Women in the Workplace

Two articles from the Harvard Business Review caught my attention because they were back to back in my RSS feed: What the U.S. Can Learn From Europe About Gender Equality in the Workplace, and also Can She Lead? In both cases, they are mostly positive articles, or rather, they aim for positive outcomes for women, but it also shows one frame for the challenge.

New data from the Center for Work-Life Policy demonstrate that while 47% of college-educated entry-level corporate professionals are female, women comprise a mere 21% of senior executives, 17% of Congress (PDF link) and 15% of board directors.

But in my recent effort to learn what women want, I found that not all women want to lead. Let me be really clear: some do, and we should be very clear and helpful in making sure that women have the chance/choice to lead, when they are qualified and capable (quick side note: lots of male leaders are neither qualified nor capable, so maybe that’s not even a consideration we should have).

We should, however, accept that maybe there are other ways that women are contributing to the business landscape, both inside of corporations (Thank you Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, Carol Bartz, et al), but also outside ( Pam Slim, Tara Hunt, Becky McCray). Meaning, let’s be really clear that maybe those numbers point to a need for improvement, but maybe they point to the fact that it’s not always the position some women seek to attain.

I could interview 100 women and I’d get 70-80 different answers on one’s career aspirations. This is a beautiful thing. Again, after reading Maddy Dychtwald’s book, I think we’re at a renaissance point of opening up women to the choice to have more leadership opportunities. And yet, it should always be a choice.

I don’t know. What’s your take? For you, not the stats. And men, what do you see around you as this environment supposedly shifts?

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