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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
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Supporting women's career advancement: international research findings
About the Guest EditorRonald J. Burke is currently Professor of Organizational Behavior, Schulich School of Business. York University Toronto, Canada. His research interests include work and health, advancing women into management, and career development processes in organizations. He frequently consults to organizations on a variety of human resource management issues. E-mail: email@example.com Preparation of this special issue was supported in part by the Schulich School of Business, York University in Toronto. Louise Coutu provided administrative assistance.
Supporting women's career advancement: international research findings
Women continue to enter the workforce in increasing numbers with the education, credentials and experience required for both successful job performance and career advancement. Women aspiring to professional and managerial careers have been shown to perform at levels equal to men in their university programs. Women seem to perform as well as men in their early careers as well. Finally, women function as effectively as men in their leadership roles. Yet these women get stuck and do not advance to ranks of senior management as readily as their male colleagues (see Burke and Mattis, 2005).
Researchers have identified several barriers which women face that limit their contributions (see Burke and Nelson, 2002). These include the attitudes of their male colleagues and superiors, lack of career planning by the organization and the women themselves, lack of organizational support, work and family challenges and the old boy network.
There are some rays of hope however. Several organizations have undertaken initiatives designed to level the playing field so no one is either advantaged or disadvantaged. These efforts are having the desired effect (see Burke and Nelson, 2002, for some examples).
Organizations today no longer have the luxury of wasting talent. To be successful in an increasingly demanding global marketplace, organizations will need to attract, retain and motivate the best and the brightest – a talent pool increasingly including women.
As this introduction was being written, a world renowned advertising executive, Neil French, resigned his job after making controversial remarks at a conference in Toronto. In a response to a question from the audience, French stated that motherhood makes women unsuitable for senior level jobs.
"You cannot be a great creative director and have a baby and keep spending time off every time your baby is ill. You cannot do the job."
I do not want to pillor Neil French for his inappropriate or perhaps politically incorrect comments. After all both women and men struggle with work and family responsibilities. But his comments reflect a more pervasive concern. Catalyst has found that business leaders still hold stereotypes that create negative views of women's business competencies resulting in subtle discrimination. Women with children are not committed, women are not tough enough, and women are too emotional. These stereotypes change slowly. Fortunately many organizations are successfully changing their cultures as more progressive managers come into positions of power. Hopefully the requirement that women and men must sacrifice their families to succeed in their careers will be challenged by bringing about new ways of managing and leading. The Neil French incident highlights the need to keep gender issues, work hours, and work-family concerns more generally, front and center. This special issue attempts to do just this.
This special issue contains current research findings from an international group of women in management scholars. The authors come from Australia, Canada, Turkey, the United States and the United Kingdom. Several have had a longstanding interest in women in management issues.
Glenice Wood and Janice Newton address the perceived impediment that children have in the pursuit of a career. More professionals are either delaying childbearing or choosing to be childless as a result. This denies the satisfaction that children can bring to families and limits population growth. They consider changes in work cultures, family division of labor and government policy as possible remedies.
Sandra Fielden, Adel Dawe and Helen Woolnough studied gender differences in access to UK small business government grants and loan initiatives. Gender differences were observed in that women small business owners began with less capital than men and this capital was obtained more often from non-traditional sources such as loans and grants. Ironically, the people these government programs were designed to assist were more likely to exclude them. They offer possible suggestions for reducing such biases in future.
Mustafa Koyuncu, Ronald Burke and Lisa Fiksenbaum explored gender differences in work experiences and satisfactions of female and male professors in Turkey. Turkey has a higher percentage of female professors than any other country. Although considerable differences were found on demographic and work situation characteristics (e.g. age, organizational level, income) the two groups were very similar in their work experiences and satisfactions. They interpret the absence of differences here as reflecting considerable progress in this occupation, likely reflecting Turkish cultural and societal values.
Zena Burgess, Ronald Burke and Fay Oberklaid examined gender differences in work experiences and satisfactions of Australian psychologists with a particular focus on workaholism. Significant differences were found on demographic and work situation characteristics and on two of three workaholism components (males scoring higher). Female psychologists however scored higher on particular workaholic job behaviors (e.g. perfectionism, work stress) likely to be associated with less satisfaction and diminished well-being suggesting that these behaviors may be more problematic for women.
Leslie Levin and Mary Mattis argue that companies that position gender issues as mainstream business issues are more likely to see long-term talent and performance benefits. They believe however that too many business schools are letting women down by perpetuating harmful stereotypes of them. They offer three corporate examples to show how women can be successfully integrated into both academic and business organizations.
These papers indicate that while managerial and professional women still face significant challenges, progress is being made-slowly but surely. Women still endure work-family challenges (Wood and Newton) and discrimination (Fielden, Dowe and Wollnough). But mentoring relationships make a difference (Burke, Burgess and Fallon) and examples of company best practice (Levin and Mattis) are available as guideposts. The good news is that women and men are increasingly reporting very similar work experiences and satisfactions (Burke, Koyuncu and Fiksenbaum; Burgess, Burke and Oberklaid).
Ronald Burke, Zena Burgess and Barry Fallon examined benefits of mentoring relationships among a sample of Australian female business school graduates in early career. Respondents indicating more mentor functions (role model, career development, psychosocial) reported more positive work and health outcomes -framed as benefits of these relationships. Interestingly, the gender of the mentor made little difference here.
Ronald J. BurkeGuest Editor
ReferencesBurke, R.J. and Mattis, M.C. (2005), "Supporting women's career advancement", Edward Elgar, Cheltenham.Burke, R.J. and Nelson, D.L. (2002), "Advancing women's careers", Blackwell Publishers, Oxford.