Why Female CEOs Can't Necessarily Make Life Better for Other Women
Photo credit: Time Magazine
Fairygodboss members sometimes say their companies have "a boys' club feel". But what exactly does this mean? In some cases, they are literally referring to a group of similar-aged, similar-looking men with similar backgrounds running their companies. But rarely is a company's senior management exclusively male in this day and age. And can a company with female leadership or even a female CEO be a "boys' club"?
We think the answer is yes. And we found an explanation for this in an unlikely place: Elizabeth Warren's NYTimes best-selling book, A Fighting Chance. Whatever you think of her politics, Warren's story is incredibly inspiring and compelling. Raised very modestly in Oklahoma, she was the first member of her family to attend college, and got into politics late in her career. Time magazine ran a piece called "The Sheriffs of Wall Street" with a cover photo we've shown above: all 3 were women. The article profiled Sheila Bair, then chair of the FDIC, Mary Schapiro, former chair of the SEC, and Elizabeth Warren, then chair of a panel monitoring the 2008 TARP program. Warren reflects on the lack of women in finance:
"What is it about finance that makes women so scarce in the corner offices? And why indeed were three women now the sheriffs of Wall Street? I can't answer for Sheila or Mary, but I do have a thought about why I had ended up in this position: I was an outsider. I had never inhabited the cozy world of high finance, never played golf with a foursome of CEOs, never smoked cigars at the club."
If a woman trying to advance must "fit in", she faces an uphill battle. Most women look and act differently to men, and there's not much they can do about that. Some companies recognize this and have decided to train their employees about unconscious biases that tend to be based on pattern-recognition. Biases and assumptions about women and mothers are one of the reasons women in finance - and many other industries -- still remain "stuck in the middle" of corporate hierarchies.
Being an "insider" is about more than just fitting in, however. Warren describes a dinner she had with the former Treasury of the Secretary who gave her advice about how to be more effective in politics:
"He [Larry Summers] teed it up this way: I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People -- powerful people -- listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule. They don't criticize other insiders."
Our point is this: As more women become senior managers, a 'boys' club' is less literally about gender, and more about group-think. After all, if the few strong women at the top can't be critical of their peers, it means they're unlikely to be advocates for dramatic change. Its perfectly fine -- and very laudable -- for these top women to encourage and support other women. They can do things like give advice, serve as a role model, mentor other women, and participate in their companies' womens' support groups. Don't get us wrong. These are all very important things that we believe make a difference.
However, it's much more difficult to criticize their companies' recruitment, retention, and promotion policies even if that is where change really needs to happen. Being critical and advocating really hard change typically means they're speaking out against other insiders. And insiders protect insiders.
We can't fault executive women for this: self-preservation is a powerful, natural instinct. Its probably one of the characteristics of these women that got them to the top, in the first place. But it does mean that larger changes may, indeed, have to come from "outsiders".
Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.
Join us by reviewing your employer!
Photo credit: Pixabay
23 Women Environmentalists To Celebrate On Earth Day
Photo credit: Unsplash
By Elaine McGhee
3 Things To Do If You Cry At Work
Photo credit: Pexels
By Sarah Landrum
How To Pump At Work
Photo credit: © lightpoet / Adobe Stock
By Amanda Riojas
5 Reasons Women Quit Even When They Like Their Job
Related Community Discussions
Hello everyone. I'm trying to attend more tech conferences in 2017 but my budget just doesn't allow for a lot of it. Every event seems to cost a lot and I'd love to attend more. Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas for what conferences to attend that are more cost-effective as well as how to get discounted tickets anywhere?
I believe that the common day to day issues of sexism (too small to call people out on) wear women down more than the big problems. I've also seen men (who were previously oblivious) become great advocates for women when these situations were pointed out to them.
I am working on a virtual reality program, which share some of the common problems women run across, training the mind to recognize the problem. I'm looking for some of the common issues people run across. Personal experiences, research you've read, anything would be greatly appreciated! Either reply, or email: info@socialQVR.com
VR has a huge potential for remapping neural training, and I want to make sure I'm drawing from the wealth of communal knowledge, not just my own experience.
How do I get a job at Apple? Every time I apply to a position I feel like my resume disappears in the "cloud".
I work in a small company with 43 employees. I supervise a team of 3, our section is responsible for conducting testing on components used in consumer products. A few months ago it came to my attention that one of them was falsifying test reports. I notified my boss and a meeting was scheduled with the employee, rep of her choice, my boss, HR person and myself.
At the meeting the employee opted to bring a friend from another department. I attempted to provide a summary of the matter when asked by my boss. I say attempt because I was continuously interrupted by the "friend" and the employee with comments that I was jealous of the employee, stupid and that they were tired/bored listening to my attempts to present the summary. My boss and HR stayed silent during all of this.
After the meeting my boss and HR person said they would deliberate. A week later I was informed that no action would be taken against the employee. I have multiple issues now.
I feel like the work I am doing has no meaning if someone can get away with falsifying reports (I know it is not rocket science but I don't consider ensuring consumers get quality products to be nothing). The employee and her friend giggle in my presence and make reference to her "getting away with it", I really want nothing to do with her anymore but am still her supervisor. My boss tells me that he does not have confidence in the employee's capabilities and would like me to "get her up to scratch", this is the same employee that stated how stupid I was. So while I had to train her for the position and evaluate her performance I am too stupid at some points (disciplinary role) but am suddenly competent when it comes to getting her up to scratch. I feel used by my boss and get really upset when this employee asks me for help (if I am so stupid, she should not need my help).
Finally I feel very disillusioned by my boss and the HR rep who at no time attempted to bring order to the proceedings. When I voiced this disappointment to my boss he advised me that he was "sorry" but that these sort of things get nasty. He said if such an incident arose in the future he would do better but in the mean time I need to get over it.
I now supervise an employee I don't trust and a boss for whom I no longer have any respect. My boss says he wants more comraderie in my section (but I just don't see how I can have a positive relationship with this employee).
Any advice.? Am I overacting like my boss says? Do I just need to buck up and get over this? How do I deal with these issues with the employee and my boss?
Hi, I am starting a new job shortly as Head of Marketing for a tech company. The logical part of my brain knows that they believe I can do the job or they wouldn't have made the offer but another part of me is gripped by imposter syndrome and feel out of my depth. Do any of you have some advice on how to overcome imposter syndrome?