More than 40 years ago, the Harvard business professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter published a pivotal book, “Men and Women of the Corporation.” Kanter showed that the disadvantages women experienced at work couldn’t be attributed to their lack of ambition: Women aspired to leadership as much as men did. But organizations often funneled women into jobs that didn’t have much of a career ladder.
By understanding gender-based expectations at work, some women were able to overcome them. From the 1970s into the 1990s, women made serious progress in the workplace, achieving higher positions, closing the gender wage gap and moving into male-dominated fields. Then that progress stalled, especially at the top. Why?
To answer that question, I talked with two experts who direct centers for leadership: Katherine W. Phillips, a professor of organizational management at Columbia University, and Shelley Correll, a sociologist at Stanford. They’ve known each other for a long time; they went to graduate school together.
[Why are some of America’s wealthiest professionals so miserable in their jobs? Read more in our Future of Work Issue.]
Emily Bazelon: At this point in our history, what are the major barriers to women’s advancement, and how do we dismantle them?
Katherine Phillips: Let’s start with the double bind that women face. If they’re perceived as nice and warm and nurturing, as they’re expected to be, they don’t show what it takes to move into a leadership position. But when they take charge to get things done, they’re often seen as angrier or more aggressive than men. It’s like a tightrope women are asked to walk: Veer just a bit one way or the other, and they may fall off.
Shelley Correll: Yes, women in leadership positions are seen as less likable when they do the same things male leaders do. That was a problem for Hillary Clinton and now Nancy Pelosi.
Read the full article in The New York Times.