An earnest group of young ‘high potential’ men told me why there were so few women at the top of their organisation.
They gave me three reasons:
- Women had to take time out of work to have babies and then care for them – not only was it a biological factor, they said, many women preferred to stay at home.
- Women are typically secondary bread winners and had the option not to work, or work less, so it was probable that they weren’t very interested in senior roles.
- Women aren’t very good at mentoring each other. ‘Men in the executive team will see something in you and want to mentor you or encourage you to develop. I don’t see women doing that for each other, and they should!’
At this point, one of the young men could no longer restrain himself, ‘What women?’ he blurted. ‘There are no women, bozo!’ He then told his colleagues they were living in the past and that it wasn't true that women didn't want to have careers.
At this point I was relieved to hear that at least one of these guys was paying attention and able to differentiate between stereotype and reality.
Before this point I was despairing that nothing was ever going to change.