Wednesday, April 13, 2011

WSJ Women in Leadership Report

There is quite a buzz on LinkedIn today (ODNetwork Group) about the WSJ's special section on Monday, April 11 about lack of progress of women into senior executive positions. McKinsey suggests that a greater focus on developmental programs and coaching be deployed. Some disagreed.

Below my post in response to an OD Network discussion of the topic:

Actually, there is a great deal of investment in developing women in leadership; however, the investments are frequently as wasteful as those of their male counterparts. In fact, a DDI Global Leadership Forecast 2008/2009 survey reported that for leadership development initiatives HR leaders responses indicated that “only 29 percent rated the quality as high or very high.” Yet, around $40 billion was spent that year in leadership development investments (ASTD). Moreover, there is an abundance of studies showing that about 50% to 75% of leaders are not effective. The bottom line -- organizations are just throwing development investments out there, with good intentions, hoping something will stick.

Next, to the points Barry made. I agree. Structures of opportunity, particularly the informal influencing factors and biases, as well as, the need to retain power within traditional comfort zones, tend to dead-end many women’s careers and upward mobility.

On that point our research shows that with CDR Leadership Risk (derailment) behaviors, while there is usually a similar level of risk level scored on average by men and women leaders, the perceptions and negative consequences for women are often far greater and rather unjustifiable. Here’s an example: In a 2008 Pew Survey, respondents said that women (85%) not men (5%) are the more emotional sex. However, this is contrary to our CDR Character and Risk data (both personality based assessments.) In a recent gender study* we conducted, men leaders scored an average of 54% and women leaders 50% on Adjustment…. On the Hyper-Moody risk, men scored 56% and women 62%. There were no significant gender differences and this does not support the severe 85% rating assigned to women on “emotionality” in the Pew survey.

A couple of notes on this: 1) how emotionality is expressed varies; 2) for women, emotionality is often confused with “Interpersonal Sensitivity” or nurturing/caring and relationship building capabilities; 3) and, emotionality of male leaders is often associated with anger, impatience, etc., and is considered within accepted norms – from a social “perception” standpoint.

In the aforementioned WSJ article, I found a quote that illustrates the differences between actual risk behaviors and perceptions: “I can speak the truth. But I don’t feel as comfortable having a tantrum at the office. There are many men, particularly in financial services, who can scream, shout, throw things. Nobody blinks an eye.” Sallie Krawcheck, President Global Wealth & Investment Management, Bank of America, Wall Street Journal, 4/11/11, pg. R10

Great subject! Thanks for the discussion.

*Study: “Risk Factors that Impact Women in Leadership”, data from 26 companies, men leaders n=120; women leaders n=110., 2008, CDR Assessment Group, Inc., Tulsa, OK.