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Is the road to success geared for men? Time to lean in!

Have you noticed how many men have wives at home so they can focus on their career?

Our company, Infotools, is no different. Although the market research industry is predominantly female and 53% of our Infotools workforce is too, our senior executives are mostly male. Why?

It’s something worth thinking about, because it's also the case in business globally.  

While things have improved, the proportion of women in top jobs has stalled. We do not know much about the stellar careers of business leaders here in New Zealand, such as Carmel Fisher and Diane Foreman, and we know too much about the women adorning magazine covers.

Why sisters should be doing it for themselves

Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) would argue that this is because women do not 'lean in' enough in business, and that men overlook women in recruiting and when promoting internally.  

Studies also suggest that men and women (yes, women!), both regard men in business more highly. Think of the famous Harvard Business School Howard/Heidi study – same case file, different name, very different perceptions of the author.

Sheryl’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead makes for fantastic reading. Positive in tone and easy to absorb, she describes her career and the decisions she made along the way. Her emphasis is on motivating women to ‘help themselves’ by thinking and acting differently.

There’s advice for men too. Sheryl reminds them that they are missing out on a huge talent pool, because they ‘unconsciously filter out’ women. (They are also missing out on night time ‘fun’,  because their working wives are too exhausted doing all the home chores!)

Reading this book will help men understand the paradox facing women and alert them to thinking a bit differently.

It appears that corporates have a raised awareness about the issue, with some being quite upfront about it. In her book Sandberg says: ‘The simple act of talking openly about behavioural patterns makes the subconscious conscious.

‘For example, Google has an unusual system where engineers nominate themselves for promotions, and the company found that men nominated themselves more quickly than women. The Google management team shared this data openly with female employees, and women’s self-promotion rates rose significantly.’

He likes me, he likes me not …

Sheryl believes women are not assertive and confident enough in their abilities. We also try too hard to be liked, and we don't negotiate well enough. Women doubt themselves in business when, in fact, statistically we do better than men in schools and universities all over the world.  

She observes that success and likeability are positively correlated for men, but negatively for women. It shouldn’t be this way and we don’t want this for our daughters.  She also says we need to be more equal at home - for the sake of our careers, children and sanity. So, women, next time the kids are sick, suggest that your partner has the day with them – because your career counts!

For many of us, more stimulating, well-paid jobs are the more senior, so we should be pushing ourselves to get these. This book will give you food for thought on how to get there, and for men, how you can encourage the talent in front of you.

Are these feminist viewpoints? If you consider the definition that feminism is someone who believes in social, political and economic equality of the sexes, then the answer is yes.

This TED Talk about why we have too few women leaders, will give you a taste of her style.

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  • Diana Clement (not verified) 16.05.13 / 20:20pm

    Too true. As women we often have to work much harder than our male counterparts.

  • Sue Cardwell (not verified) 16.05.13 / 19:02pm

    As someone who has struggled with doing the right thing vs the likable thing dilemma, I love this post. Thanks Jess for sharing!

  • Barbara Chapple (not verified) 16.05.13 / 21:27pm

    What a smart cookie you are!
    Nothing much has changed in the past 73 years - except that the women have become smarter! Go for it Jess!

  • Jane (not verified) 16.05.13 / 22:59pm

    Well put Jess, as mothers we have the innate predisposition to put others first in life, and often this rubs off into our work life. We need to learn to be more assertive maybe!!

  • Keri (not verified) 17.05.13 / 12:32pm

    Hi Jess... thanks for the preview of the Sandberg book and your take-aways... that title just went to the top of my reading list!