Growing up, I never doubted my own success in my career. I’m not sure that any child imagines what they want to be when they grow up and then stops to wonder if they’ll be successful. At that point in our lives, we imagine that whatever we want to be is possible simply because we can imagine it. But at some point down the road, whether it’s within our education pursuits or in real world corporate experience, we realize that perceptions, barriers, and the opportunities presented to us based on these things are a real consideration in whether or not we actually grow up to reach those childlike dreams.
Lesson 13 for this course has our commentary and our textbook discussing something that I’ve faced in my own career since 2011: barriers that are exclusive to women. The reason that I say that I’ve faced them since 2011 is because that’s the year my first child was born and I was forced to realize that I was now expected to work even harder so that my work felt as though they were my first priority while also making sure that my family thought they were priority number one. And while men also have children, there is still a social stigma that it is a mother’s responsibility to ensure that her children are cared for; this same responsibility does not rest solely on the shoulders of the father. This is both a problem with barriers as well as with prejudice in the form of gender stereotypes.
Northouse describes these issues as more in his description of what is called the “Leadership Labyrinth”. (Northouse, 2016, pg. 399) Northouse specifically describes this labyrinth as “a journey riddled with challenges all along the way” that women are faced with overcoming in the workforce. (Northouse, 2016, pg. 399) These challenges include these gender stereotypes and the work-home conflict that I discussed above as well as many more, including growth opportunities, biases in perception and evaluation, and work experience. (Northouse, 2016, pg. 400)
Northouse does a great job in explaining the fact that these barriers need to be removed or overcome before women can fulfill the same roles successfully that men are currently occupying. So far at my organization I have seen this trend: women occupy more than 50% of management roles, but occupy 0% of administrative roles in the top tier. By this I mean CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, director roles, etc. These are the leadership roles that kids talk about; I want to be a mid-level manager is rarely what a 7 year old will say. And when we look into this leadership labyrinth and the barriers that are presented to women, it’s easy to see why, especially for those of us who face them every day.
My husband, whose career I love and support, has never had to consider whether or not his job’s required hours will clash with childcare. I consider that with every position and promotion I take. My husband, who is well educated, has less education than I have, but is able to take a job paying more money because he did not have to consider family responsibilities when accepting the role. As the mom of the house, I do. My husband does not face gender stereotypes, gender differences such as expected assertiveness and attitudes; I do. Each of these issues are discussed in Northouse’s leadership labyrinth, and as a woman in the workforce I can verify that they are all true. (Northouse, 2016, pg. 400) As this is more of a family and society issue than a corporate issue, perhaps this is a barrier that will be harder to break. But, I have thought many times that more employers should work to offer onsite child care so women can focus on both priorities easier. Many top companies and hospitals offer this perk such as the University of Michigan hospital system, Disney, and IBM.
Northouse offers some solutions to overcoming other barriers that include employing a more transformational leadership style in order to bypass biases in how females should act in attitude and characteristics, working to change workplace culture, and even women starting their own ventures. (Northouse, 2016, pg. 408) I absolutely agree that these could be effective, but I do also think that some responsibility should lie on the shoulders of companies to ensure that treatment is equal. If the individual and the company work together to smash the biases and barriers, we could move a long way towards a more diverse and equal workplace.
Northouse, Peter G. (2016) Leadership: Theory and Practice. Sage Publications. 7th Edition.