A Benchmarking Study of Women's Leadership in Canada indicates that organizations must expand their approach to diversity in leadership to recognize the full range of diverse identities that leadership positions must represent.
Deloitte was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers for 2012. This competition recognizes employers across Canada that have exceptional workplace diversity and inclusiveness programs. In partnership with Deloitte, Carleton University’s Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership, has released Progress in inches, miles to go. This comprehensive benchmarking study outlines the uneven progress female leaders have made in Canada and the challenges they face in achieving parity in various sectors.
Here are some realities, expectations, heads-up and wishful thinking contained in this study:
Facts: In 2011, women held only 29% of senior management positions in Canada, although they constituted 47% of the labor force.
Since 1987, the percent of senior management positions held by women increased at an annual rate of 1%. There is a significant variation across industries in the percentage of senior management positions held by women.
Many women still confront societal expectations of senior leaders as male and stereotypes about working motherhood and women's role as caretakers. Such messaging pressures women to continue to assume a greater share of family responsibilities and leaves many women in middle management wary of undertaking leadership posts.
Comment: In our culture, women have been raised to be caring, flexible, intuitive, facilitating, and cooperative. We see what needs doing and we aren’t shy about getting it done. These are terrific characteristics. They are skills that women have been socialized to provide, and they are valuable in business. Having said that, even though we have been told we can be anything we want to be, as we enter the workplace, we soon discover the Catch-22: no matter how stellar our performance, we are still expected to conform to societal norms.
And the workplace doesn’t give a woman credit for balancing work and home. All the while, at home, most women are given little or no credit for their demanding role at work. Working women (and these days all women are working women!) take on too much and wonder why they are so exhausted and under-appreciated. We must remember to run our homes the way successful businesses and organizations are run, with well chosen help.
Consider the factors involved in maintaining a successful career. They really aren’t much different from the factors involved in maintaining a successful home life. What are the possible supports that would make your life infinitely easier and more satisfying?
Recommendation: Management practices, discourses and institutional values together must reflect and support modern gender roles and the shared responsibility of women and men for all aspects of family-related care duties. This includes expectations about hours of work and availability of senior leaders.
Comment: The key to success will be to recognize that some ingrained behaviors can create natural “gender gaps."
We know that the corporate world has vast room for improvement when it comes to incorporating women into top professional positions. Unfortunately, the subtleties of the Old Boys Club continue to flourish. So, what can women do about this?
As you know, the culture at most companies has been shaped over centuries by male executives. You also know that the natural outcome of a male-dominated business is that it has the tendency to be conducted like a team sport. Today more and more women are playing competitive sports, but it is only recently that they have begun to recognize the need to adapt some of these same skills to the workplace. Even then, women can find the rules of the game elusive; they don’t completely understand its approach to power, money, control, and status. Sometimes the elements are more subtle than that.
To bridge gender gaps, successful women key into the rules of the game and actively study the culture of their organization. For starters, women must understand what is considered a win, what behaviors and goals will be rewarded, and what qualities are characteristic of a strong team player.
Sound impossible? It isn’t. Women are relational creatures. We can learn from each other. Finding a seasoned mentor, male or female, who is a well-regarded professional is guaranteed to be a great asset. This mentor doesn’t need to be in the same organization, but it would be invaluable if he or she were in the same industry or profession.
Definition of Good Leadership: Although public and private sector women and men alike agree that definitions of leadership have evolved to embrace "soft skills" (such as the capacity to engage employees), reformulated ideas about leadership and leadership competencies haven't resulted in significant changes in the expectations women leaders face. Women who "make it" to the top regularly face expectations of extended work hours, 24/7 availability and ready mobility for travel. Leadership models that fail to take the realities of many women's lives into account can negatively impact women's experience in senior leadership positions and may affect the ability to retain women leaders.
Comment: Since men, to a large extent, continue to run major organizations, it is common for them to believe that there will be times when women should be prepared to sacrifice family for business, just as men do.
Women will also be expected to keep their travel commitments despite whatever is happening at home. Women will be expected to stay throughout times of intense negotiations and be prepared to participate in dinner meetings that run late into the night.
Unfortunately, frequently women are tested to make certain they can take one for the team. The higher we go up the corporate ladder, the greater the expectations that we will never use gender or family commitments as a reason for not fully participating.
It was Gloria Steinem who said, “I’ve yet to hear a man ask for advice about how to combine marriage and a career.”
Aspiring women deserve a solid “heads-up.”
Women who ascend the corporate ladder are expected to give up, to go up. This is a critical consideration for woman with children. Whoever first noticed that we get what we wish for was right. We need to make sure that our career goals coincide with our personal goals—and if, at present, they don’t appear to, we should think long and hard about how to make them harmonious.
Choosing to take the appropriate measures to advance our careers is a significant decision. Ultimately, the right decision for one woman may be entirely wrong for another. The choice belongs to each of us. As we noted, industry asks and expects a lot. But the demands will only change when women push through changes so no one will be expected to sacrifice family for success in business.
After spending time in the corporate world, many women choose to open their own businesses so they have more control over their time.
Source of Comments: John Agno: When Doing It All Won't Do: A Self-Coaching Guide for Career Women