Women squeezed out of organisational life

Oct 21 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

The battle to break through the glass ceiling into the boardroom leaves many women negative, worn down and disillusioned that they are not being used to their full potential.

The study of 6,000 managers by consultancy ISR found a quarter of women in senior jobs did not feel adequately involved in decision making.

Many did not have confidence in what decisions were made, were not encouraged to give their best and, worst of all, sometimes did not think it safe to speak-up at all.

Perhaps most intriguing of all was the finding that the perceptions many senior women have of their organisations changes and becomes more negative the further up the greasy pole they go.

Women tended to be more positive about organisational issues in general than their male colleagues, said ISR.

But once they reached senior management this outlook turned 180 degrees and they tended to become more critical.

This finding was particularly surprising because senior managers as a group tended to hold positive attitudes towards their organisation, said ISR.

It is not completely clear what is behind this change but ISR suggested organisations were not encouraging their female senior managers to fulfill their potential and were under-using their skills.

In these circumstances it was harder for talented senior women to break the glass ceiling, breeding discontent and frustration.

The leadership of an organisation was the single most important factor in motivating both men and women
The leadership of an organisation was the single most important factor in motivating both men and women, the study concluded.

People with positive views on leadership were more motivated and more likely to fulfill their full potential, and more senior women than men expressed concerns in this key area.

Three out of 10 senior female managers compared with just 15 per cent of their male colleagues did not think their company was well managed as a whole.

Female senior managers were twice as likely as male senior managers to say they did not have confidence in decisions made by the senior management team.

Female senior managers were also twice as likely to say the management style of their company did not encourage people to give their best.

Nearly one quarter of senior women did think it was safe to speak up in their organisation, compared with just 15% of men.

But the picture in the U.S at least was slightly more positive.

In North America the difference in attitudes between senior men and women towards leadership were less pronounced.

Like Britain, one of the most noticeable differences in attitudes was towards decisions made by senior management.

Top U.S female managers were twice as likely as their male colleagues to say they did not have confidence in the decisions made by the senior management team.

Nick Tatchell, project director at ISR, said: "These results are embarrassing for British businesses.

"They reveal the extent to which female senior managers are excluded from organisational life.

"To have a stronger sense of personal commitment to their organisation, top level female managers need to be included in decision making, have confidence in an organisation's leadership and feel safe to speak-up," he added.

Rather than supporting women in these areas, the research suggested organisations were squeezing them out.

"Unless businesses change their attitude towards women at the top, boards will continue to be dominated by men and organisations will continue to under-utilise a huge pool of talent," warned Tatchell.