The Managerial Woman
Dr. Mom has written extensively on women in management. I appreciate her writing: it keeps her and Charmaine out of Nordstroms…
Here is a speech she gave some 20 years ago — it seems that mom was on the cutting edge.
Note her use of ‘alliances’ used by managers to get things done. Your Business Blogger(R) was using the term “networks.” Bill Oncken uses “support” both as a verb and as an adjective describing ‘system’ in his “molecule of management.”
Dr. Crouse has the better word, I believe.
The Managerial Woman
SETTLING IN, BRANCHING OUT, MOVING UP
By JANICE SHAW CROUSE, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs,
Delivered to the Career Women’s Council, Marion, Indiana, August 19, 1986
It is with a tremendous amount of gratitude and to be honest just a few pinches of regret that I stand here today and officially close the first year of the Marion-Grant County Career Women’s Council. I hope that you all share in the sense of satisfaction at what has been accomplished this year. There is a summary of the year’s activities at your place setting. Here you see the joint product of the hard work of this year’s officers and committee chairs as they worked to launch this organization and to plan challenging and interesting programs. I am proud of the growth and development that has occurred in our founding year and I know that you join me in expressing appreciation to each person who made this year such a success. Further, I look forward to the coming year since I know that the new officers whom we installed today are well-qualified and the plans which they have already begun laying out for next year are exciting. I look forward to seeing the continuing progress and growth which is sure to come under their leadership….
One of my favorite cartoons has Pogo staring out into space declaring “The world is full of insurmountable opportunities.” We, as women managers, can certainly identify with Pogo’s comment. For women who have undertaken the challenges of the marketplace, Pogo’s description fits beautifully. Our career world has been and continues to be full of insurmountable opportunities.
Let’s take a few moments to look back at the nature of the insurmountable opportunities faced by female managers in the early days. One of the most intriguing projects I have ever done was a study of 25 books written to provide guidance and advice for women managers. The writing of these books covered a little over a decade beginning in the early 70s. The earliest of these “how-to-do-it” books focused on “looking like” and “acting like” managers. There was very little concern with performance or quality. At that time, the major challenge was to get a foot in the door.
In the next few years the emphasis changed and the focus shifted to survival techniques. Certainly, those books were appropriate because in those days – as now – very few women survived the pitfalls and made significant advances in the management hierarchy. Of those who did survive and advance, most did so at the price of enormous sacrifices in their personal lives.
Hennig and Jardim in their classic book, The Managerial Woman, examines women’s track record of surviving in the corporate structure. They traced 25 successful women managers through childhood to a top-level position in their companies. Their study revealed that in order to survive, all 25 executives had to essentially give up life outside their careers. Each of the 25 devoted total energy to her job. In addition, each had a male mentor who protected her and ran interference for her in the workplace.
For the most part management is still dominated by the male majority many of whom instinctively tune women out. While our numbers are increasing, we still tend to hold lower level management positions and it is very difficult to break through to the top. Many men are only comfortable interacting with women in subordinate positions or women in roles not related to the business world. They continue to transfer domestic patterns of attitudes, relationships and reactions to women at work.
It doesn’t help the situation when we carry into our business environment patterns of speech and mannerisms inappropriate for leadership roles. And it certainly doesn’t help when women – like many men – behave as though the primary objective is to make certain that they are “looking like” and “being treated like” managers.
Fortunately, managerial women and those who write about and for us are now tackling the real issues of how women can actually “BE” managers; how we can effectively handle our responsibilities. I was glad to see the shift of interest and focus from image to performance and from perks of the position to its opportunity for significant participation. That is one of the reasons I am a part of the Career Women’s Council. We exist as an organization because we are professional women who want to deal with performance and the shaping of organizations. We want to handle our responsibilities capably; we want to be involved in decision-making, handling conflict and solving problems.
As the newness has worn off and the initial excitement dimmed, executive women are entering a new phase. The new woman manager is interested in more than assertiveness training, how to dress for success and stress management workshops. She wants to be able to reach her potential. That means learning how to match her abilities and interests with the demands of her job in ways that make her a vital pat of the total organization or corporation. She is learning that strength and confidence can lead to a light touch rather than heavy-handed aggressiveness. She is learning that humor and femininity do not have to diminish authority and power.
You and I know we still have to follow the Biblical injunction to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” We all know that Betty Harrigan is right – there are a lot of games that mother never taught us. The military and football motifs common to the male networks are still outside the experience of most of us and most of us are still novices at the competitive strategies men grow up absorbing. Maybe that’s not too bad. I find it very satisfying to note that the corporate world is now, however slowly, beginning to adapt to and absorb female styles of management.
We have come a long way. We are settling in, branching out and moving up.
How are we settling in? In the past 20 years, the percentage of managerial positions held by women has increased by 150 percent. By 1984, women were holding an estimated 33 percent of all managerial and administrative positions in business. The only shadow in the rosy picture is that among the top 50 companies of the U.S. only 2 percent of the executives are women. We are still, for the most part, out of the board rooms. Some women are solving that problem by starting their own businesses. Female-owned businesses rose from 5 percent in 1972 to 15-20 percent in 1986.
For those of us who are not planning to start our own business, the picture should not be discouraging – in spite of the statistics. We are proving ourselves. We are settling in. As Judie Forbes says in Newsweek, March 1986, “women haven’t earned the right to be mediocre.” Most of our female role models are people we can point to with pride. Women are proving that we can get the job done and that we have what it takes. Many people are finding that they like the way women manage. Not only can we get the job done; we do it in a way that builds rapport and this has the potential to significantly change the workplace.
Ned Herrman, chairman of a research and consulting company that specializes in studying how the brain works, has commented that “women are able to blend intuition and logic in their thinking” and they are able to assimilate “relationship issues with great clarity without large data or data-based materials to work from.” Further, leadership studies at West Point conducted after female cadets were admitted, showed that male and female cadets did equally well in getting the job done, but women rated higher in looking out for subordinates’ welfare and showing interest in subordinates’ lives.
By using our abilities and strengths and performing with excellence, attitudes are changing. Men’s favorable attitudes toward women executives rose from 35 percent in 1965 to 73 percent in 1985. In addition, some of the old stereotypes are finally dying out. In 1965, 51 percent of men managers agreed with the statement that women were temperamentally unfit for management. In 1985, 82 percent of men managers disagreed with the statement.
All the evidence points to the fact that female managers are not a flash in the pan, we are settling in, we are here to stay, and most people like what they see and what they get with female executives.
When we reach top levels we will continue to do a good job. Far too many of the men who are presently at the top have not been able to cut it there and their businesses and institutions have muddled along without distinction. We are earning our stripes; we will be ready when the doors open – as they certainly will. We have settled in. The rest is inevitable.
In addition to settling in, women managers are branching out. We are taking initiatives. As America shifts to a service instead of an industrial economy, feminine skills are becoming more important. Even so, having abilities doesn’t automatically mean that a person knows how to use those abilities says New York Management Consultant Karin Allport. There are things that we need to learn about capitalizing on our strengths and abilities because quality comes when we use our aptitudes to best advantage.
There is an old cliché that says “it takes so little to be above average.” As women managers we must learn that as we branch out we must continue to produce a quality performance. Bear Bryant, the legendary Alabama football coach was once asked to explain his successful record. His response was, “It is the itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny things that beat you.”
For women managers, that lesson must become second nature to us. Quality and professional advancement are dependent upon successfully handling the itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny things. Each of us has to study our present situation to discover the available opportunities for honing our skills and propelling us forward professionally.
My husband and I just returned from a 25th anniversary vacation trip. In spite of the fact that every place we stayed knew that our visit was a special occasion for us, only one place paid attention to that detail and did anything extra to make our time at their restaurant or resort a memorable event. There was no evidence at most of the places of pride in a job well-done. The one quality performance stood out unmistakably and the extra effort cost almost nothing; the “extras” took very little time or expense. The result, however, was to set that establishment in a category quite apart from the others. The attention to detail and the quality performance was an itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny thing – but it made a difference.
Unfortunately, quality performances by women frequently go unnoticed, are taken for granted, are not acknowledged or do not lead to advancement. What happens is increased responsibility, but not increased status or position. You as a woman manager must learn to develop objective measures for determining to your own satisfaction if you are doing a good job. You have to keep your own score card so that even if no one else gives you credit for your accomplishments, your self-esteem can be nurtured and you can recognize the progress you make.
Beyond the internal rewards, however, we must learn how to be what Adele Scheele calls “achievers.” In her book, Skills for Success, Scheele describes two types of workers. The Sustainers spend 70 percent of their time doing a good job and 30 percent of their time waiting to be recognized for doing that good job. The Achievers have learned to interact with others to discuss what they are doing. They are not braggarts, but they let others know what they have done by building contacts and alliances. Many women are woefully inexperienced at such “networking” and are still uncomfortable and awkward in talking about or broadcasting what they have done and what they can do. While we learn to keep our own scorecard, we must also learn to let it be seen by others. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough grandfatherly mentors to go around. Most of the males at our level or above aren’t interested in mentoring anyone else. Further, while they accept us on the team they aren’t about to acknowledge that we are competition in the race. If they can get away with it, they will let us burn out in our present middle management levels.
That brings us to the business of moving up. Those who are determined to run the race are discovering that we are in a new phase. The “top” is no longer just an illusive dream; though still somewhat rare, it is nevertheless an objective reality and when we look at that reality we need to ask some significant questions. With the goal in sight and with the prize within grasp, women are reevaluating their goals and objectives. Thus, as some are moving up; some are opting out.
John Nesbitt in Megatrends said that our society is currently in a period of parenthesis – that we exist between two eras. He describes the parenthesis as a time of contrasts – incredible potential for opportunities with equally incredible potential for devastation. That description is certainly true for women managers. The world we look out on is still like Pogo’s. Our world is still filled with insurmountable opportunities. Women have won the major war – the right and privilege of leadership can be ours.
But, suddenly women are counting the costs and some are determining that the price is too high to pay. A recent ABC television special reported, “Even professional women – the ones whose leather briefcases match their leather shoes – have it tough. For one thing, they still have to fight their way to the top. And once they’re there they often find that the price they paid was too high.”
Studies show that most men who make it to top executive levels have a strong, supportive family. For most, “the little woman” has stood beside and behind him and has single-handedly taken care of most of the responsibilities extraneous to the workplace. In addition, most men who make it in management have external support from their club, their gold partners – the list could go on, but you get the picture. In comparison, women in management for the most part are still responsible for the routine maintenance of their homes and personal lives. Even if she is fortunate enough to have a mentor, she seldom has the luxury of having a man Friday. Inevitably, the managerial woman must spend some time being “Superwoman.”
Fenn in the book, Making it in Management, says that “To succeed women must be able to risk and be willing to accept the consequences of their actions.” Moving up or moving on carries a heavy price tag. Life can fall apart when you move too quickly. One factor that looms large in such a decision is the adequacy of one’s personal support system. Supportive friends, family, colleagues, church, club, neighbors are important steadying forces that can be vitally important during transitions. Investing the time to maintain these relationships can seem an impossible expenditure of energy to someone who has given her work “all she’s got,” but several of our CSC members during the past year have seen the importance of this group during their major career decisions, transitions and crises.
Another vital factor in successfully moving up is timing. A career move appropriate at one point in time could be disastrous at another. As we count the costs and estimate the odds of a successful move at a particular juncture in life, we must evaluate the timing of the move both in terms of its advantages and disadvantages for career development and its effect on personal lives and relationships. It is extremely important not to be stampeded by the “only chance” syndrome, the fear that you’ll never have another chance like this one. It is comforting to know that other trains will be coming down the track and we have some control over the choice and direction of the train we take. Persistence, determination, personal growth and development, and pride in high quality work are the soil out of which opportunities grow.
We are the ones who have to determine whether to permanently stay at our present level, to wait for advancement where we are – even with the constraints and frustrations that are a part of the circumstances, or to go for it somewhere else with all the attendant stress that comes with a move into new circumstances.
Thompson and Wood in Management Strategies for Women state that the old advice and lessons are not enough. They argue that situations now require that a woman know her own abilities and interests in order to determine whether they fit the job she seeks. Further, they stress the importance of the woman knowing the organization and whether she can function within it.
Most of us in this room have decided not to opt out and have accepted the challenge of settling in; we are branching out and we want to move up. As we close out the first year of this career Women’s Council and as I close my remarks to you, I would like you to think back to the 1984 Olympics and the gold-medal performance of Mary Lou Retton.
Mary Lou had trained, disciplined and prepared herself for the competition. She was mentally and physically tough. She had paid attention to the little details that spelled excellence and quality. She had confidence in her abilities and she chose to go for the gold and reach the top.
The thing that set Mary Lou apart was the way she proved that she belonged at the head of the pack. The way she “stuck” her first landing and smiled that triumphant grin is indelibly imprinted in our memories. She won her gold medal, but she didn’t stop there. Mary Lou pranced right back to the end of the mat for her second vault to show them what she was made of. She sailed through a second vault that was also a perfect 10 and she proved that her gold-medal performance was a product of her skill as a gymnast and not just a lucky try.
There is a lesson there for all of us in the Marion-Grant County Career Women’s Council. Like Mary Lou on the eve of the 1984 Olympics, we stand today on the threshold of insurmountable opportunities. Through determined preparation, when Mary Lou reached her opportunity she was ready to shine. She performed to her full potential and proved that she was made of solid gold. Her success was a joy and an inspiration. There was no question that she earned her position; she belonged there and she handled the role with incredible aplomb.
Let it be true of all of us!