Now, flip the statement on its head and feel the difference.
If you were only told that failure, barriers, bias, prejudice, discrimination, and obstacles would litter your path and limit your future, why would you even bother to try?
The latter is the dominant message of the Harvard Business Review articles on women in leadership these days. If we keep telling women they will only fail in corporate America -– just as women struggled one generation ago –- then why would women even bother to pursue the trek up the corporate ladder? If we keep telling women to fear the business world, to be wary of the evils lurking therein, why would they dare to try?
In the post Drew Gilpin Faust Harvard Business School world, we are pulling out opinions from journalists (Hymowitz and Schellhardt, 1986) giving their two decades’ old research the fresh breath of legitimacy or relying upon sociologists (Eagly and Carli, 2001) to assess our contemporary post-Sarbanes Oxley corporate life. Together, they provide a message of a contorted, crushing and concrete ceiling, pressing in on women’s spines and psyches.
Never mind about the data from two decades of progress. Never mind the fact that a woman is The Leading Candidate for President of the United States. Never mind all the progress that outstanding women have made in the intervening years.
Instead, let’s pretty up the same old message and scare the bitches back into the nest:
We keep reading that it is always society, culture and the corporations that must change to accommodate the special needs of women. Above all else, change comes not from women themselves as economic actors making educated and informed choices. There “must” be special preferences for women to succeed.
What could women do if they could see, instead, a message of opportunity, effort, education, potential and personal achievement? What could women do if they saw outstanding female leaders who are succeeding in today’s marketplace – in the 21st century economy – as if they believed they could not fail OR that they would learn from their experiences, good or bad.