First, the good news: dozens of women have been speaking out about sexual harassment in the workplace in recent months, bringing their upsetting experiences into the light and out of the shadows after a long period of silence about this issue in organizations. Understandably, women have been coming forward slowly either because of pressure to stay silent or justifiable fear of negative consequences to their careers. Gretchen Carlson spoke out at Fox News and brought about the firing of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, and other women gained courage from her example to tell their stories of sexual harassment at Fox.
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs where my mother and many of my aunts were strong businesswomen. I am also an entrepreneur, perhaps because I had female role models, and I have always wondered—why don’t more women start businesses?
Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times agrees that something is wrong with the underrepresentation of female business founders. She notes that while women make up half the workforce and earn 40–50 percent of the degrees in business, science, and engineering, fewer than 10 percent of technology startups are founded by women, and only 36 percent of all US companies are owned by women. Also, many woman-owned businesses are small, employ only the founder, and earn less revenue than businesses founded by men, according to the census data.
I just came across an interesting new study, reported in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), showing that companies run by male executives with female children rated higher on measures of corporate social responsibility (CSR), defined as “measures of diversity, employee relations, and environmental stewardship,” than is true for comparable companies led by men with no daughters. This means that male CEOs with daughters spend significantly more net income on CSR priorities than is true for other companies (unless the CEO is a woman, but more on this later).
In 2005, the women of Liberia elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the first female president of an African nation, and we can learn a lot by examining how they did it. In a recent article for the New York Times, Helene Cooper, a reporter who grew up in Liberia before immigrating to the United States in 1980, tells the story of how Liberian women got Sirleaf elected, highlighting valuable lessons for American women.
Where are the senior women scholars? Universities have been concerned about the underrepresentation of women at senior tenured levels for more than twenty years, especially in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines. I wrote about several studies seeking to explain this dearth of senior women scholars in a previous article. In response to the underrepresentation of women, many of these institutions implemented gender-neutral family-friendly policies in the 1990s. Justin Wolfers, an economist writing for the New York Times, reports new research on the careers of economists in the United States that shows surprising, unintended consequences of these policies for female economists.
Every so often things happen in the world that, for a moment, make underlying biases and stereotypes visible that are usually underground and hard to see. I believe this happened in the United States with the subtle, and not-so-subtle, emergence of racism when Barack Obama ran for president, was elected, and tried to govern. I believe gender bias and sexism are emerging now with the first-ever nomination of a woman, Hillary Clinton, by a major party for the presidency in the United States, and with the election of Theresa May as Britain’s new prime minister.
Therese Huston has written an important new book: How Women Decide: What’s True, What’s Not and What Strategies Spark the Best Choices. The book combines her own research with a comprehensive review of literature on gender differences in decision making. Some of her findings disprove stereotypes about gender differences, while others confirm and explain differences in decision making between women and men.
To address these differences, Huston offers decision-making strategies for women. She notes, “Books with advice on decision making for men can be terrible for women. . . . Women need their own playbook.” This is the best playbook on decision making for women I have seen. Here are some of the findings and strategies that stood out for me.
One of the most enduring myths about women is that women are mean to each other and undermine each other at work because of the Queen Bee Syndrome. Some women do have stories of sabotage by another woman at work. My research, published in my book, New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together, found examples of this type of behavior between women but also identified ways that organizational systems set women up against each other.
Even though women make up close to half of all law school graduates, Shirley Leung of the Boston Globe notes that a gaping gender gap exists in the legal profession. She speculates that it could be the long hours required by large firms, the male-dominated culture of those firms, or outright discrimination, but “women drop out.” Leung reports that
- Women comprise only 36 percent of the profession, according to the American Bar Association
- Only 18 percent of women are equity partners at the largest firms
- Women earn only 80 percent of the typical equity partner, according to a study done by the National Association of Women Lawyers
The wealth gap in the United States is outrageous, as highlighted previously by the Occupy Wall Street movement and progressive Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The pay of corporate CEOs continues to skyrocket, even when their companies underperform, while millions of citizens struggle to earn a living wage. The earnings of the middle class have been in steep decline, but corporate boards approve ever-increasing compensation packages for CEOs.