No Age “Good” for Women Workers?

A survey by the accounting firm, Ernst & Young , has found that age – either being too old or too young – is the chief concern of women in the workplace.

 The survey, conducted in the United Kingdom, involved 1,000 women between the ages of  18 and 60 (which does not even account for the oldest category of women in the workplace who are most likely to be concerned about age discrimination!). 

 The survey found four key barriers facing women in the workplace:

  •  Age  was identified as the biggest obstacle that women face during their careers. Thirty two per cent of the women surveyed said age had impacted on their career progression, with an additional 27 % saying that they thought it would inhibit their progression in the future.  
  •    Lack of experience or qualifications was the second highest factor that had inhibited women’s careers to date (according to 22 % of respondents), and the third highest factor cited as a future inhibitor (19 %).
  • Nearly one in five (19 %) of those surveyed said becoming a mother had impacted their career and 25% said they thought it was the second biggest inhibitor to their future careers, after age.
  •    Three out of four (75%) said they have few or no female role models within their organizations. Eight percent said a lack of role models had had a detrimental impact on their career to date.

             “The focus around gender diversity has increasingly been on representation in the boardroom and this is still very important. But the notion that there is a single glass-ceiling for women, as a working concept for today’s modern career, is dead. Professional working women have told us they face multiple barriers on their rise to the top,” says Liz Bingham, Managing Partner for People at Ernst & Young.

            When respondents were asked to identify what three things their company could do to remove these barriers, or better support women’s career progression, they said companies should provide:

  •      More support after returning to work from having children (32 %);
  •    More support at every stage of her career lifecycle (24%)
  •    More visible female role models (19%)

And when asked what government could do, the survey respondents said:

  • Making companies reveal the ‘pay gap’ between men and women. (45%);
  •     Affordable child-care/ tax relief for childcare. (43%);
  •    Flexible work policies.  (28%).

‘Queen Bee’ Boss is Obstacle to Other Women

What follows are excerpts from a study by psychologists at the University of Cincinnati concluding that female ‘Queen Bee’ bosses tend to be “cogs in the machine” to other women in the workplace.According to the researchers, a female boss is more likely to wreck a woman’s promotion prospects in male-dominated environments and men who report to a female manager get much more mentoring and support than their female colleagues. The researchers say that women who manage to break the glass ceiling may not want competition from other women and/or may want to blend in as much as possible with their male counterparts.  The excerpt is from:  Maume, David J. ,  Meet the new boss…same as the old boss? Female supervisors and subordinate career prospects,  Social Science Research Volume 40, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 287-298.

… Drawing a 2002 national sample of non-managerial workers, men exceeded women in receiving job-related support from female supervisors and were more optimistic about their promotion chances as a result. Although cross-sectional data precludes drawing firm conclusions regarding processes that occur over-time, the results are consistent with the notion that female managers are cogs in the machine, in that female supervisors have little or no effect on the career prospects of female subordinates, and instead foster men’s career prospects.

… when women attain jobs paying wages similar to men’s, informal workplace dynamics are unleashed that seek to restore men’s more privileged position in the workplace. These processes include isolation and exclusion from informal networks and professional growth opportunities ([Purcell, 2007] and [Reskin et al., 1999]), ratcheting up job demands to determine if women will put work ahead of family life as men do ([Fried, 1998] and [Hochschild, 1997]), and harassment of a general and/or sexual nature ([Acker, 1990] and [Roscigno, 2007]). The cumulative effect of these informal processes is that women’s work effectiveness is compromised, increasing the likelihood that they will either quit their jobs or be fired.

Given gendered informal dynamics that are pervasive in the workplace, some contend that female bosses either lack the power to impede organizational preferences to foster men’s careers, or that female bosses agree with negative stereotypes of female workers ([Cooper, 1997] and [Deaux, 1985]; Wajcman, 1998). And of course, female supervisors may themselves be the victims of informal processes to marginalize them and compromise their effectiveness ([Kanter, 1977] and [Fried, 1998]). In either case, when subordinates report to female supervisors, they may not perceive them to be any different from male bosses who give male subordinates more attention and more chances for promotion as way to advance their own careers. If so, female subordinates will be more likely to quit out of frustration or be fired, even though they may hold jobs paying wages similar to men’s. Jacobs (1989) characterized this process as one of “revolving doors,” in which women enter high-paying male-typed jobs only to exit these jobs later. This dynamic could reconcile the apparent inconsistency between studies reporting an association between more female managers and a lower gender wage gap, and this study’s finding that men’s, but not women’s, career prospects are enhanced when reporting a female superior.

… Despite these caveats, this study is the first representative analysis of how subordinate career prospects are affected by directly reporting to a female supervisor. The results are consistent with much research showing that workplaces are pervasively male-oriented in their customs, policies, and structures, and that female bosses are no different from male bosses in reacting to organizational preferences to invest in men’s careers more so than women’s. Additional research is needed on the organizational mechanisms fostering or impeding women’s ascendance to supervisory positions in order to assess progress toward the goal of affording men and women equal opportunity to exercise managerial authority. Yet, irrespective of what future studies of managerial attainment show, those who expect that female bosses will dramatically change the nature of superior-subordinate relations are likely to be disappointed.