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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited
About the Guest EditorsRonald J. Burke is Professor of Organizational Behaviour and Industrial Relations in the Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His areas of interest include work and family, work and health, career development, women in management, organizational development and change, executive leadership, managing an increasingly diverse workforce.
Debra L. Nelson is Professor of Management in the College of Business Administration at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA. Her interests include coping strategies for work stress, executive strategies for stress management, management of technological innovation, organizational socialization processes.
In 1989, The Journal of Management Development published a special issue on "Developing women in management" edited by Andrew Templer. It contained eight articles, all by Canadian academic researchers. This special issue of The Journal of Management Development, published ten years later, addresses the same theme, that of developing women in management. The purpose of the present collection is to take stock of progress in our understanding of women in corporate leadership and their advancement and future research and practice directions that appear promising.
The two special issues, ten years apart, show some similarities and some differences. The 1989 collection contained both descriptive articles as well as research-based contributions. It represented what could be termed the "first generation" of Canadian research and thinking on developing women in management. Little attention was given to organizational initiatives to support women's advancement since few organizations had done much up to that point in time. The present collection also reports research findings from what might be termed the "second generation" of studies. These projects also address more directly issues related to women's career advancement (e.g. reduced workload, organizational values supporting work-personal life balance). In addition, more coverage of organizational efforts to advance women to corporate management is evident as well. Finally, contributors come from five different countries, reflecting the international interest in this topic that exists at this time.
The future is improving for women in some organizations. Women's participation in the labor force is increasing, their salaries are increasing relative to men's salaries, and more women are breaking the glass ceiling. Carly Fiorino's leadership at Hewlett-Packard indicates a move at the higher levels of a major world class company. There is, however, progress to be made. Women still face the glass ceiling in some organizations and some industries. Some leave the confines of corporate life to start their own businesses. Salaries are still not comparable with men's salaries, and benefits tied to salaries widen this gap.
Many organizations, large and small, public and private sector, manufacturing and service-oriented, are focusing to improve women's career development, and with good reason. By the year 2020, women will comprise half the US workforce; in some industries, and in some societies, women constitute the majority of the workforce. Some of the strategies used are innovative, while some reflect simply sound management practices. Some are targeted directly at women, but most efforts have the net effect of improving work life for men and women alike.
Removing obstacles to women's career development takes a major commitment on the part of organizational leadership. Policies that ensure equal starting salaries for jobs of equal value, equity in benefits, and benefit programs targeted toward women's unique needs are part of this commitment. Three companies that are known for their advancement of women's careers are Motorola, Deloitte and Touche, and the Bank of Montreal. Companies like these, who lead the way in women's career development, share several common practices. Upper managers demonstrate unequivocal support for the advancement of women, and this support is visibly demonstrated by the chief executive officer. Women are members of standing committees that direct the strategic business interests of the company. Women are targeted for executive education programs, and systems are designed to identify women with high potential for advancement in the organization.
Deloitte and Touche's Women's Initiative has increased retention and more than tripled the number of women partners and women leaders in the firm. The company identified unintentional discrimination and unwitting paternalism in assignments and promotions as the chief barriers to women's careers. In addition, women were leaving to seek a better work-life balance through flexible scheduling. The company now acts to develop women's careers in some of the same ways it always worked to develop men's careers. Younger women are assigned mentors within the organization. Office retreats are held on sunset cruises and other gender-neutral activities instead of on golf courses or fishing trips, where men network and women are often left out. Managers at Deloitte and Touche are held accountable for the career progress of the women they supervise.
Alternative work arrangements give women the power of flexibility. Flextime, telecommuting, and job sharing help all workers manager the work/home interface so that it supports rather than impedes their careers. USAA, an insurance company serving military officers, has 64 per cent female employees and extremely low turnover. It provides extensive training (more than 80 hours per year per employee), educational reimbursement, four ten-hour workday weeks, and on-site child care. Bank of America has a comprehensive array of programs for parents, including near-site child care centers, and it supports over 500 family child care homes for parents who prefer smaller size child care facilities.
Small businesses also face the need to retain talented women and to provide career development. In a survey of the concerns of small business owners, one-third cited the need for programs that encourage career growth. Close to half offered flexible scheduling, the opportunity to work at home, and employee leave.
The US Office of Personnel Management has an extensive program for agency managers that is designed to help the organization recruit, retain, and develop women. Retention strategies include giving agencies discretionary authority to make performance-based adjustments in pay, extensive investments in training and education, paid leave for family care, job sharing, telecommuting, flexible scheduling, and dependent care assistance (including elder care). Career development initiatives include providing women significant, high-impact work assignments, informal as well as structured mentoring, extensive management development training, and reimbursement for formal education.
Finding and keeping talented individuals is a challenge for all organizations. Career development initiatives targeted toward women can help organizations address this challenge.
Where do we go from here?
There is a bias towards North American research and writing in this collection and not surprisingly an emphasis on work coming from developed countries. It is important that results of research projects devoted to developing women in management be communicated across both developed and developing countries. Important studies are being carried out in a number of countries but never communicated to other countries. It is also clear that North American initiatives, while informative to other countries, cannot be transported to these countries without taking into account their own unique history, culture, legislation and past efforts. This collection is a good place to start the dialogue.
Ronald J. Burke and Debra L. NelsonGuest Editors