What Keeps High Achieving Women from Choosing Executive Positions

What Keeps High Achieving Women from Choosing Executive Positions

This review will include a retrospect over the past 40 years to identify any generational shifts in the behavior of high-achieving women. However, except for the classic studies and seminal books that deal with women achievers and leaders, the focus will be on current research, done after 2000, to keep up with the active changes in roles and relationships in postmodern organizations. In this essay, I will focus on the first two factors. The other three will be reviewing in the next essay.

Subtle and Manifest Discrimination in Today’s Workplace

Whether out of good faith, legal action or economic necessity, most U.S. corporations claim to have or are working to be “politically correct.” This means they promote equity in hiring and promotions across gender, race, sexual preference and religion and maintain standards for civility and respect in people’s day to day interactions. (Ely, Meyerson & Davidson, 2006) As a result, overt prejudice and discrimination in the workplace are not acceptable behaviors today.

However, even though this commitment to shifting norms and behavior is laudable, it seems to have driven discrimination underground. It is harder to point to specific behaviors. Yet discrimination is still alive in subtle, less-talked about biases and attitudes that are still keeping women, people of color and those who belong to “deviant” social groups from reaching the top corporate ranks. (Myerson & Fletcher, 2000)

When concerns and fears can’t be discussed, they come out as subtly divisive behaviors that, over time, diminish people’s sense of how much others value and respect them. (Hoyt, 2005) For example, you might find a manager constantly confusing two Asians and calling them by each other’s name, a female executive getting interrupted more than her male counterpart or a black person’s innovative idea is misattributed to a white colleague. When these insults are brought to the table, those accused of the discrimination feel unnecessarily attacked and retreat behind a slew of rationalizations. They later find sympathizers in the company to bad-mouth the “entitled minorities.”


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About the Author

Marcia Reynolds

Marcia ReynoldsIn addition to coaching leaders in global companies, Dr. Marcia Reynolds travels the world speaking and teaching classes in advanced coaching skills, leadership and emotional intelligence. She is the author of 3 books and has been quoted in major online and print publications in the US and Europe.

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