Harvard Business School (“HBS”) is currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of admitting female MBA students. Since that time HBS has seen a narrowing of the gender gap but much work remains to be done.
Although 40% of the class of 2014 is female, students still spend most of their time studying male business leaders, with just 8% of case studies focussed on women leaders.
Of HBS’s alumni just 50% of women said they’re doing work that is meaningful and satisfying, versus 62% of men and 42% of women surveyed stated that they were satisfied with opportunities for career growth compared with 52% of men. Further, 77% of women said they were “impeded in their advancement” by exclusion from informal networks, compared with 49% of men. That is not to say that HBS has not produced its fair share of female stars: Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co and Abigail Johnson, president of Fidelity to name just a few. However, we are still left with the age old question as to why gender inequality still prevails even in 2013?
Ilene, Lang, president of Catalyst, a New York based research and advocacy group for executive women and graduate of HBS stated “How a successful a woman becomes depends a lot on who she marries – and how much he supports her career.” She follows on the heels of Helena Morrissey, Chief executive of Newton Investment Management and founder of the 30% club (which campaigns for 30% of boardroom directorships to be held by women), who admitted that she relied on her stay-at-home husband, stating: “The idea that a woman can have a family and friends and hold down a difficult, high-octane job when both partners work full-time - that is a very tall order.” Practical advice such as choosing a supportive partner is a departure from the usual calls for women to simply push their careers forward. It is an acknowledgement that women who set out to “have it all” rather than “do it all” need to delegate at home.
However, the more usual rallying talk comes from Sheryl Sandberg who said “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat, just get on”. In promoting her new book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” which advocates the need for women to speak out and risk criticism, she has said “We need a heated debate…things that are stagnant don’t move unless someone gets upset.”
The reality is that whether you choose a strategic marriage/partnership or are simply jumping on that rocket ship, it’s never easy. If you feel you have been side-lined for promotion and missed out on opportunities, particularly following the announcement of your pregnancy or when you return from Maternity Leave, please get in touch.
By Employment Solicitor Deborah Casale.