Women, women, everywhere. But are we in the right places? Yes and No. It is interesting that when we focus on something we find it everywhere we look.
Last week I was off to a conference In Portland. I always end up picking up reading material in the airport so I bought the October 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review. In it I found an interesting article on Hacking Tech’s Diversity Problem. Diversity meaning “looking for more women.” It is widely known that the technology sector has a diversity problem.
Prove-it-again – Women often have to provide more evidence of competence than men do to be seen as equally capable.
Tightrope – High status jobs are seen as requiring stereotypically masculine qualities, while women are expected to be modest and self-effacing, so women must walk a tightrope between being seen as too feminine to be effective and too masculine to be likable.
Maternal Wall – Researchers found that mothers were 79% less likely to be hired and were held to higher performance and punctuality standards. Mothers considered competent and committed were seen as bad mothers.
Tug-of-war – Gender bias against women fuels conflict among women. Research shows that women who encounter discrimination early in their careers tend to distance themselves from other women, refuse to help them, or even align themselves with men at other women’s expense.
“Housework” vs. “Glamour Work” In many companies, women are expected to do disproportionate amounts of “housework,” which includes both domestic tasks, like planning parties, and undervalued tasks. “Glamour work” consists of bringing in new business, managing key client relationships, and strategic planning.
So where was I heading? To a Leading Partners Retreat in Portland comprised of 75 accounting firms from around the country.
The emphasis of the conference was on attracting and developing your people. This year also included sessions directed at keeping women in public accounting. One speaker at the conference was Krista McMasters from McMasters Consulting.
Krista became CEO of Clifton Gunderson LLP in 2009 becoming the firm’s fourth CEO and the first female CEO in the history of the accounting profession among the top 50 firms, retiring from the firm in 2013. She ended her session discussing women leaders.
Although the number of women entering the profession from college is greater than the men, the number of equity partners in accounting firms is significantly lower: 86% Male to 14% Female. Why? Similar to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Krista believes women opt out early and that moving more women into leadership takes commitment and investment. Understand that women are “wired” differently. They may be less confident, may be more emotional, are more collaborative in nature, and have different communication styles. Krista pointed out that women should be mentoring other women.
I had a brief discussion with Krista at the end of her session. Similar to myself, she had been mentored by a man that saw the potential in her and pushed her outside of her comfort zone causing her to take on stretch assignments t providing tremendous growth for her and increased confidence. So my suggestion – men should be mentoring women as well. Deal with the differences. We want to keep women rising in the profession.
So women – Be there to mentor other women. But men….we what and need you as well to be there to mentor us. We want “Glamour Work!” We may need a little push…but remember we are all in this together.