Today I am sharing the reasons Spar feels career women continue to crash in to ceilings.
Spar begins by siting Management Women and the New Facts of Life, an article Felice Schwartz wrote for the Harvard Business Review in 1989:
The article argued that if corporations wanted to hire their best and brightest female employees, they needed to create a more flexible and family friendly workforce, one that offered young mothers a variety of ways to structure their working hours and their careers. High potential career women, Schwartz suggested fell naturally into two camps. In the first were “career primary women,” women who essentially behaved like men at work and were willing to undertake the same set of trade-offs. These women were almost certain to remain single or at least childless, Schwartz predicted, and to demand only that their employers “recognize them early, accept them, and clear artificial barriers from their path to the top.” In the second camp were career and family women,” women who wanted children and a career, and who, unlike both men and “career primary women,” were willing to trade some of the demands of promotion for the freedom to spend more time with their children. (Pg. 182)Schwartz’s piece went viral and the term mommy-track was coined. Unfortunately, the mommy-track did not work out in practice:
Few organizations have found ways to carve their most important positions into anything other than full-time chunks. Today for example, more than twenty years after Schwartz published her article, there are still only eight scientists working part time at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Only 13 percent of women lawyers work part time, as do 2 percent of the female financial managers. It doesn’t seem that the human resource departments of any of these organizations are consciously choosing against part-time positions. But when it comes to putting actual bodies in actual jobs, full-timers simply tend to dominate. As a result, while the number of women who work part time is statistically quite high (roughly a quarter of all female workers), the vast majority of these part-timers are clustered at the lower end of the economic spectrum, working as cashiers, waitresses and sales assistants. (Pg. 183)I found this to be interesting, since just last week I asked our CFO if I could hire a part-time person for our department. His answer – I would prefer everyone work a few hours of overtime each week rather than add an additional staff person.
I was also reminded of the seminar I had attended on hiring discrimination. The seminar was given by the HR Director of a major corporation in my area. I learned many managers continue to “profile” and discriminate when making hiring decisions. They prefer not to hire married women for IT consulting positions that involve travel – she recommended ladies take off their wedding rings before going on those types of interviews. Also, they tend not to hire or promote women who are in their child bearing years.
Then there are the women who opt-out. I have several friends and co-workers whose experiences mirrored the following:
Many women who have left the full-time workforce, of course, predict that their hiatuses will be brief. As Sylvia Ann Hewlett found in a 2005 study, most women who pull blithely into a career “off-ramp” find the road back far more treacherous than they anticipated. Positions disappear; salaries plummet; professional relationships grow stale. And at the end of the day, only 40 percent of women who try to return to full-time professional jobs actually manage to do so. The rest settle into early retirement or slower paced, lower-ranked jobs. (Pg. 183)Women simply jump first:
When the choice is between compromising a job and compromising a family, women seem more inclined to focus on the family, men to stick with the job that pays the bills.
Opting-out is particularly high for women who didn’t like their careers that much to begin with or entered them haphazardly:
This mismatch between jobs and desires seems to vary not only with time and gender, but across industries as well. Specifically, there are some fields from which women seem to flee in droves: law, consulting, banking. And some fields in which they stay: medicine, academia, entrepreneurial ventures. Typically, the reasons cited to explain these patterns are the obvious ones – fields like consulting and corporate law, for example, are frequently described as being too demanding on young mothers time and too “male” in their knee-jerk behavior patterns. Commodity trading floors are still rough-edged, often raunchy, places. Would-be partners at major corporate law firms work insanely long hours. (Pg. 187)Her advice:
Don’t go into a field without first understanding the rules of the game and considering deeply whether you want to play them.
I have mentioned many times before about the number of hours accountants are required to work. When I returned to college to major in accounting I was fully aware of this requirement. It never occurred to me while in my twenties this hour requirement would eventually become cumbersome and if I were to have had children impossible. At the time, my only focus was to enter a career where I’d earn a decent salary.
What rules do you wish you would have known about your chosen career prior to entering it?