As promised, I want to continue to share my answers to the interview questions about “why there are too few women leaders.” Here are the next three questions:
Why do women off ramp? The first two things I mentioned before about women needing to behave differently to achieve the same kind of success and the family choices many women make often create decisions to leave a career. Some women do use these motivators to start their own businesses so they can better control how they work, when they work, and their own definitions of success. A woman by the name of Margaret Heffernen wrote a book called “The Naked Truth,” and she talked about how many women were opting out of corporate America because they didn’t want to or have the resources necessary (energy, time, wherewithal) to figure out how to manage their way upward in a man’s world.
Why do women feel guilty about their decisions? As with all these questions, I’m making some broad generalizations, but I think most women are either natural or have been conditioned to be care givers…whether that’s at work or at home. And when the responsibilities at both places are more than anyone can possibly handle, we feel guilty. We feel guilty not getting work done the way we’d like to, we feel guilty not making work events because of conflicting priorities, we feel guilty when something goes wrong within our families, we feel guilty when something goes wrong with one of the kids…we are hard on ourselves and in many cases our own worst enemies. Sheryl (Sandberg) points out that we regularly underestimate ourselves. We are typically harder on ourselves than men are on themselves. So, when things don’t go perfectly, we beat ourselves up.
Why won’t women sit at the table? They don’t think they deserve to be there or they feel they don’t fit at the table. We are, at times, our biggest enemy. There are also times you’re the only woman at the table and you can be punished for that both by other women within the organization as well as the men. It can be a very lonely place. For some women, it’s just not worth it.
Stay tuned for Part III coming up in a few days. As always, I enjoy hearing your comments and perspectives.