Interview with Edward. Challenges and Difficulties

posted August 17th, 2012 by Janet Graham - One Comment

In terms of whether women face obstacles, difficulties and road blocks in the corporate world which are different from those faced by men, Edward says: “The biggest one is that biologically they happen to be the part of the partnership that bears the children and it’s crazy to say that’s not an enormous factor.  Other than that, depending on the industry, there are still outright biases and discrimination and sexism in our world.  There is. There is even in our organization.  There’s less and less of it but it’s still something you have to contend with.  I believe there are traits displayed by men that are perceived one way and traits displayed by women that are perceived another way.  Looking back on my early career, there was a woman and she and I were very similar in terms of our willingness to speak up, our intransigence, our stubbornness, but in that context it was perceived much more favourably in my case than it was in her case. I’ve heard men speak about how they viewed those characteristics in her case and there were negative connotations and in mine there were positive connotations.  By the way, I’ve told her all this in the last few years.”

 

In terms of what accounts for the documented lack of progress by women in the corporate world, Edward says: “I was involved with an initiative around this issue more than twenty years ago and I would say that had you told me that 20 years down the road there wouldn’t have been more progress on this, I would have said no way.  There are such forces at play here; it’s such a topic of discussion by senior ranks and at the Board level.  There’s no way that in the next two plus decades there won’t be a fundamental change.  There has been in other countries.

 

“I come back to the fact that while we’ve improved things around the edges in terms of the boys’ club and behaviours and our understanding of gender differences and cleaning up the work environment, society has not yet solved the problem of enabling women to pursue both the motherhood and professional parts of their lives. There are some countries where they’ve been more progressive about it and where they have shown better results, Scandinavian countries being an example, but it hasn’t happened here for whatever reason. And there hasn’t been a corporate clamour to have it happen.  So you can ask yourself why that is because it’s clearly in our interest to have it happen.”

 

When I asked Edward whether he thought it could all be explained by the choice to be a mother he says: “There are clearly other things in play.  It is a big factor and it’s naïve to think otherwise, but there are clearly other things at play, and part of it is just critical mass and this is why I would have argued so strenuously 20 years ago that we wouldn’t be where we are today, that there would have been more progress. I believe that the lever for real success is Board appointments because over the years where I’ve seen either problems or successes or calamitous things in organizations, you can always root it back to governance and the direction provided by the Board, the tone from the top so to speak, and just watching this organization, where we have several women on our Board, who are highly, highly effective, and have a voice because there are enough of them, and it works.  It’s not like there are just two or three women sitting there wondering when they should speak, and that dynamic just permeates the whole place.  I know that sounds simplistic but actually now I’ve come to believe that that’s the single most important thing that we in corporations can do to solve the parts of the problem that actually exist in or emanate from the corporation itself.

 

You have to have that whole infrastructure and measure it on a regular basis and make it matter, make it meaningful. It has to make a difference to how people succeed, whether they get promoted, whether they get rewarded, all that stuff.  I may be naïve but in this place that stuff definitely happens.  We have a CEO who is a huge believer in the whole diversity agenda but the first thing he really tackled was the women in leadership issue and we’ve made fantastic progress.  We can see it year by year by year. The stats have improved a lot and over time if we stick with it, if the next CEO does the same thing it will continue to improve, but that’s always a question mark, right? We’ve certainly learned this is not an easy problem to solve.”

 

What Strikes Me?


Biggest challenge women face in the corporate world is that biologically they happen to be the part of any partnership that bears the children and it’s crazy to say that’s not an enormous factor in terms of their ability to succeed

 

Society has not yet solved the problem of enabling women to pursue both the motherhood and professional parts of their lives

 

Traits displayed by men are perceived one way and the same traits displayed by women are perceived another way

 

Diversity initiative requires an entire infrastructure and progress has to be measured on a regular basis

 

Corporations have to make diversity matter, make it meaningful. It has to make a difference to how people succeed, whether they get promoted and whether they get rewarded

 

The lever for real success is Board appointments

 

What Strikes You?

 

Please share your comments.

 

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One Response to “Interview with Edward. Challenges and Difficulties”

Comment from Lorraine Gentleman
Time January 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Since women do pursue both careers and motherhood, I disagree that society hasn’t “solved the problem”. Yes it’s difficult at times but there are choices we make and support systems in place. I see lots of progress within my company, to provide a flexible work environment for people in general. A bigger proportion of women may start to move beyond middle management if it’s recognized this is a healthier approach for everyone.

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