Enhancing diversity through career management

Sources of Bias and discrimination in promotion decisions:

Women and people of color still 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. In any case the bottom line seems to be that whether it’s bias or some other reason, questionable barriers like these do exist, and need to be found and eliminated.

Similarly, women still don’t make it to the 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 accounts for most of this. Some hiring managers erroneously believe that women belong at home and are not committed to careers. The old boy network of informal friendships 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. A 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 a challenge. For example, Brenda Barnes gave up her job as head of PepsiCo’s North America beverage business in order to spend more time with her family. Linda Noonan, an auditor with Deloitte & Touche left to join a smaller accounting firm after trying to balance a 70 hour workweek with her responsibilities as a new mother. Her situation also illustrates what a employers can do to resolve such work family conflicts. When Deloitte instituted a new flexible work schedule, Nooman 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.

Different Career Challenges

Women and men also face different challenges as they advance through their careers. Women report grater 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 developmental experiences like these are so important, organizations that are interested in helping female managers 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 development programs are inconsistent with the needs of minority and non-minority women. For example, many such programs underestimate the role played by family responsibilities in many women’s (and men’s) lives. Similarly some programs 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 several types of career development programs, fast track programs, individual career counseling and career planning workshops were less available to women than to men. Many refer tot his totality of subtle and not so subtle barriers to women’s career progress as the glass ceiling.

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