This month, we honor Women's History Month. This past Saturday, we celebrated International Women's Day. But how exactly do we choose to honor and celebrate these days? As during last month's observance of black history, there is a necessary tension in recognizing the achievements of historically underrepresented and oppressed groups: We are celebrating the progress of peoples despite living within systems of power (still in place) that would have them shut out, by brute force or by insidious power play. Maria C. Binz-Scharf, Associate Professor of Management in Business and Economics at the Colin Powell School, addresses the slow progress of women achieving equality in the workplace in her International Women's Day post on the Complexity and Social Networks Blog of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science and the Program on Networked Governance, Harvard University.
She looks at the numbers of women occupying management positions around the world (hint: they're still abysmally low), pushes back on Sheryl Sandberg's advice to lean in, and reflecting on her own struggle to find female mentorship in her early career, recommends women take stock in informal networking opportunities.
Outside of female-dominated fields, networking is harder for women. This is not merely a question of numbers, but also a question of time, rooted in the perception of work/life balance by many women. As Arlie Hochschild described in her seminal book "The Second Shift", women perceive their "double day" (work and home) as an individual problem, not as a social problem, which it actually is, and the "supermom strategy" is for the working mother to do it all. To me, an obvious consequence of this strategy is that women try to find ways to save time during the work day, and one of the first things to be cut is time spent in informal situations, such as hallway chats, long lunches, or receptions. But it is a short-sighted strategy, and it might be the very reason we tread in place. We have to tune out the ticking of the babysitter clock, and instead make conscious room for networking in our schedules. Networking is not a waste of time. It is a way out of the still gaping gender gap in the workplace. So here is my wish for International Women's Day 2014: Let's make a commitment to not only lean in, but to also reach out.
You can read the post in its entirety here.