A couple of weeks ago, Sam Fiorella wrote an interesting blog post called, “Under-Representation of Women in Corporate and Political Offices.”
I won’t dissect the blog post; you likely have already read it. But he and I had a good debate in the comments about why it is women are underrepresented in the executive suite.
One of the points I made is we tend to be the ones focused on raising kids while our male counterparts work outside of the home. Not all of us (I certainly am not that way), but a very high percentage of us.
In May 2011, Sheryl Sandberg – the COO of Facebook – gave a commencement speech at Barnard, an all-women’s college. During the 20 minute speech (which is well worth the watch, if you haven’t already seen it), she talks about why women aren’t given more leadership roles and why we still don’t have equality.
Her reasoning? We tend to let up for promotions when we think it’s time to get married and again when we think it’s time to have a baby (or babies). Not when we do those things. When we think it’s time.
Women almost never make one decision to leave the workforce. It doesn’t happen that way. They make small little decisions along the way that eventually lead them there. Maybe it’s the last year of med school when they say, I’ll take a slightly less interesting specialty because I’m going to want more balance one day. Maybe it’s the fifth year in a law firm when they say, I’m not even sure I should go for partner, because I know I’m going to want kids eventually.
Women-Owned Businesses on the Rise: How We’ll Change the World
I tend to agree with her. I’ve run a marketing communications firm in Chicago for nearly eight years and I’ve found the exact, same thing with the young women in our office. Which, by-the-way, is extremely frustrating for this leader who provides the flexibility most women want.
It’s not our fault. It’s ingrained. It’s natural. It’s in our DNA.
It turns out the crazy economy of 2008-2011 created a reason for women to take matters into their own hands: Eighty-five percent of those surveyed predict more women will start businesses this year.
And, for those who already run businesses, 81 percent are optimistic about growth this year and 74 percent are confident about the economic outlook of their organizations.
Of course, this doesn’t speak to equality or women in the c-suite for the Fortune 10 companies or in the top branches of political office. But it does mean more and more women are contributing to the health of our economy through job creation, innovative products and services, and getting closer to the elusive work/life balance.
So, perhaps instead of leaning in, as Sandberg advises, we’re more focused on creating our destinies, as this study suggests. We’ll let the men have those stuffy corporate jobs and we’ll change the world.
Do you agree? Are we too focused on equal representation in corporate offices to understand the value that women have contributed to that workplace? Are women changing the corporate world in other ways?