Pulling power of sticky floor
Rather than the ‘‘ glass ceiling’’ preventing women from moving into top jobs, it could be more a case of ‘‘ sticky floor’’.
Jennifer Alexander, CEO of Australian Health Management NSW and ACT says that in some cases women are keeping themselves down: they’re not rejected for a position, they are simply not choosing to go there.
‘‘ Sometimes women often don’t put themselves in the landscape,’’ Alexander says.
Alexander originally graduated in medicine but after some years as a clinician realised she was more interested in management. She undertook further study and in the late 1980s left her position as medical director at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, to become the CEO of Westmead Hospital.
‘‘ I’ve found that often women don’t feel prepared for a role whereas men will put their hand up for promotion and are prepared to take the chance. If there are 10 characteristics required for a job women won’t apply unless they have nine of them whereas men will apply even if they only have five or six — they are prepared to take the risk.’’
For 10 years Alexander worked internationally in management and leadership development in health until 2004, when she was headhunted for the position at AIM. She says there were a number of experiences that shaped her as a manager. ‘‘ One of these was when I found myself ‘ acting up’ in a CEO position for some months while my boss recovered from an illness. This experience taught me I could do much more than I thought, that it is important to stretch yourself and, lastly, that it is important to support managers at all stages of their careers in obtaining further qualifications and skills.’’
Alexander points to the view of author, academic and speaker Jill Ker Conway, who says women tell their stories differently. ‘‘ Men conquer adversity whereas women interact with the world differently, they are more selfeffacing.’’
Alexander suggests asking friends and families for feedback and advice. ‘‘ Ask them what they think are your strengths and weaknesses — sometimes others see in us what we cannot see for ourselves.’’ Helen Bennett