Academic journal article Human Resource Planning

Career Development and Women Managers: Does "One Size Fit All"?

Academic journal article Human Resource Planning

Career Development and Women Managers: Does "One Size Fit All"?

Article excerpt

The Civil Rights Act barred sexual discrimination in the workplace over thirty years ago, and more women are in the workforce than ever. However, there is little doubt that women have not moved up in the ranks of corporate America; there are very few women in top leadership positions. Why does the "glass ceiling" continue to bar women from advancing to the top positions? Virtually all career development literature concludes that there are substantial differences between male and female employees despite the time, energy, and money being used in women's development programs.

This paper surveyed a random sample of women in upper-level management positions about the variables they considered important of career advancement. The respondents indicated the level of importance of eighteen criteria for both men and women. The data was analyzed to look at how much importance was attached to the criteria commonly held to be important. The data was also analyzed to determine if there were any differences between men and women. Finally, the data was examined for differences in overall ranking of the criteria between men and women.

The study showed that these top-level women managers did perceive significant differences in the importance of the various criteria; specifically they felt that everything was more important to women than men. They felt that women have to be "better" than men to achieve similar advances. They also felt that they still had more concern for the home and family. The paper discusses some problems in evolving "equal" career development programs for women.

After several decades of federal and state legislation, enlightened management practices, and some heroic effort by female pioneers, we can say goodbye to the "good old boy network" in corporate America. Or can we? The supply of women qualified for management jobs continues to increase as more women accumulate work experience in organizations and complete management and professional education programs. Although the Civil Rights Act barred sexual discrimination in the workplace over thirty years ago, there is still considerable debate over the progress of women in corporate America, particularly at the managerial and administrative ranks.

According to Labor Department statistics compiled in 1990, women hold about 40 percent of all management positions. However, only a very few women managers have reached the top leadership positions in major American companies; top management positions are still dominated by men, and many organizations prefer to hire or promote men into these positions. A 1990 study of the Fortune 500 and Service 500 companies indicated that women accounted for only about 3 percent of the senior managers and 5.7 percent of the corporate directors (Mason, 1993). There are significant long-term implications in who fills these positions since senior managers and corporate directors control the majority of power in an organization and decide the direction of the organization.

At the current rate of "progress" women will not achieve parity with male managers for about thirty years; this was not the way things were supposed to go. The assumption had always been that once women entered the pipeline, earned appropriate degrees, and received relevant experience, their managerial numbers would rapidly rise. Women are now in the pipeline with their educational levels equal to or better than their male counterparts. They are getting experience, but they are not even close to closing the upper level managerial gap.

The popular press and trade journals have christened this phenomenon the "glass ceiling." Why has this occurred? Why have women apparently not received the same opportunities for career advancement as men? Why does the advancement of women often stop just short of the general management level? Why is the problem still apparent despite several years of effort, represented by affirmative action and equal opportunity? …

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