Interview with Edward. Differences Between the Experiences of a Male and Female in the Corporate World

posted August 10th, 2012 by Janet Graham - One Comment

Each Friday for the next several weeks, I will be posting different parts of my interview with “Edward,” a highly successful senior executive currently working in the financial services industry. I believe his perspective is interesting and worthy of consideration. As usual, I would love to hear what you think! Please share  your comments in the Comments section below.


I asked Edward to describe his impression of the difference between the experience of a male and female in the corporate world or financial services industry.


Edward says: “It’s difficult for me to describe the experience of a female executive. Years ago, I got to sit in on some women’s committee meetings at my former institution and somebody asked what I was doing there. I gave some answer that inadvertently implied that I might be able to actually contribute to the dialogue and several of the women quickly made me understand that was unlikely and I actually think that’s right.  It was fascinating to sit in on those meetings and I often think about the effect of that women’s group and the enduring impact that it had on that organization and the women who were part of it.


“I’ll give you the current lens I have and I think about this all the time.  My wife has an MBA and had a big job when we met. We got married and she continued to work and had a strong career.  When we had our first child, we had lots of discussions about how we should handle it and she decided to stop working, at the time temporarily, but as it turns out she hasn’t worked since partly because we went abroad and it would have been very difficult but it is thirteen years later and she has never worked since.  The thing I struggle with all the time is whether there is any chance I could have done what I’ve done if she was still working in a big job.  I look at the senior executive group here at this institution. There are both men and women.  The women have spouses who have high-powered, full-time careers.  The men do not. Every time I’m in a meeting with these people, I think about the additional load that the women must carry and I’m making no assumptions about the sharing of burdens in their families but I just know that if you’ve got two of these careers with 60-70 hour weeks going on something’s got to give and it’s got to be much harder.  It is a hugely under-estimated thing in terms of comparing women to men and I strongly believe when you see these statistics that there’s parity as you go up organizations which falls away at higher levels. It begins with a third women or something like that and gets thinner and thinner, and that’s a major part of the dynamic to explain why there are so few women at senior levels. I just don’t know how I could do it if my wife had continued her career and had the same kinds of demands and impacts on her life that I do.


“Other than that, I do believe that there’s been tremendous progress in 20 years in terms of allowing women to feel as included as men and in our organization the stats, which we take all the time, are that they feel every bit as included as men and at every single level, but it’s only in the last five years that that parity has emerged. There was a gap which was a bigger gap 10 years ago and so on.  So my view is that we’ve gotten really good as organizations, or at least some organizations have, at improving the work environment to make women feel they have the same opportunities, but mostly now, it’s things outside of work that interfere with whether women can achieve the same things in organizations that men can, whereas 10 or 20 years ago there were certainly as many forces inside the workplace.”


I asked Edward whether he thought a 50-50 split of responsibilities at home was possible. He says: “It depends what level you’re at and it also depends what resources you bring in.  In my case, I could probably make the argument that if my wife were still working it could be 50-50 at home.  It clearly isn’t now because she’s at home but it could be with help, nannies and so on, and it would still be very, very difficult.  The reality is that this role, or any role at this level, it’s 70 hours a week and it’s huge charitable work or social policy issues on the side and it’s tons of travel and you just can’t take on 50% of a normal household load without help and certainly not if there are two of you doing the same thing.”


What Strikes Me?


The challenge women face when deciding whether to work following the birth of a child


The ability to succeed at the very top of the house requires tremendous support and resources at home


Can two spouses in the same household achieve the same career heights? What is required to do so?


Institutions have gotten better at ensuring women have the same opportunities as men


The forces inside the workplace which hold women back have diminished compared to 10 or 20 years ago


What Strikes You?


Please share your comments.



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One Response to “Interview with Edward. Differences Between the Experiences of a Male and Female in the Corporate World”

Comment from Mary Tod
Time August 13, 2012 at 9:22 am

Janet … what a tremendous idea having ‘Edward’ participate. I’m intrigued with his candour about the workplace and his own personal situation. On the other hand, I despair at the inequality implicit in these situations. Sigh … have we come a long way or not?

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