Cracking the Glass Ceiling Requires Uncommon Practices — Germane Consulting

Cracking the Glass Ceiling Requires Uncommon Practices - Germane Consulting

Cracking the Glass Ceiling Requires Uncommon Practices

The Glass Ceiling Hasnt Opened

Despite the number and variety of programs for women at large corporations such as Deloitte and Touche, General Electric, Procter and Gamble, American Express, etc. the number of women in top leadership roles at major U.S. companies remains relatively unchanged in recent years.  For the most part these programs address such things as hiring and developing women and result in more women at lower and mid-level management roles. But glass ceilings stay put for most women who aspire and have the talent to contribute at the companys highest levels.

Best Practices Wont Do

Increasing the number of women in key roles at the top of corporations calls for culture change. Research from The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science Engineering and Technology. and the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report indicates that women still encounter an uninviting and hostile macho culture. The glass ceiling hasnt opened much for over a decade.  Best practices are simply known practices already in use and wont result in significant improvements beyond where we are today. To crack the ceiling open we need uncommon practices.

But what they are?

Albert Einstein advised that You cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created it. The culture that led to the glass ceiling is unlikely to produce the needed change in thinking. Why? Members of the dominant power group whose beliefs, thoughts and actions determine the culture, often dont see the thinking that creates it. They are akin to the fish who dont see the water in which they swim. Members of the non-dominant culture have an outsiders perspective and a clearer view of the culture and the thinking or hidden assumptions on which it is based. Herein lies the dilemma. The very culture that needs to embrace change presents obstacles to entry for those women who will make it happen.

Uncommon Practices Are Needed

The following uncommon practices are designed to break through this impasse and shift us to a new more effective leadership paradigm.

1. The Rule of 3
  • Set a near term goal of three women on each top leadership team where important decisions are made.

Why three? It is extremely difficult and unlikely for the lone woman or any lone minority to change the prevailing culture. Almost all lone women share the experience of speaking up during a team discussion and being ignored, overridden, or dismissed. Within minutes a man in the group states the same point. This time the peer group acknowledges the speaker and often supports his idea. The lone woman eventually become less active and less invested as this experience is repeated. Because no one else in the group shares the woman’s experience they do not notice this dynamic and without support she become less vocal. The opportunity for culture change diminishes as does her effectiveness in the group.

2. First Women Selection, Support, Accountability
  • Carefully select, sponsor and mentor first women who join the team before the rule of 3 is achieved.

They must be highly capable of doing the job and being trail blazers. These women are courageous, self-confident and resilient. They read the human landscape and respond with flexibility, keeping the end goal in mind. They need a solid support group inside and outside the company. Spending time with members of this group is part of the job.

  • Hold both her sponsor/mentor and the first woman accountable for her success.

It is their success. Their relationship includes mutual learning and requires a high level of trust so that vulnerabilities and difficulties can be openly discussed and addressed. He also ensures that she has access to important networks. The sponsor creates a learning environment such that the first woman and her peers can explore sensitive issues to improve team performance. Advice and counsel from experts in change management, human dynamics, and diversity help ensure the first woman, her sponsor and the team are successful.

  • Establish first women and first sponsor groups.

A formal group of all the first women becomes a mechanism for supporting each other and changing the culture. A first sponsor group plays a similar role. These two groups also work together to learn, review progress, identify and remove impediments to culture change and enhance the success of first women.

3. Rapid Readiness of High Potential Women

To keep the pipeline full use very fast track approaches to prepare women for top leadership roles. A recent study by Steve Wolff, DBA*, the Hay Group, found the role of executive assistant, not to be confused with secretary or administrative assistant, to be one such method. High potential women who participate in decision making discussions with senior executives are ready for top leadership positions sooner than when traditional methods of moving up through the ranks are used.

These practices create change at the individual, team and organizational levels simultaneously. The first women, sponsors and peer groups increase their capacity to work across the gender boundary. They remove impediments to culture change and act as role models. The effects cascades through the organization and the critical path to success for second women is faster and smoother. In addition, the first women are ready-made sponsors and mentors for those next in line.

*Steve Wolff, DBA. The Coming Leadership Gap. Presentation to New England Society for Applied Psychology. Waltham, MA. March 7, 2010

These are but a few uncommon practices for cracking the glass ceiling. Please add your ideas, suggestions and comments. Together we can crack the glass ceiling.

Cracking the Glass Ceiling Requires Uncommon Practices

The Glass Ceiling Hasnt Opened

Despite the number and variety of programs for women at large corporations such as Deloitte and Touche, General Electric, Procter and Gamble, American Express, etc. the number of women in top leadership roles at major U.S. companies remains relatively unchanged in recent years.  For the most part these programs address such things as hiring and developing women and result in more women at lower and mid-level management roles. But glass ceilings stay put for most women who aspire and have the talent to contribute at the companys highest levels.

Best Practices Wont Do

Increasing the number of women in key roles at the top of corporations calls for culture change. Research from The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science Engineering and Technology. and the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report indicates that women still encounter an uninviting and hostile macho culture. The glass ceiling hasnt opened much for over a decade.  Best practices are simply known practices already in use and wont result in significant improvements beyond where we are today. To crack the ceiling open we need uncommon practices.

But what they are?

Albert Einstein advised that You cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created it. The culture that led to the glass ceiling is unlikely to produce the needed change in thinking. Why? Members of the dominant power group whose beliefs, thoughts and actions determine the culture, often dont see the thinking that creates it. They are akin to the fish who dont see the water in which they swim. Members of the non-dominant culture have an outsiders perspective and a clearer view of the culture and the thinking or hidden assumptions on which it is based. Herein lies the dilemma. The very culture that needs to embrace change presents obstacles to entry for those women who will make it happen.

Uncommon Practices Are Needed

The following uncommon practices are designed to break through this impasse and shift us to a new more effective leadership paradigm.

1. The Rule of 3
  • Set a near term goal of three women on each top leadership team where important decisions are made.

Why three? It is extremely difficult and unlikely for the lone woman or any lone minority to change the prevailing culture. Almost all lone women share the experience of speaking up during a team discussion and being ignored, overridden, or dismissed. Within minutes a man in the group states the same point. This time the peer group acknowledges the speaker and often supports his idea. The lone woman eventually become less active and less invested as this experience is repeated. Because no one else in the group shares the woman’s experience they do not notice this dynamic and without support she become less vocal. The opportunity for culture change diminishes as does her effectiveness in the group.

2. First Women Selection, Support, Accountability
  • Carefully select, sponsor and mentor first women who join the team before the rule of 3 is achieved.

They must be highly capable of doing the job and being trail blazers. These women are courageous, self-confident and resilient. They read the human landscape and respond with flexibility, keeping the end goal in mind. They need a solid support group inside and outside the company. Spending time with members of this group is part of the job.

  • Hold both her sponsor/mentor and the first woman accountable for her success.

It is their success. Their relationship includes mutual learning and requires a high level of trust so that vulnerabilities and difficulties can be openly discussed and addressed. He also ensures that she has access to important networks. The sponsor creates a learning environment such that the first woman and her peers can explore sensitive issues to improve team performance. Advice and counsel from experts in change management, human dynamics, and diversity help ensure the first woman, her sponsor and the team are successful.

  • Establish first women and first sponsor groups.

A formal group of all the first women becomes a mechanism for supporting each other and changing the culture. A first sponsor group plays a similar role. These two groups also work together to learn, review progress, identify and remove impediments to culture change and enhance the success of first women.

3. Rapid Readiness of High Potential Women

To keep the pipeline full use very fast track approaches to prepare women for top leadership roles. A recent study by Steve Wolff, DBA*, the Hay Group, found the role of executive assistant, not to be confused with secretary or administrative assistant, to be one such method. High potential women who participate in decision making discussions with senior executives are ready for top leadership positions sooner than when traditional methods of moving up through the ranks are used.

These practices create change at the individual, team and organizational levels simultaneously. The first women, sponsors and peer groups increase their capacity to work across the gender boundary. They remove impediments to culture change and act as role models. The effects cascades through the organization and the critical path to success for second women is faster and smoother. In addition, the first women are ready-made sponsors and mentors for those next in line.

*Steve Wolff, DBA. The Coming Leadership Gap. Presentation to New England Society for Applied Psychology. Waltham, MA. March 7, 2010

These are but a few uncommon practices for cracking the glass ceiling. Please add your ideas, suggestions and comments. Together we can crack the glass ceiling.

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