Progression Aspirations and Leadership

Progression Aspirations and Leadership

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2107-7.ch008
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This chapter aims to: discuss prominent barriers to women’ career progression and development; demonstrate how senior women face a double bind, in that they need to adopt masculine traits in order to succeed in management and leadership roles, but are viewed negatively for behaving in masculine and therefore unfeminine ways; debate that view of management as masculine as persisting, in societies and organisations; explore how women are disadvantaged in the workforce; and discuss how gendered occupational segregation perpetuates.
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In this chapter, we will discuss career progression, career barriers, women in leadership and the characteristics of a good leader. Men may have disproportionate advantages in terms of career progression (Singh and Vinnicombe, 2004; Dick and Nadin, 2006; Bebbington, 2002). The boardrooms of most top UK and American companies are dominated by men with little change over the last few years. Singh and Vinnicombe, (2004) argue that senior women do not easily gain access to the boardroom, where an elite group of male directors maintain their power. Singh and Vinnicombe (2004) used the term ‘elite’ to denote those who had reached corporate director level, specifically on the FTSE 100 company boards. It has been suggested that supportive organizational practices for women show wide ranging positive outcomes. Women describing more supportive organizational practices also indicated more job and career satisfaction; higher levels of psychological well-being and increased organizational identity and commitment (Ng and Burke, 2005). Others commentators (Mattis, 2005; Giscombe, 2005; Hammond, 2002) while not explicitly studying psychological well-being have also have reported favorable job and career consequences of supporting women’s career advancement. Therefore, organizational practices, which positively support women and increase psychological health would seem to be a logical extension given the association of positive employment experiences with psychological well-being (Burke, 2003; Nelson and Burke, 2002).

Simpson (1998), in a mixed methods study of the careers of male and female managers across public and private sector organizations, suggests that women’s careers have always progressed in less orderly routes, characterized by changes in direction and organization and by career breaks. Simpson states further that their visibility and token status has meant that they have always faced additional pressures to perform and their career paths have often been characterized by uncertainty. Dreher (2003), studied 72 US corporations for sex ratios and work life balance practices and concluded that firms with the most generous benefits (flexitime, job-sharing, telecommuting, elder care and adoption benefits, and dependent childcare options), tended to be those a greater number of women in senior management positions. Dreher suggests using social contact theory that increase in proportionate size of minority groups promotes more contact with members of the majority, reducing stress and performance pressure experienced by minority group members. Furthermore, as the minority increase in numbers they can work to promote change in HR (Human Resource) practices.

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