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Women Executives Say Stereotypes Persist in the Corporate World

Catalyst, a women’s professional support organization, has released a study on female executives that shows women at the top in business are characterized by long work hours and being flexible. Women indicated that the best explanation for their success was they deliver results superior to male colleagues, consistently exceeding expectations. The study showed that 85 percent of female executives are optimistic about women’s promotional potential.

A majority of the women reported having to adjust their personal style so that male executives would not feel threatened. Many indicated that taking up sports such as golf let them in on an inside track that they were otherwise excluded from due to the fact that they were women, with 49 percent of the respondents indicating “exclusion from informal networks” acted as a barrier to career enhancement. Senior vice president and chief financial officer for Avon Products, Inc. Edwina Woodbury, commented on the pervasiveness of male corporate culture, stating, “It’s there all the time. How many business conversations, business decisions, are made in the men’s room ƒ or on a golf day?”

The study polled 1,250 women executives from Fortune 1,000 companies by mail in September of 1995. Thirty-seven percent, or 461 women responded, and their responses were compared to responses from 325 male executives. More than half of the women, and only 25 percent of the men indicated that “male stereotyping and preconceptions of women” were top factors in holding back their careers. Male CEOs cited “lack of significant general management or line experience” as the chief factor holding back women’s advancement, while women ranked it third. The report stated, “Until more women become plant managers, heads of sales and marketing, vice presidents for operations and division presents ƒ with substantial profit and loss responsibilities, the pipeline to corporate leadership will continue to lack a critical mass of women.”

The average income for respondents was $248,000, and 91 percent were white. Three quarters of them are married, and 64 percent have children. The study was funded by Seagram Co.

Sources:

The Nando Times and the Associated Press- February 27, 1996; The Washington Post - February 28, 1996

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