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Why women’s careers do not spread their wings?

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– Can you imagine, – I am sharing the latest Harvard Business Review article with my eighteen-year-old son, – out of a hundred best CEOs in the world, only two are women.

– Women are worse managers. You see, their brains work differently.

Oh… There’s no research stating that women’s brains work worse. This topic is an important and sensitive one, which is wider than discussions about equal opportunities, and more complex than might seem from first glance.

I am not a feminist and I do not think that there should be women quotas for the highest posts in organizations. We (women) care about a flourishing Lithuania, we care about happy children, we like being mothers, and we want to actualize ourselves in our work and reach great professional results.

Bloomberg recently published a study done in Great Britain on the wages of men and women. Men’s wages were higher in all segments, but the largest disproportion was in the qualified work sector (around 25 percent) and the upper management level – 30 percent. The country will enact a law in April 2018 to make companies not only disclose average wages (like in our country), but to disclose the average wages of men and women separately.

It is interesting that, according to Bloomberg, the wage gap increases from age 40. Young women earn almost as much as young men, while the gap increases from age 40 onward. These data reminded me of an article published a decade ago by the researcher L.Brizendine. She thinks menopause stops women in their careers.

Just before Christmas I had dinner with a friend. She told me: ‘You know, I no longer want to go all out, I want to live for myself’. I understood her perfectly. Twenty years between the home and the workplace are bound to give you fatigue. And there’s no strength left to rise to a new challenge in the career. Or maybe it never was important?

Menopause is a period when a woman enters a new stage in her life. A one she’s never experienced before. She is no longer fertile, her skin is getting thinner, the hormonal rearrangement has a negative effect on her wellbeing. It might be possible that women feel written off as fertile partners. Men do not experience this. Their sexual vitality lasts for long.

The average age when employees work at the highest post in companies (the one with only 2 percent of women, according to the Harvard Business Review; by the way, in 2007, the percentage of women CEOs was the same – 2 percent) is 44 years. Just the time when women do not feel capable of much. When women’s strength returns – around age 50 – it is usually too late. It is worth noting, that a large percentage of women in this age group in the US decide to acquire a new profession or get a divorce – to start a new path in life.

It is obvious that combining family life with your professional life is a challenge. If you want to have a career, you either need a very understanding spouse or be single. The woman usually takes the role of the understanding spouse.

When working in the field of hiring and training, I encountered many talented young women who, for some reason, did not think they could be suitable candidates for the highest positions. Even though, deep in their heart, they would want in. I felt the reason for this might be their beliefs and not their brains, so I decided to do a study. In January 2018, we surveyed more than 300 young (born after 1990) Lithuanian men and women. The results were surprising.

Women dreamed of earning a million or becoming the CEO as often as men, but, when asked about their beliefs, the results were different. Almost no young women believe they can become millionaires or highest-level managers. On a scale of one to seven, the men’s belief that ‘I can earn a million’ was as high as 6.25, women’s – 4.47; ‘I can have my own business’: men – 6.50, women – 4.68; ‘I can become the CEO’: men – 6.00, women – 4.84.

Interestingly, women less often than men believe that ‘I can live a happy life’.

I asked my daughters why this is the case. ‘Mom, the baddies in the kindergarten or at school are always the boys. The girls must be good, go with the flow. If anyone challenges the unfairness in school, it’s the boys’.

Business is the realest game that is endlessly interesting. It is engaging, creative, passionate, it requires all of your internal resources, and it lets you feel the sweet taste of success. Nobody is born a manager or a leader. Leaders become who they are by rising and falling year after year. Leadership has nothing to do with masculinity of femininity. Leadership is human.

Today, the threshold for the potential of women is drawn extremely early in the educational system of Lithuania. Girls are not encouraged to dream, and courage is more of a defect than an advantage. There is a lack of examples of success, and there’s the opinion that if you have a successful career, you are not feminine or that you have abandoned the family. Women do not become hardened by failure (which is an essential part of business and leadership). When they encounter a larger failure, that old belief in their heads is reinforced: ‘this is not for me’ or ‘don’t punch above your weight class’.

I don’t think we can blame men for barring the way for women’s careers, or that management clubs are men’s clubs. A healthy competition lets everyone win, and the potential of women, when used, creates new opportunities for society. Most importantly – every woman can be happy by realizing her potential in the professional life, too.

I believe men don’t want their daughters to become only servicing personnel. I also wish my daughters to spread their wings as wide as they would want.

Dr. Alisa Miniotaite, Leadership and management expert, Founder of UAB „ALISA MANAGEMENT LABORATORY“ , International certified ICC coaching trainer for Baltic countries.




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