Gen­der neu­tral

The Smart Manager - - Contents -

More than any­thing else, per­sis­tence is the skill women lead­ers need to cul­ti­vate to be suc­cess­ful in the tech in­dus­try, says Pratima Rao Gluck­man.

Pratima Rao Gluck­man, au­thor of Nev­er­the­less, She Per­sisted, talks about the chal­lenges women face in their ca­reer in the tech­nol­ogy field and busts the myth that abil­ity is linked to gen­der.

01 women just need to work hard to be suc­cess­ful

Is it re­ally true that a woman will suc­ceed based on the hard work she puts in and the re­sults she pro­duces? Time and again, we have heard that the tech world is a mer­i­toc­racy—a sys­tem in which peo­ple at­tain ad­vance­ment based on their proven suc­cess and achieve­ment.

Re­search in­di­cates that in most cases mer­i­toc­racy is a myth, par­tic­u­larly for women and es­pe­cially when un­con­scious bias is hold­ing them back in their ca­reers.

I have four rec­om­men­da­tions for women. First, yes, be ex­cep­tional at work. Sec­ond, un­der­stand that mer­i­toc­racy alone will not re­ward your ef­forts, so de­velop a di­verse set of strate­gies to keep your ca­reer mov­ing for­ward. Third, be aware of your sur­round­ings, net­work and get to know the key play­ers in your or­ga­ni­za­tion. Fourth, take ini­tia­tive to show­case your work and im­pact.

We all have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to counter the mer­i­toc­racy myth—by de­vel­op­ing per­for­mance met­rics that are re­sis­tant to bias. Com­pany and or­ga­ni­za­tion lead­ers should scru­ti­nize how per­for­mance is judged and how salaries and bonuses are handed out. If your com­pany looks care­fully at per­for­mance and salary met­rics and an in­con­ve­nient pat­tern of bias emerges, then you can wel­come the jour­ney to make your or­ga­ni­za­tion more eq­ui­table. It is okay to be trans­par­ent about th­ese num­bers be­cause do­ing so will in­crease ac­count­abil­ity and push your or­ga­ni­za­tion to im­prove.

02 men­tors are key for women to be suc­cess­ful in tech

If a woman is stuck in her ca­reer and she reaches out to other peo­ple for help, then this is gen­er­ally a good thing. Whether that per­son is a for­mal men­tor or an in­for­mal one, we talk to our men­tors be­cause it is a nat­u­ral thing to do. But do not think that men­tor­ship alone will cor­rect the gen­der bias in the tech in­dus­try. Re­search has shown that women are over-men­tored and un­der-spon­sored. Based on that, we find that a lot of women are not pro­gress­ing in their ca­reers. A men­tor can teach you a lot of help­ful things to be ex­cel­lent in your ca­reer; how­ever, you need to ask your­self how in­flu­en­tial your men­tor is within your or­ga­ni­za­tion.

That is where spon­sor­ship comes in. Spon­sors are of­ten the de­ci­sive fac­tor in ob­tain­ing a strate­gic project, more vis­i­bil­ity, the next pro­mo­tion, or a raise. Spon­sors can be the ticket to a ca­reer that sky­rock­ets. This is true for both women and men, though the re­search also shows that men have an eas­ier time get­ting spon­sored by other men.

How do you go about get­ting a spon­sor? It is not as easy as walk­ing into some­one’s of­fice and ask­ing them to be a spon­sor. There are in­di­vid­ual and or­ga­ni­za­tional so­lu­tions. In­di­vid­u­als should find ways to be vis­i­ble so their work and im­pact are rec­og­nized by the in­flu­en­tial peo­ple. This could be as sim­ple as strik­ing up a con­ver­sa­tion with the ex­ec­u­tive; talk­ing about your work; or per­haps of­fer­ing to demo one of your present projects for them. This will ce­ment your ac­com­plish­ments in the po­ten­tial spon­sor’s mind.

Now, what is the ex­ec­u­tive’s role in the spon­sor­ing re­la­tion­ship? They should first iden­tify spon­sor­ship can­di­dates in the com­pany who are ca­pa­ble of tak­ing on larger lead­er­ship re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. When an op­por­tu­nity arises, they of­fer those in­di­vid­u­als the op­por­tu­ni­ties both to in­crease their lead­er­ship skills and to gain vis­i­bil­ity within the com­pany. And they need to put women on the short list to get spon­sor­ship re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Stud­ies show that di­verse teams per­form bet­ter in the long run.

03 the glass ceil­ing is shat­tered

Two dis­turb­ing facts re­veal that in fact women are not shat­ter­ing the glass ceil­ing.

Ev­ery year, For­tune re­leases its For­tune 500 list, which ranks ma­jor US com­pa­nies by their prior year’s fis­cal rev­enues. In 2014, we had fe­male CEOs run­ning 24 of th­ese com­pa­nies. That num­ber dipped to 21 in 2016, but in 2017 we had promis­ing news, as that num­ber rose to 32.

But in 2018 we are now down to 23 women, with In­dra Nooyi step­ping down as CEO of Pep­siCo.

Sec­ond, in March 2014, a re­port by Ju­dith Warner, a se­nior fel­low at the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress, doc­u­mented that at the present rate of change, equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of men and women at the top will not oc­cur un­til 2085. Now I want to pause here to let you in­ter­nal­ize this fact, so I am go­ing to re­peat it: at the cur­rent rate of change, equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of men and women at the top will not oc­cur un­til 2085.

So no, women are not shat­ter­ing the glass ceil­ing. In fact, we need to wake up and ac­knowl­edge our sta­tus. How do we break this glass ceil­ing? And if we do break it, are we free from other glass ceil­ings? No, when we break one glass ceil­ing, an­other one emerges. There is a glass ceil­ing pre­vent­ing women from ris­ing to their po­ten­tial ev­ery step of the way. Who puts up th­ese? It is the old boys’ club. We need to shat­ter the power of that net­work be­fore we can shat­ter the nu­mer­ous glass ceil­ings we en­counter.

04 she is too ag­gres­sive

In the re­search in­ter­views for Nev­er­the­less, She Per­sisted,

I found so many of the women who are ef­fec­tive and suc­cess­ful lead­ers in their or­ga­ni­za­tions be­ing la­beled as overly ag­gres­sive. This is a dou­ble-bind prob­lem. If women who want to lead bring with them the stereo­typ­i­cal fe­male char­ac­ter­is­tic of be­ing nice to work, they of­ten re­al­ize that their ca­reers stall. There­fore, suc­cess­ful women em­brace

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