BossWoman ENews |
Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.
In this issue, you'll find:
- The Glass Labyrinth
- BossWoman coaching
- Up and coming workshops
1. The Glass Labyrinth
Being a woman leader is like entering a labyrinth made of high
dense hedges. You want to get to the other side of the yard but
suddenly you turn a corner to find yourself in a dead end. You
turn around to try another path which works for awhile until you
again run into a dead end. Imagine that before you start into
this frustrating labyrinth, you climb a ladder to a platform
where you can see all the twists and turns and dead ends. After
this overview, you enter the labyrinth knowing where to go and
how to avoid the dead ends. The walk through the labyrinth is
now so easy it is as if the labyrinth is made of glass with
every path and dead end completely transparent.
Writing in this month’s Harvard Business Review, Alice Eagly
and Linda Carli take us to the top of the platform of women’s
leadership to outline our walk through the labyrinth of success.
They cite the research that only 2% of the CEOs of Fortune 500
companies are women. While many writers have speculated on the
question of whether women get discriminated against or whether
women just decide that they don’t want the work load that goes
with the C-suite jobs, Eagly and Carli say that the real
reasons women have stalled on the way to top leadership
positions are more complicated that either of those
explanations. They contend that women’s careers often get
stalled because of the sum of obstacles in a complex labyrinth
of leadership blind alleys.
- The first blind alley is the double bind women face in
trying to find a leadership style that is feminine but not too
feminine. If women use a “communal” style of leadership, being
compassionate for others, rather than an “agentic” style
conveying assertion and control, they get criticized for being
too relationship oriented and not getting down to business.
A reverse style is interpreted as not caring enough. It is as if
a woman leader can’t win. By the way, both men and women equally
criticize the leadership style of women leaders. Acting warm and
friendly is rated as important to leadership. Men who show warmth
and friendliness are often promoted faster than men who don’t
because those leader behaviors are seen as favorable in any
leader and unusual in male leaders. However, women often don’t
get credit for acting that way because “women are supposed to be
warm and friendly anyway.”
- The next double bind for women leaders is how to handle
self-promotion. While men can convey status and competence by
reminding others about their accomplishments, when women do the
same thing, they are seen as pushy and self-centered. On the
other hand, exhibit too much modesty and you will not get
noticed when it comes to promotions and interesting projects.
- Another obstacle for women leadership is the desire to have
a family life in addition to a work life. Jobs that require long
hours over normal work time can make demands on any workers with
family responsibilities. However, when men excuse themselves to
pick up children from day care, they often exit to good gossip
about what heroic they are as while women leave a room of
shaking heads about how distracted they are by those pesky kids.
- A more subtle dead end in the labyrinth towards success is
the underinvestment in social capital that women make. Social
capital is the building of networks and alliances with clients,
co-workers, vendors, etc. There are several reasons for this
problem. One is that women are not aware how many executive
decisions are solidified at lunch, on the golf course, or at the
after work watering hole. Many women often measure their own
success by working hard instead of working smart, thinking that
chit chat about the local football team and “hanging out” with
co-workers is wasting time, instead of being one of the ways
that team spirit is built into the workplace. Even women who
know they should hang out may find a time management conflict
between those activities and the need to leave work on time to
meet family responsibilities. Those time constraints may put
limits on a woman leader’s career success. Studies are now
showing that approximately one-third of career success depends
on technical skills and competence and the other two-thirds
depends on your social intelligence, how you relate to others
in the workplace.
What Can Women Do to Walk the Glass Labyrinth
- Finding your own style of leadership takes education, time,
and some trial and error. To educate yourself read articles like
the one by Eagle and Carli. You might be able to take a course
on leadership from a local MBA program without enrolling in the
whole master’s program. Observe successful women leaders in your
field and try out their behaviors to see if they fit your
personality. Hire a coach to teach you some tricks like bridging
between warm and decisive leadership styles by asking employees
and colleagues to participate and collaborate in decision making.
- Take opportunities for self-promotion by volunteering for
tasks and committees that showcase your skill and mention that
is why you are volunteering. It will not be seen as bragging if
you say, “I used to work in a city planning office so I might
have some contacts that will be useful as we design our new
building.” Be sure to update your resume every six months to
remind yourself what your skills and history are. Keep a log of
accomplishments and use the information when appropriate such as
during your annual review.
- Don’t complain about your home life at work. When you need
to leave a meeting early, say, “I have an obligation,” not, “I
have to take my mother to the doctor’s office.” No one cares
what you are doing. Rather they want to know if you are going
to turn in your part of the report or if you are available for
next week’s meeting.
- Find ways to increase your investment in social capital by
getting to know your co-workers in the work context. Don’t skip
leadership retreats. Make an appearance at social events like
the holiday party. Go out to lunch with people that are
interesting and influential when you have the opportunity. If
your workplace has a gym, workout to see who you can connect
to around health and fitness topics. Connect with other
parents, male and female, around family issues without getting
too personal by scheduling a speaker for a brown bag “lunch
and learn” on a parenting topic. Parenting experts and
counselors like to donate their time in the community as a
way to market their practices. Join your local or state
professional association and participate so that you have
connections of value outside your own company. These networks
help the organization that you currently work for and help you
when you a looking to change jobs.
What Employers Can Do to Help Women Leaders Walk the Glass
- Hire more women to head off the problems of “tokenism” in
positions of leadership.
- Encourage both men and women to take advantage of family
- Give family oriented employees more time to climb the ladder
- Encourage sane working hours for everyone including yourself.
- Reduce the subjectivity of performance evaluations.
- Welcome qualified women back after family leaves.
- Examine and update your family friendly policies such as
family leave, child care on-site, EAP help with
recommendations for elder care, etc.
The Last Frontier
Let me add my two cents on how women can deal with the glass
labyrinth. To me the last frontier of work-life balance for
women is how we mange our home life. We need to make some
decisions that match our work life decisions and vice versa.
Here are some examples:
- How large is your home and what standards do you have for
upkeep. If you have a lot of knick-knacks, you have more
dusting work. Carpet in the kitchen is harder to keep clean
than sheet materials or wood. Shower stalls are harder to keep
clean than tubs with shower curtains. Pick these materials
and you will have better work life balance and fewer home/work
conflicts. Never in a decorating magazine have I ever seen
remodeling or redecorators say to the readers: Busy women
leaders need to have their home environment support their
souls instead of becoming a second part-time job that starts
at 6 o’clock. My ideal house has a switch that when flicked
starts a suction that takes out all the dust and dirt without
disturbing anything and without any cleaning chemicals.
- What parenting choices support your career? I’m not
suggesting that you neglect your children to be a workaholic.
What I am suggesting is that your parenting choices will
affect your time management. One family I am currently
working with have three children enrolled in fall traveling
soccer teams. The family spends every weekend on the road
leaving no time for completing weekend chores, relaxing in
their expensively furnished home, or spending couple time to
refresh themselves before starting their work week. Both the
mom and the dad are resentful of their work load at the
office instead of examining how their choices of work and
- What kind of contract do you have with the other people in
your home about the division of labor about keeping the home
running? If your kids want pets, would you pick dogs that
shed on black velvet pillows in the family room or can the
kids pick a breed of pet to take care of that teaches the
kids responsibilities without adding work to your list.
- How do your career and home management plans intersect
with your mate. I am still amazed that I meet couples who
got married without ever talking about their hopes and
dreams and how to weave together career opportunities with
home responsibilities. Women leaders will never be able to
take care of leadership… until work-life balance becomes a
Once you see the obstacles to women’s leadership success
from the top of the labyrinth, you can walk through it as
if the walls are made of glass.
Eagly, A. H., & Carli, L. I. (2007). Women and the
labyrinth of leadership. Harvard Business Review,
2. BossWoman coaching
About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach,
speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who
want improvement in:
- work-life balance,
- career transitions,
- building your business or practice,
- time management,
- increasing productivity.
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan
a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.
She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations
on the topics of:
- leadership strategies for women,
- work-life balance,
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she
knows that workshops don’t work.
Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar needs at
Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.
3. Up and coming workshops
I am currently accepting speaking invitations for
work/life balance workshops for the winter of 2008.
Contact me if your group needs a speaker on
any of the topics listed above.
Title: “Living Well While Doing Good”
Date: October 21, 2007; 8-12
Place: AASHA annual conference; Orlando, FL
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© Copyright 2006 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above
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