Women business leaders face fierce competition to move out of middle manager roles and into the C-suite. Add societal obstacles to the mix and women face an even tougher uphill battle. During D’Amore-McKim’s Global Leadership Summit (GLS), held in September, industry and education thought leaders explored this very topic, detailing how professional culture can impact women leaders and help them circumvent many of the societal obstacles placed in their paths.
There are a variety of factors preventing women from progressing out of middle management positions, including lifestyle preferences, increasing cost of childcare and in many firms, the ongoing effects of glass ceilings. Jamie Ladge, associate professor of management and organizational development at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, discussed her belief that cultural norms and expectations are also – and significantly – at fault.
“Outdated organizational norms are partially to blame,” said Ladge. “The old-school model functions on the assumption that the person working the longest hours is the best, most committed employee, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Women want to prove their commitment just as much as their male counterparts, but 90-hour weeks aren’t conducive to a healthy family or social life.”
Ladge believes that rather than using a one-size-fits-all model, companies need to become more progressive and provide flexible options for all employees, regardless of gender. Having a dynamic plan, be it flex scheduling, a work-from-home option or other creative offering, can significantly benefit both employee and employer. Ladge does stress that organizational culture can only go so far – if a boss doesn’t buy into it, it won’t work for the rest of the team.
“We need to train managers to learn to deal with the whole person – the mom, the employee, the family caretaker. We all have many roles and we can’t completely sacrifice one for the sake of another. The more companies offer flexible options to their employees, the more successful everyone will be,” said Ladge. “Gen-Y is really pushing the envelope here. They’ve made it clear they’re more interested in meaningful and balanced work than a solid paycheck, so senior level management should plan accordingly.”
When evaluating opportunities, businesswomen should consider the abundance or scarcity of female role models (which can indicate ease and likelihood of movement within an organization). Additionally, peer coaching, negotiation, networking training and understanding collaborative learning styles can help companies and women leaders alike get on the right track.
“Managers can’t worry about setting precedence when it comes to flexibility and employee-to-employee disparities,” said Ladge. “Just because you’ve historically done something one way doesn’t mean it’s the right way.”
To learn more about how the D’Amore-McKim School of Business is helping to advance women in the workplace or to connect with Professor Ladge, please visit the D’Amore-McKim website and learn more about how custom executive education works by clicking here.