Friday, January 27, 2012

Women in Business: Are They Holding the Line?

English: Meg WhitmanImage via Wikipedia

After reading Jenna Goudreau’s recent post on Power Women 2011: The Year’s Winners and Losers, I felt (in one word) – sad.

I could add a few more adjectives to the list – deflated, overpowered, and worried. For years I have been watching and waiting for strong women to break through the line – and many have. There is no question that there more women are taking on leadership roles than they did when I joined Corporate America more than thirty years ago (and all of the managers in my area were male). There is no question that more women are working their way up to middle management and senior management roles. There is no question that there are more women in the room (and it’s no longer normal to be the only woman in the room).

And yes, there were some big wins for women leaders in 2011, including IBM’s Ginni Rometty, the first female leader of the tech giant, and HP’s Meg Whitman, her second CEO role.

So why, then, am I concerned?

Just like women at all stages of their careers have done over and over again for decades, 2011 saw strong women dropping out of the game. For some the decision was their own, including Avon’s Andrea Jung, yet others, including Yahoo’s Carol Bartz, were reportedly forced out. Meredith Viera left the Today Show saying she wanted to spend more time with her family – an echo we hear far more frequently from women than their male colleagues.

Nearly thirty years ago when I was seeking my first management appointment, I interviewed with a woman – the only female second line manager I had visibility to at that time, and one of very few across the company. She shared with me that she felt – as a woman – that she had a responsibility to go as far as she could in the company, to pave the way for all of the women who will come after her.

It is certainly progress that women in business today can step back and make the decision that feels right for them. Yet, without the women at the top layers continuing to charge forward, will future generations be stalled? What do you think?


Carol Kilgore said...

I think women have come a long way but still have a long way to go. Maybe the time has come for us to embrace being female and better develop our strengths rather than copying male strengths. Hope this makes sense. It's a little late in the day for deep thought :)

Happy Weekend!

One Womans Eye said...

I agree with Carol. I think the next step is for women in the workplace to own that they are women and that alone will make them want to stay longer. When I started out we were told to learn how to be "one of the boys." Hide your femininity whether that was in the clothes you wore or the fact that it was your innate intuition that led you to making that decision your boss was so happy with. Just never let on you were a girl. All that pretending is what eventually exhausts so many women and makes them leave.

Colette Martin said...

Carol and Joanne, you make some really good points. I Knew how exhausting it was to play the role of manager, but I had never really thought about how exhausting it was to be like a man.

Famous Women in Business said...

Men and women have evolved differently in their respective rise to power and leadership. Throughout the technological explosion of the 80s and 90s we saw a markedly different response from each gender. The information explosion of the new millennium is the force that is sweeping aside the new illiterate, women have had to overcome the social and familial demands, problems of access to jobs and education, and finally lack of equal opportunity driven by prejudice.