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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Supporting women's career advancement
Susan VinnicombeProfessor of Organisational Behaviour and Diversity Management, Director of the Leadership and Organisation Development Community and Director of the Centre for Women Business Leaders at Cranfield School of Management. Susan's published research is on women's leadership styles and careers and gender diversity on corporate boards. Her Research Centre is unique with its focus on women leaders. Its annual Female FTSE 100 Index is regarded as the UK's premier research resource on women directors. Her most recent books are “Working in Organizations” (with A. Kakabadse and J. Bank – Gower, 2004; Penguin, 2005) and “Women with Attitude: Lessons for Career Management”, (with John Bank – Routledge, 2003). Her consultancy clients are global including organizations in Europe, Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and the Philippines. Susan was awarded an OBE for her Services to Diversity in the Queen's New Year's Honour List on December 31, 2004. E-mail: email@example.com
Ronald J. BurkeProfessor at the Schulich School of Business at York University. He previously held the Imperial Life Professorship in Organizational Behavior and was a Senior Research Fellow at the National Centre for Management Research and Development, School of Business Administration, The University of Western Ontario. As holder of this Professorship, he started the Women in Management Research Program at Ivey. Ron's work has focused on the relationship between the work environment and the individual's overall well-being, and over the past 30 years he has written articles for numerous academic and professional journals. He has served as a member of two grants committees for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, as Director of the PhD program in the School of Business at York University, and as Associate Dean Research, with the School of Business at York University. Ron has published over 500 journal articles and is a Fellow of the Canadian Psychological Association. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Supporting women's career advancement
Women began slowly increasing their numbers in professional and managerial jobs over 30 years ago. In preparation for these roles, greater numbers of women have attended university, out-performing males in many cases, achieved the work experiences necessary for career advancement and did their jobs at arguably the same level as men. But promotions for women lagged behind. The “glass ceiling” phrase was coined to capture the invisible, subtle but strong barriers that kept women from advancing. Although the number of women entering the professional and managerial workforce has risen significantly over the past three decades, the number of women in senior executive jobs remains very low and the pace of change glacial (Burke and Nelson, 2002).
As this introduction was being written, Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett Packard and acknowledged as the most powerful women executive in the world, was “fired” and knowledgeable sources were unable to identify any women who would take her place as an international role model for women. In the UK, there is only one woman CEO of an FTSE 100 Company, Dame Marjorie Scardino of Pearson.
Research has provided several clues as to why the proportion of women in top management has remained relatively small (Burke and Mattis, 2005). It is difficult to prevent bias and discrimination in selection at senior levels because subjective criteria are used. Male decision makers are likely to use gender-based models and criterion decision making. Men may be more comfortable with other men and some may view women as less competent and less committed. Women at lower organizational levels may not be developed or groomed as often and may have trouble getting sponsors. In addition, women may opt out of top jobs because of family responsibilities and their desire to make fewer personal sacrifices.
Male CEOs and senior female managers do not agree on what constitutes barriers to women's advancement (Ragins et al., 1998). Male CEOs noted lack of general management and line experience (82 per cent), not being in the pipeline long enough (64 per cent), male stereotyping and preconceptions (25 per cent), an inhospitable corporate culture (18 per cent) and exclusion from informal networks (15 per cent). The major barriers noted by senior women were: male stereotypes and preconceptions (52 per cent), exclusion from informal networks (49 per cent), lack of general management and line experience (47 per cent), an inhospitable corporate culture (35 per cent) and women not in the pipeline long enough (29 per cent). While agreeing on some barriers, there was strong disagreement on others. Male CEOs highlighted women's shortcomings; women managers stressed the work environment and male attitudes.
Organizations lament the shortage of leaders. Yet they limit the horizons of half of their workforce. Filling the leadership gap and winning the war for talent will not be achieved without change.
An important factor in helping to increase women's representation at executive levels is to keep the issues alive and hold organizations and their current top management teams accountable. This is the purpose of the present special issue. It contains the latest research findings from a group of scholars who have devoted much of their professional lives to adding to our understanding of the factors that have limited women's career advancement and the individual and organizational initiatives need to change this.
Three of the papers explore the barriers that still exist for women trying to advance their careers. Michie and Nelson focus on the technology field and analyse the differences between the sexes in terms of self-efficacy. Cross and Linehan interview 20 female managers in the high technology sector in Ireland to identify why there are so few senior female managers in the sector. The last paper in this section is by Ogden, McTavish and McKean who examine the current position of women in middle and senior levels of management in the financial services sector. Four case studies are presented comparing data from males and females who were interviewed. They discuss both the barriers and enablers women encounter.
The remaining two papers take up different perspectives in explaining how women do advance in organizations. Van Emmerik, Euwema, Geschiere and Schouten examine the gender differences in networking. Contrary to expectations, females engage in more networking than males but there is a stronger association of networking and career satisfaction for men rather than women. The last paper by Singh, Vinnicombe and James explores the use of role models by young women managers. Women draw more on role models from the business world, but do not include many senior women business leaders. Most of the women have multiple role models and prefer close role models to those more distant and not personally known to them. Taken as a set this volume presents a balanced picture of both the continuing barriers facing women managers and the enablers which are helping women to advance their careers.
Many thanks go to the members of the Cranfield Centre for Developing Women Business Leaders – Val Singh, Savita Kumra, James Collins, Siri Terjesen, Deirdre Anderson and Capucine Carrier who kindly helped us both in reviewing all the papers we received.
Ronald J. Burke and Susan Vinnicombe OBE Guest Editors
Burke, R.J. and Mattis, M.C. (2005), Supporting Women's Career Advancement: Challenges and Opportunities, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham.
Burke, R.J. and Nelson, D.L. (2002), Advancing Women's Career, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford.
Ragins, B.R., Townsend, B. and Mattis, M.C. (1998), “Gender gap in the executive suite: CEOs and female executives report on breaking the glass ceiling”, Academy of Management Executive, Vol. 12, pp. 28-42.