What is the evidence? Why focus on women leaders?
A 2004 study of nearly 1000 senior-level men and women, over 700 of whom were women, found that in order to succeed in high-powered positions, corporate females worked harder than their male counterparts in eleven of eighteen areas. These included: exceeding performance expectations, taking high-visibility assignments, changing companies or moving to different functional areas, and being willing to work long hours and weekends.
Studies suggest, corporate women also tended to curtail their personal interests in an attempt to create balance. And while most companies tout work flexibility benefits, less than a quarter of women believed they could use them without jeopardizing their positions. More than half of the women studied stated they found it “difficult to balance the demands of [their] work and family/personal life.” No small undertaking, indeed. While husbands and male partners are picking up the kids and laundry, women still carry the load.
Underlying gender biases remain prevalent in some organizations, creating additional stress. Distinct and different stressors face women in high-powered positions. Discrimination, gender stereotyping, sexual harassment, work overload, organizational politics and work-home conflict, to name a few. In a 2006 study of more than forty American and European women executives, women reported feeling isolated because they did not feel they fit in to the dominant male culture.
A lack of organizational buy-in can also tax women in leadership. Middle managers, focused on competitions and short-term gains remain most challenged to see the long-term benefits of gender diversity in organizations. That’s right. While you already know it, women bring with them improved sales, performance and profits, and stellar company oversight.
In sum, Stevenson and Wolfer’s extensive study on gender and happiness revealed that, while objective measures of success for women have risen exponentially in the past few decades, women’s subjective levels of happiness have declined substantially. In grasping for it all, have we lost everything?
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Copyright 2012 Carol J. Scott MD.