A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about the glass escalator in which men ascend to leadership positions more rapidly than women in female-dominated occupations. Within it I cited 3 reasons for why this occurs: structural, societal, and personal.
It is little surprise that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book titled Lean In has led to some lively debate. On the Sunday’s, March 10th edition of Meet the Press Dick Gregory hosted lively a round table discussion of the book where the topic of women owning their power and personal choices arose amongst a largely female panel.
With the release of Sanberg’s book the personal aspect of why women are underrepresented in leadership has been highlighted. A theme in Sanberg’s book is that women hold back in their careers in anticipation of marriage and family even when those prospects are not within view. In other words we “lean back”.
Not only has the book been controversial because of Sandberg’s economic status, but some have criticized her for encouraging women to “lean in” versus working to amend a gender-biased system.
Which should come first – addressing the system or changing our behaviors?
Roberta Guise says
Carolyn, it has to happen simultaneously. This has been going on so long it’s time to take all the proverbial bulls by the horns, shake ’em up, and accelerate change in all areas.
An interesting conversation I had with a client recently speaks to the glass escalator in nursing. She’s a nurse who trains nurses and presents keynotes to executives across the healthcare industry. She said men ascend to leadership positions in nursing because women want to continue performing the bedside work — one-to-one with patients — that attracted them to nursing in the first place. Leadership isn’t compatible with bedside work. So this would seem to be a case of choice.
Carolyn K. Broner, Ph.D. says
Roberta, you make an excellent point that it should occur simultaneously.
Nursing is certainly a field where the glass escalator is quite evident. You make another good point about that women often enter professions such as nursing for the human contact aspect of the work and that administration is frequently at odds with this; however, it would seem that given our large numbers that we can devise a way of having a bit of both worlds. We still need to look out for our economic well-being.
Thanks for you comment Roberta.