Enhancing diversity through Career Management

Sources of Bias and Discrimination in promotion Decisions:

Women and people of color tend to experience relatively less career progress in organizations, and bias and more subtle barriers are often the cause. Yet this is not necessarily the result of decision makers’ racist sentiments. Instead, secondary factors such as having few people of color employed in the hiring department may be the cause. Sometimes the bias may be unintentional and uniformed. In one study, the people of color applying for promotions actually had more work experience, and were therefore ironically had seen as reached their peak. In any case, the bottom line seems to be that whether it’s bias or some other reason, questionable hurdles like these do exist, and need to be found and eliminated.

Similarly, women still don’t make it to top of the career ladder in numbers proportionate to their numbers in US industry. Women constitute 40% of the workforce, but hold less than 2% of top management positions. Blatant or subtle discrimination, including the belief that “women belong at home and are not committed to careers”, inhibits many managers from taking women as seriously as men. The old boy network of informal friendship forged over lunch, at social events, or at club meetings is usually not open to women, although it’s often here that promotional decisions are made. Lack of women mentors makes it harder for women to find the role models and supporters they need to help guide their careers. Unlike many men, women must also make the: career versus family decision, since the responsibilities of raising the children and managing the household still fall disproportionately on women.

Balancing work and family life can be challenging. For example, BB gave up her job as head of PepsiCo’s North American beverage business in order to spend more time with her family. LN an auditor with Deloitte and Touch, left to join smaller accounting firm after trying to balance a 70-hour workweek with her responsibilities as a new mother. Her situation also illustrates what employers can do to resolve such work-family conflicts. When Deloitte instituted a new flexible work schedule, LN went back to work there. She signed an agreement to work 80% of the hours normally expected of her position. She also arranged to work more hours from January to March (when the workload is heaviest) and to take more time off the rest of the year to spend with her two daughters.

Women and men also face different challenges as they advance through their careers. Women report greater barriers such as being excluded from informal networks than do men, and greater difficulty getting developmental assignments and geographic mobility opportunities Women had to be more proactive to get such assignments. Because development experiences like these are so important, organizations that are interested in helping female mangers advance should focus on breaking down the barriers that interfere with women’s access to developmental experiences.

Adding to the problem is the fact that some corporate career developments programs may actually be inconsistent with needs of minority and non-minority women. For example, many programs assume that the workplace plays a central role in people’s lives, but family needs may well play the major role in many women’s (and men’s) lives. Similarly, such programs may assume that career paths are orderly, sequential, and continuous; yet the need to stop working for a time to attend to family needs may well punctuate the career paths of many people of color and women and perhaps men. And, in any case, a study of male and female corporate expatriates concluded that three organizational career development activities fast track programs, individual career counseling, and career planning workshops were less available to women than to men. Many refer to this combination of subtle and not-so-subtle barriers to women’s career progress as the glass ceiling.

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