You may want to sit down for this one. A recent study shows that fewer large companies are run by woman than by men with the name John. In fact, among CEOs of S&P 1500 firms, for each woman, there are four men with the name John, Robert, William, or James.
So in the name of closing the gender gap, and International Women’s Day, this week’s TL;DR has a special theme. We’ll discuss:
- The biggest mistakes well-intentioned men make without realizing — and how to fix them
- The surprising path women take to become CEOs and why it takes 50% longer than men
- Why the way we’re discussing gender bias is actually bad and what we should do differently
Author: Joanne Lipman
TL;DR: Even the most well-intentioned men have misconceptions about women at work. For instance:
- It’s not a compliment. Former BAE systems CEO Linda Hudson says: “I hate being referred to as ‘that very accomplished woman leader.’ Why not just say ‘accomplished leader’? Why does it always have to be qualified?” It seems innocent, but research shows that reminding women of stereotypes undermines confidence and performance.
- It’s not hand-holding. Georgetown Professor Deborah Tannen found that men consider strong leaders to be those who hire good people and get out of the way. Female leaders are more likely to collaborate, treating others as equals and checking in frequently. The result? For many men, the hands-on approach feels like a lack of trust. Resentment often follows.
- It’s not a question. A man may declare: “We need a meeting tomorrow morning!” Whereas a woman might ask: “Do you think we need a meeting tomorrow morning?” Don’t get it twisted, both are saying: let’s meet immediately.
Authors: Sarah Dillard & Vanessa Lipschitz
TL;DR: The Fortune 500 only has 24 female CEOs. So what did they have that others didn’t?
It’s not an Ivy League degree. That’s only true for two of the 24 women.
The answer is tough to hear, especially in today’s world where we swap jobs every few years.
It’s about consistency. Data shows that these 24 female leaders spent a median of 23 years at a company before becoming CEO.
In fact, over 20% took jobs right out of school at the companies they now run. For instance:
- Mary Barra started out as a college co-op student before becoming CEO of General Motors
- Kathleen Mazzarella began as a customer service representative at Graybar before becoming CEO 30 years later.
For men, however, the median is 15 years. Meaning, a woman’s climb to the top is over 50% longer. So how should we deal with the imbalance and biases at play? That bring us to…
Authors: Adam Grant & Sheryl Sandberg
TL;DR: New research shows that making people aware of gender bias makes them discriminate more, not less. Why? Because stereotyping seems more socially acceptable once we realize it’s common.
So if awareness makes it worse, how do we make it better? The solution isn’t to stop pointing out stereotypes. It’s to go a step further.
Wharton professor Adam Grant’s study illustrates how:
- In his classes, he presented data on female underrepresentation in major leadership roles. He thought raising awareness would prompt action. But in the next five months, there was no change in the percentage of female MBA students who applied for campus leadership positions.
- The following year, he shared the same data but added one sentence: “I don’t ever want to see this happen again.” During the next five months, there was a 65 percent increase in female MBA students who sought out leadership roles.
Bottom line: raising awareness isn’t enough. We should explicitly disapprove of leadership imbalance if we ever hope to improve it.