If a Company Has Women Executives, All Female Employees Can Benefit: Building a Network of Colleagues and Mentors Can Be Good for Your Career-Even If You Don't Seek the Executive Suite
Schachter, Debbie, Information Outlook
The status of women leaders in business today is as much a concern for special librarians--the majority of whom are women--as for any woman working in a corporate environment. As a profession dominated by women, gender has a great deal to do with how we are perceived generally within our organizations, and how our roles are defined in business environments. Special libraries and special librarians generally have clear functions within their larger organizations, but the preconceived impression of women's abilities in the corporate environment does have an impact on our work and how we are able to contribute to the management of our organizations.
Undoubtedly, there has been a great deal of change in the roles and the perception of roles of women in business over our lifetime. The perception of a glass ceiling for women, above which they cannot rise in corporate hierarchies, still exists though, and the reality is that women are not continuing to rise in great numbers into the seats of CEOs or other executive ranks. "Despite years of progress by women in the workforce (they now occupy more than 40 percent of all managerial positions in the United States); within the C-suite they remain as rare as hens' teeth." (1)
On the surface, the position of women in corporate hierarchies may be of little concern to librarians. We love our work and we know how we contribute to the success of the organization, but we may have little interest in moving upward in the corporate ranks. For others who are interested in furthering their sphere of influence, and for those who would like to develop better skills as managers, the presence of women in senior executive positions in the organizations within which we work should be of utmost importance. Research indicates the presence of women in executive levels of organizations shows a return on equity. "Yet despite this correlation, companies don't seem to be doing enough to promote greater gender diversity at the executive level. In fact, progress in this area has essentially ground to a halt." (2)
From the special librarian's perspective--and in particular those of us who are women--what should the presence of women in the senior corporate hierarchy mean to us? One important indicator is the organization's perception and value of women and, in general, diversity of workforce. If diversity of staff is perceived as beneficial, special librarians will have a role in the corporate structure as one of innate contributor. Plurality of ideas and leadership styles are inherent in a diversified workforce.
Second, as part of a learning profession, special librarians and library managers can benefit greatly from professional women's networks and mentorship opportunities, specifically with women in a variety of leadership roles within our own organizations. In particular, in male-dominated industries or corporations, business networks help to retain women, and women who have leadership roles in organizations play a strong role in ensuring the diversity of thoughts and inputs of other women.
Women as leaders continues to be an area of development in the corporate environment. People are often still resistant to women in leadership roles: "Study after study has affirmed that people associate women and men with different traits and link men with more of the traits that connote leadership." (3) The sense often is that women are less skilled or less innately able to lead than men. That is misinformation for which women need to take responsibility: "If women do not share their brand and identity, they will be judged by prevailing stereotypical thinking." (4) Clearly the work that women have been doing over the past generation, and the work that professional organizations such as SLA do to develop competencies and professional standards, goes a long way to taking on the marketing of the professional and leadership skills of women.
Not everyone sees the changes in the corporate work environment for women as negative. …