The Time Is Now

I read three interesting posts on Forbeswoman all looking at women and professional success.  While I focused on woman in politics in my post last week, women are still struggling in the male dominated business world.  We are penalized financially for getting married and having children.  A look at how women should dress for success, and be taken seriously in their field, always seems to be relevant, especially this time of year when some, especially young women, wear less and less.  When women are successful, how do those around them take it?  The boys club doesn’t like to be outshined. How do women become successful without driving away colleagues or creating competition within a company?

Today six out of ten adults with advanced degrees are women.  We are better educated than ever before, and just like in the political sphere, women bring a different perspective and new experiences to the business world. As Kathy Caprino pointed out her piece on women at the leadership table, companies with women on their management teams perform better financially.  Why not hire more women in top management?  I repeat  – the boys club does not like to be outshined.

The idea of flex time and a work life balance has been everywhere the last few years, discussed by women’s groups, major companies, and political candidates.  It can draw women to certain positions, companies or career paths.  But in the areas women have fought hardest to gain equality, flex time is throw around as a “bonus”, but never really offered or used.  Law firms say they offer flex scheduling, but I don’t know any female lawyers who would feel comfortable asking for it.

With the option of flex scheduling off the table, how do women succeed in business?  Let’s look at what has prevented women reaching those top positions in the past first.  Caprino points to four assumptions about career success for white men.

First, companies look for continuous employment histories.  The tendency of women to go in and out of the work force, and move between full and part time work prevents them from achieving this, but women are usually still expected to be the primary care taker of children, and more recently, elderly family members.  The business world also puts a premium on face time, working full time and beyond, ruling out the option for flex time, and the risk of hurting your career if you opt for it.  The third assumption is that professional show the most career commitment in the 30s, when women tend to be starting families.  The last point was that money and power are great motivators.  Well – I think plenty of women would agree with that.

Women will continue to have children and many will want to take time off in some form, whether by switching to part time, flex schedules or leaving the workforce all together.  That will not change.  Industry needs to change.

In 2010 women made up about 14% of leadership positions in major companies.  How would policy shift if women made up 25% or 50% or more?  No doubt with more women in leadership roles company policies would shift and change would happen.  The question is how do we get more women into those leadership roles.

If NASDAQ required every company wanting to trade with them to interview at least one woman every time a senior management position was open, the corporate makeup would change.  There are plenty of qualified, smart women out there working in finance, business, advertising, and legal and medical fields and so on.   Get more women in the room for interviews and more of them will get senior positions.

It is time for women to make up well over 14% of leadership roles in corporations.  This requires a change in industry, not just to get women in the door, but in policies and programs that accept a work life balance for everyone in the workforce.  The women’s movement has changed industry standards and policies before and we can do it again.
Originally appeared on Fem2.0

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