This probably involves appealing to the generational protectiveness of CEOs and corporate directors who are fathers of daughters.

This is a much bigger change than simply aiming to raise breastfeeding rates in Northeast Ohio. It will probably still be underway when my daughter gives birth to her first child. Nevertheless, the same principles apply, beginning with Margaret Mead's axiom ("never doubt that a small group...") and including some of the additions recently suggested by Zaid over at WorldChanging. He suggests this addendum to Mead's famous quote:

"For a small group of thoughtful and committed people to change the world, they must believe that change is possible. They must be ready to act the moment a stuck system becomes liquid. They will only be effective if they display collective intelligence. Finally, they must live in a small world."