What Keeps High Achieving Women from Choosing Executive Positions
Cook created the Initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women against massive resistance from the predominantly male management who kept insisting that nothing was wrong. (p. 160) First, a task force interviewed women who had left the company. They found that most of them did not leave to raise families. Instead, they stayed until they felt that the male-dominated culture at Deloitte was hindering their career growth. They left to go find greater opportunities that matched their personal and professional goals.
Armed with this perspective, the task force then spent 12 months gathering data that identified many gender-based assumptions. These included suppositions that male leaders held that kept women from getting premier client assignments, from being invited to networking functions, from getting informal mentoring and from receiving support for family obligations. (p. 161)
A year later, all management professionals were required to attend sessions where they participated in dialogues, watched videos and discussed case studies designed to dig deep into the gender attitudes affecting their work environment. The men came face to face with the unconscious assumptions they held that affected their decisions. As a result, a majority of the male leaders saw the errors in their perceptions and was converted. (p. 168)
The male managers recognized that they needed to ask women more about what they want or don’t want before making wrong assumptions. Dialogue became an essential tool for managers. In addition, plans for promoting flexible work arrangements and lighter travel schedules were started, easing the strain on both men and women. They created coaching and mentoring programs for all potential and new partners, male and female. A program for the development of women leaders that includes networking, training and other support elements was created. Subtle discrimination still exists but is much less tolerated and more openly discussed when it appears. (p. 163-165)