"Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership" By Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli, Harvard Business Review (2007)
The full article from The Harvard Business Review can be viewed here: http://citt.hccfl.edu/Newsletters/NewsletterID1.pdf
Both of these women are writers, researchers, and professors of psychology. Studying the findings of these two women during my time at UW-Madison has compelled me enough to share this piece with you.
Starting out with jaw-dropping statistics that many of you may not already know, Eagly & Carli propose that the "glass ceiling" has shattered--but the challenges are far from over. They argue that it has shattered because there are some women who are now able to permeate through that glass--at a cost. They relate the current challenge of women leadership to pursuing a labyrinth, with "walls all around."
They state: "As a contemporary symbol, it conveys the idea of a complex journey toward a goal worth striving for. Passage through a labyrinth is not simple or direct, but requires persistence, awareness of one's progres, and a careful analysis of the puzzles that lie ahead" (pg. 2).
The richness of how Eagly and Carli convey the obstacles that make up the "labyrinth" of women's leadership is informative, and covers deep-rooted gender dynamics that many people haven't come to terms with yet. Most importantly, in my opinion, is the obstacle they describe called the "double bind," which is a term that describes the pulls and tugs on women to completely embody both communal "caring" leadership style, while also being agentic and sturdy. If a woman is to lean too far in one direction for a moment, the criticism will begin and the stereotypes start reinforcing themselves. Studies have investigated this phenomenon, about whether this "double bind" exists for men leaders, and results found overall that "men can communicate in a warm or dominant manner, with no penalty either way" (pg. 4).
Lastly, Eagly and Carli provide us with a list of valuable management interventions that can actually work in aiding other women's journey through the labyrinth. These interventions are essential, to say the least, and should be shared amongst women in management roles and beyond.
If you enjoyed reading this article, I would highly recommend their book: "Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders" (2007). One reviewer, Chris Nicholson, expressed Eagly & Carli's book eloquenty: "Too often the beliefs people espouse make gender inequalities seem natural by justifying 'accidents' of history that have assigned men and women uneven roles. 'Through the Labyrinth' (2007) is not one of those books." I couldn't agree more, Chris.
My questions for the Network:
- Have you tried to help implement these interventions that the authors provide us? Which do you see have the most potential, and why?
- Further, what do you think of the claim that the "glass ceiling" is no longer the most valuable way of describing the obstacles in women's leadership?
Intern, World Council of Credit Unions