A new study from Catalyst came out last month that basically says women with MBAs are still being treated as inferior than their male counterparts. In The Promise of Future Leadership: A Research Program on Highly Talented Employees in the Pipeline, Catalyst found that among high-potential graduates from elite MBA programs—those graduates companies count on for future leadership—women lagged men in advancement and compensation starting from their first job and over time, they were less satisfied with their careers.
I am not surprised, are you? In my experience teaching leadership courses around the world, I have found that many leaders have fallen back into old fear-based tactics instead of inspiring change. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this relapse of negative behavior in the United States even more intensely than in many European and Latin American countries. So I’m not surprised to hear that male leaders haven’t changed their attitudes about the value of women.
However, I have also coached many women who are not putting up with this behavior, recession or not. I believe the rise in women-owned businesses demonstrates that the high-achievers are looking at corporations as training ground rather than long-term careers. So they put up with inequities long enough to get the experience they need to move on to creating a business scenario that provides greater recognition for their contributions.
With women making up more than half of the workforce, and research indicating that companies with women in the boardroom did better during the recession than those that lacked the feminine touch, I believe women will be moving into more powerful positions in the next decade regardless of Catalyst’s stats.
In his book, Born to Be Good, Dachel Keltner, director of Social Interaction Laboratories at UC Berkeley, claims that true survival of humanity is not “survival of the fittest” (or strongest) but is actually due to our remarkable tendencies toward playfulness, cooperation, generosity, respect and a deep moral sense. It is our need for belonging, our need to have people care about us and our need to build communities for safety and connection that sustains our existence.
If this is true, then it makes sense that women will strongly rise out of the chaos no matter what is holding them back at the moment. As conventional systems break down and the progressive systems are based on open-source creation, work communities (one step beyond teams), and cultures based on respect instead of fear, I believe the companies that have women leaders at the core will survive and thrive where others may die. I believe the board rooms and workplaces will look totally different a decade from now.
This could be the truth about the Pipeline, or it could be a Pipedream. What do you think?