One Reason Women Don’t Make It to the C-Suite
OK. It’s graduation, Father’s Day and another sunny Sunday— maybe instead of inspiration, I save perspiration and discuss this recent article from the Harvard Business Review.
According to Louann Brizendine, MD, the distinct demands that are put on men’s and women’s brains at key career phases may help explain the gender inequality in top management.
Many women are sidelined, ultimately, by a timing issue.
There’s a certain age, long established by large organizations, at which professionals must decide to make their play for the big promotion—the one that will put them in line for the C-suite—and while it’s a good time for men, it’s not a good time for women.
That go-for-it moment typically comes in one’s forties, when managers have gained the knowledge and perspective needed to take on real stewardship of a business. But at that phase of life, women with children already have a lot on their plates. Not only are they usually expected to handle the lion’s share of responsibility on the home front (even when both members of a couple hold full-time jobs), but their own brain chemistry makes it hard for them to do otherwise. For reasons important to the survival of the species, women in childbearing years undergo changes that intensify their focus on the viability of offspring. It’s a passing phenomenon, but ill-timed for those with career ambitions.
It’s not the quantity of care required that taxes the brain, however, so much as the unpredictable need for care.
When any decision maker’s brain function is overburdened, the result is stress, and nothing taxes the brain more than unpredictability.
People coping with heightened levels of unpredictability rarely go looking for even more ways to mix it up.
Ironically, if the same call came a few years later, many women would seize the opportunity. The very woman who could not find the capacity to green-light her own promotion in her forties can be, in her fifties, ready to take on the world.
No surprise that it is that exact time that I founded BRANDEMiX.