However, there is another big reason why women don’t put themselves forwards for promotion in the same way that men do. I work, and always have worked, in a very corporate and male-dominated environment. For years and years I wondered why women didn’t do better in such environments, not in just my company, but any company.
And, by the way, this isn’t just the case in the corporate sector. Even in “traditionally” female-dominated environments such as teaching, the higher up the managerial ladder you go, the more the men outnumber the women. In a profession like teaching, this is even more extraordinary, given that fewer men than women enter teaching, but a far far higher proportion of men than women make it to the top positions, the headships and deputy headships. Why?
Various reasons have been put forwards by the meejia and commentators – the “mirror” effect (senior men tend to promote people who look like them – men, in other words), the “halo” effect (people tend to value most highly those attributes which have brought them success, so senior male managers will tend to promote those who display the same attributes – men, in other words). But this still doesn’t explain it. Why? WHY??
I’ve written about this question before, in my series of posts “Excuse me, I’m speaking” (look under the “Speaking Out” tag), where I mentioned a talk I went to by Cressida Dick, one of the most senior women in the police, ever. If you ever get the chance to hear her speak, do take it. She absolutely rocks. She’s intelligent, articulate, and brilliant; she’s also very, very funny.
She was speaking at a function to celebrate International Women’s Day, and spoke about how, when she joined the police force, there were no women dog handlers; she thought that this might be because, in order to qualify, each handler had to lift their dog over a six foot wall. She’s quite small and had recounted that she struggled to meet the height requirement for the Met; she then mimed herself trying to lift a large German Shepherd over a wall eight inches higher than herself, mimicking both her own facial expressions and those of the dog.
The joy of that moment will stay with me for a very long time. And (for although I am digressing, I am not digressing that much) another thing which she said stayed with me. She said that she couldn’t fathom out, after thirty-odd years in the force, why more women didn’t get to senior positions. Despite programmes and initiatives and targets to get more women into senior positions, men still vastly, vastly outnumbered women at the top and she didn’t know why. Why?