David Booth wishes he could explain why fields like engineering and I.T. haven’t drawn the women in the way that we think they ought to.
Women are intelligent, capable and ambitious. A McKinsey survey report states that 79 percent of entry-level women and 83 percent of middle-management women desire to move to the next level at work. Additionally, 75 percent of all women surveyed aspire to progress to top management roles, including C-suite. These results demonstrate that their ambition is on par with their male counterparts.
Ability and ambition are equal, but women still face barriers in their career paths. Many of these barriers result from a “second-generation gender bias”, i.e., unintentional actions and environments that claim to be neutral but that actually reflect masculine values and the life situations of men who have been dominant in the development of traditional work settings. These barriers include:
- Traditional perceptions of leadership that are often associated with predominantly male qualities – a prototype of a leader is typically a masculine man.
- Standard organizational practices that reflect men’s lives and situations. For example, a career path to senior leadership position in multinational companies often includes some overseas rotation or assignments, which assume that spouses can easily move along – a situation that is often more difficult for women to accommodate than for men.
- A continued expectation that women have more family responsibilities than men. This may be especially so in Asia, where familial commitment and values are deeply entrenched in the culture.
- Women are often victims of a bias that dictates that they can be capable or liked—but not both.
- Access to network and sponsors is more limited for women than for men, and there are fewer females at high levels of leadership to serve as role models.
- Some women find it more difficult to advocate for themselves or ask for what they want.
Booth reports having had seven directors during his tenure at the City of Edmonton – four of them are women. “I didn’t pick them because they’re women, I picked them because they were the best candidates for the job. They delivered fabulous results and, like every other team member, brought unique qualities to the team.”