Management Checkup: Are Corporations Serving Female Executives' Needs?
Nehama Jacobs, co-author (with Sarah Hardesty) of the best-selling and controversial book Success and Betrayal: The Crisis of Women in Corporate America (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 1987), was last interviewed in these pages for our special December 1987 issue on the problems of black and women managers.
In their book, Hardesty and Jacobs argued that there was an invisible "glass ceiling" that prevented the great majority of women from entering the very top executive ranks of major American corporations, professional firms, and other organizations.
They also reported on the "BOGSAT" phenomenon: the idea that the most important decisions in organizations are made by a "bunch of guys sitting at a table"--which usually means that female employees' concerns are not adequately addressed or championed at the top.
To get a pulse on the progress women have made in overcoming these and other obstacles since 1987, former MR editor Rod Willis recently interviewed Jacobs. She reports that corporations have a long way to go before they can provide the equitable and flexible working conditions today's women managers need and want.
Nehama Jacobs, formerly a vice-president of the New York marketing and advertising firm Young & Rubicam, is now vice-president, High Yield Securities Subdebt, for a major U.S. bank. Since this interview, Rod Willis was named executive editor of periodicals at Executive Enterprises Inc., a New York-based educational and publishing firm. Management Review: Since you and Sarah Hardesty wrote Success and Betrayal, how have women's career paths and concerns changed? Specifically, do you believe reports that women are avoiding careers in large corporations? Nehama Jacobs: We already know that there are some problems. Some tangible evidence now begins to quantify the problem. The percentage of women reporting fewer possibilities for job advancement has risen from 67 percent in 1982 to 72 percent in 1988, according to a Glamour magazine poll. Business school applications by women are down 15 percent. Another thing we've noticed is that there's a real awareness now of the need for a maternity policy. The General Accounting Office did a survey in 1988 that showed that businesses are losing $715 million a year in earnings because they don't have parental leave policies in place. MR: By losing employees? Jacobs: In terms of employees' missed days. Women, in contrast, are losing $31 billion in pay annually due to missed days. That costs corporations at the bottom line and also in personnel, when women drop out out of frustration to stay home with their children. They take all that training with them, so it's an even larger figure than you can quantify.
I think another real change is the increased awareness of the need for adequate daycare. It was a platform issue for both the Republicans and the Democrats last year. I think there's a growing recognition that this is not just a women's problem. San Francisco requires all developers of new office buildings to donate rent-free daycare space near the location. Six states mandate corporate family leave policies. I think it's the beginning of a policy trend that is going to put the onus on corporations to solve the problem.
Until now, corporations have gotten away with saying, "It's a problem that relates to a segment of our population, and that segment's going to have to solve it alone."
A 1988 survey by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees suggests that 28 percent of eligible women have given up jobs and promotions due to a lack of daycare. And 42 percent of women say that quality daycare is not available. For economic reasons, if nothing else, corporations are going to have to institute some sort of regular policy. Women managers now are becoming so integral to the economic well-being of corporations that companies can't afford to dodge the issue. …