Home Open Thread: Women in Leadership Roles Yet? No. But Why?

Open Thread: Women in Leadership Roles Yet? No. But Why?

Doing research to attract more women to our Mobile Summit on May 7, 2010, I revisited some of ReadWriteWeb’s past articles on gender and tech. In January, we discussed “‘Sexy Girls,’ Smart Women and Tech” in an open thread where we asked for readers’ opinions and had an open discussion on women’s issues, like whether it’s true that some good-looking women get flaunted as sex symbols, while other women get overlooked, are underpaid and not taken seriously.

Commenters, among other really interesting discussion points, asked for stats to back up statements. In Harvard Business Review Magazine this month I stumbled across a rather depressing recent study [PDF download], which, on the bright side confirms that looks have little to do with pay scale, ability to secure a leadership role, or smarts. However, on the dark side, it showed gender still very much does matter.

Findings of the study show women’s transcendence to leadership roles has not occurred, inequality remains entrenched in terms of pay, career advancement, as well as career satisfaction. Shockingly, study respondents weren’t just any other Joanne or Joe Schmo in the workforce. The study tracked the smartest and brightest grad students from elite MBA programs, around the world, from 1996 to 2007. These are motivated and talented men and women.

In the words of Harvard Business Review, “Pipeline’s Broken Promise, examines the past two decades in which leaders have counted on parity in education, women’s accelerated movement into the labor force, and company-implemented diversity and inclusion programs to yield a robust talent pipeline where women are poised to make rapid gains to the top. ”

The survey took into account experience, time since MBA, first post-MBA job level, industry and global region of work at the time of survey, and found that:

  • Men were twice as likely as women to be at the CEO/senior executive level.
  • Men’s pay out paced women’s.
  • Men significantly outpaced women moving up the career ladder when starting out in similar level roles.

These findings are not specific to any industry, including technology. Even I was shocked looking across this Microsoft org chart. For some reason seeing things in list format made the differential of men to women in Microsoft management even more striking. Note this isn’t for lack of women candidates as women make up almost half (49.9% in October 2009) of the workforce – no, we aren’t leaving work to have babies either!

I am stereotypical myself. I personally have clawed my way all the way to middle management after 20 years working in the tech industry, while men younger than I hold more senior roles. Is this simply because I am a woman? These findings would say, “Well, yes.” So what is it about men and women? Will there ever be a time where women aren’t looked on as women in the tech industry, but just as smart people with skills that fit a certain role, best?

I personally know a lot of extremely smart women, all of whom that have had to go out on their own to make it above the glass ceiling. So is it just men in management holding us back?

I find this study pertinent, not just to my own work experience, but also as we are a month away from the Mobile Summit in San Francisco on May 7. Looking to encourage a stronger female presence, we felt compelled to get out and ask women and men alike the following questions so please take the survey – it is just three questions.

Your thoughts and comments please.

Also see these related articles on other websites from Clay Shirky, Jeanne of Feministing, danah boyd and Gina Trapani, which have some interesting comments and counterpoints on why the glass ceiling still exists.

Photo by Faakhir Rizvi.

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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