We’ve seen the headlines, read the articles and heard the occasional joke – but why do female bosses have such a nasty reputation? And do they deliberately target other female employees?
Whilst having a lovely dinner with my friend and her other girlfriends (who’d I’d met for the first time), it suddenly dawned one me – an epiphany if you will. These lovely ladies were clearly very smart, independent women – but they all had the same story to tell. They spoke of female managers who would not support them with their progression. I suddenly realised, this had been the case for me in previous roles, and most of the women I knew too. It dawned on me how ridiculous this was – but unfortunately, very true. Now don’t get me wrong, I have had a few amazing female managers in my time, but I have to say, some pretty damn awful ones too. So why is this? Is it based on gender or is it simply your pot luck what manager you get?
Let’s take it back to the beginning, where a female’s academic life begins. In my time growing up (I’m in my early 30’s) girls surpassed boys academically; girls did better on average in their GCSEs and A Levels and now we are hearing that girls are even doing better at University. But then things change. The world becomes a very different place when you’re a female in the working world – a world that was built by men, for men. All of a sudden the overachieving females are “downgraded” compared to their male counterparts. What changed? Why are females seen as second class to men?
Okay so this world isn’t perfect. I get it. But why is it that females that somehow manage to break through the glass ceiling don’t often show support for other female colleagues? Is it because they are threatened by the competition? Is it because they don’t want to share their success? Womaninbusiness.com explains the reason is two-fold:
1) These female managers feel the need to make known their authoritative position by copying the behaviour of their male counterparts. This is often shown by aggressive bullying tactics in an attempt to make other junior members of staff feel small and inferior. They go on to explain this is especially the case towards other women because “what better way to show men you are their equal than to show that you don’t favour women?” (source: Womaninbusiness.com) .
2) They feel that they themselves had to struggle to break through the glass ceiling, therefore other women should also have to suffer equally. They don’t want to share in their success.
Now lets see if we can see it from the other side. Let’s talk about the proverbial glass ceiling. Fortune.com has recently reported that the percentage of female CEOs is now only 4% . What a shocking figure. So the few women that do somehow creep through the gaps in the glass ceiling now have to earn their place – “play the game” if you will.
We only just heard last week about the story of Mrs Sim who opened the lid on the corrupt working environment whilst she was a senior officer in the Northumbria Police (read the story here). She talks of the bullying and the corruption that she had to face on a daily basis – all as a result of being a woman. This gives us a peek into what its really like being a female minority in a male dominated environment. I can only imagine you learn to survive by the mentality “you either beat them or join them” – some, it would seem, chose the latter. This aggressive, bully tactic then trickles its way down the corporate layers of management. These female bosses either copy their male counterparts (in particular to other female staff members as explained earlier) or they blow the whistle and bow out – like Mrs Sim did.
Although this is a sad situation, I am glad to hear there are some initiatives which are trying to break down these barriers. Here are a few:
1) Leanin.org: They showcase women who have become successful and creates a community to unify women and they organise small circles of communities where people can learn and grow.
2) Leading Women: a consulting firm which specialises in developing female leaders and educating awareness of the importance of women in senior positions. They offer programs, online resources, events and services that help companies and individual women overcome the glass ceiling effect.
3) Close The Gap: is a partnership project in Scotland that works with employees, employers, policymakers and unions to address the issue of gender inequality in the workplace.
4) The Guardian has an awesome section specially dedicated to “Women in Leadership”. Check it our for the latest articles from helpful guides to “a day in the life” stories.
It’s important to note that we believe women should not be treated favourably to men – we think women should be treated EQUALLY to men. The job should go to the more qualified candidate, regardless of gender. An opinion raised at a meeting should be respected, regardless of gender. The candidate with the most experience should be give the managerial role, regardless of gender. At the end of the day, respect is not gender dependant – lets show it to everyone. Then maybe we can move forward.
It seems the root cause of this lack of support from female senior members comes from the issues they themselves experience as minorities in a male dominated environment.
If things are going to change, we need to work on creating a more gender balanced senior level. But we have to help ourselves. If you are fortunate enough to break the ceiling, lend a hand to your junior female members of staff. As Leanin.org suggests, become a mentor, and assist with another female person’s growth. Women should be considered because they ARE capable, and they need to be given a chance for their voices to be heard . You could be the one giving them that chance.
Women are already unfairly treated when it comes to the recruitment process – so we start off on the back foot in our careers. With your help, you can bring more bright women into senior positions (who deserve to be there as they have the talent and the experience). Then maybe, just maybe, the scales will begin to move in this war on inequality in senior positions. Let’s not be our own enemies, let’s be our own allies (like how men are! I mean if we must copy them, copy them in ways that will push our gender forward). The revolution is long overdue and things need to start improving NOW! And it can – with your help.
Eventually we can move towards an equally balanced senior panel across all companies, who will provide a diverse input and produce a more vibrant outlook. This will lead to new idea generation and new drives which will eventually make working life better for us all – men and women.
Have a story to tell? Share your experiences and thoughts by commenting below! We would love to hear them.
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