What Keeps High Achieving Women from Choosing Executive Positions
The Deloitte program for women is still active today and has expanded to include an online network, webinar sessions, Inner Circle networking for female senior executives and ongoing local events for women. (Deloitte & Touche, 2006) The 2005 Women’s Initiative Annual Report stated that women made up 18% of the firm’s partners, principles and directors, the highest percentage among the Big Four accounting firms. In actual numbers, there were 116 women selected as partners, principles and directors, up from 3 in 1992. In addition, 39% of managers were women, 45% of new hires and 51% of rehires were women and the gender turnover gap decreased to -0.7% indicating a higher retention rate for women than men. In 1990, only 1 in 50 candidates for partner was a woman. In 2005, 1 in 3 candidates was female. The program is working.
However, this was a financially-, mentally- and time-intensive program to enact. Cultural changes at most corporations are not simple endeavors. At the core of this problem is that the qualities that measure leadership success are still heavily defined as masculine. (Regine & Lewin, 2003)
The most widely used psychological measure of femininity and masculinity is the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) designed at Stanford University in 1974. (Bem, 1974; Powell & Graves, 2003) It has been suggested that the current validity of the BSRI instrument is low due to the changes in the roles of men and women in American society over the past 30 years. However, after twenty years of using the inventory, Bem (1993) said that even though the roles are evolving, the beliefs about what makes a person “masculine” or “feminine” are not. She said that until the lenses created by these beliefs are rendered visible, we will continue to judge the sources of power incorrectly, “for it is only when Americans apprehend the more subtle and systemic ways in which the culture reproduces male power that they will finally comprehend the unfinished business of the feminists agenda.” (p. 2)