Author Krista Tibbs

Men and Women and the Top of the Corporate Ladder

In Commentary, Integrity & Freedom on February 16, 2012 at 4:36 am

I recently read an article about how few women there are in top positions at some grand old companies, and the string of comments below it ranged from conspiracy theories to sentiments like working with women is like getting pecked to death in a henhouse to exaltation like all women are great managers and should rule the world. These opinions were voiced by both men and women, and of course, everyone had a personal example to prove the point. So, as a single, rational, professional female, I got to thinkin’…

Say you drove around a dark corner once and ended up in a ditch. If you turn back the next time you see a potentially dangerous corner, you’re going to think you avoided disaster. So you’ll avoid the next dark corner, and the next, assuming all dark corners end in danger. You will shun dark roads for the rest of your life and cite that first one as proof of your good judgment.

For women, the first dark corner is often a gaggle of other women who brought cattiness and drama to the office and made it harder for all women there to be taken seriously. For men, maybe it was that female colleague who got pregnant and left him in the lurch on a project. These are the ways that women in power end up wary of other women and men in power end up wary of any person of child-bearing potential. They also put a double whammy on a single, career-minded woman, through no fault of her own. These dark corners create higher attrition rates in the very women who are the would-be executives, because they have to work twice as hard to make up for the sins of females past, and not everyone is a glutton for that kind of punishment.

Those would-be female executives will either go to a younger company or choose a different field or just go have a family like everyone expects us to. So in companies that have been around a long time, there are fewer women at the top. It’s not a conspiracy and not even conscious discrimination; it is just a part of human nature that will keep reinforcing itself as long as people are oblivious to their subconscious presumptions. And even if there are companies that have no interest in having women at the top, then why should women want to be at the top at those companies?

My point is that whether you are someone who always prefers to work with men or who is tempted to stand up for the value of all women, it’s time to check your assumptions. (I’m checking mine as well!) There are 150 million women in America and they don’t all match the pattern that past bad, or good, experiences have primed us to seek — no more than the 150 million men are all straight shooters with good business acumen who leave their grudges on the field.

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