Career Women: Their Own Worst Enemies?


DALLAS, Aug. 8, 2008/ Women are their own workplace enemies when it comes to cracking the glass ceiling, claims leading U.S Behavioral Scientist, Shannon L.Goodson in her book co-authored with George W. Dudley, “The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance.”


“Women did not create the glass ceiling- the invisible barrier blamed for limiting their ability to earn what they’re worth- but they help maintain it, says Goodson.


In a 2008 study comparing 16,700 professional men with 11,745 professional women from thirty-four nations, Goodson found women to be overall more hesitant to network and less comfortable drawing attention to their skills, abilities and contributions than their male counterparts.


“Women are universally more hesitant to project themselves professionally regardless of country or culture,” Goodson said. “However, even among women, there are considerable differences. Professional women in the UK, US and China are among the least reluctant to promote their interests, whereas women in New Zealand and Sweden are most timid, followed by Australian and Canadian women,


“Being able to draw appropriate attention to your contributions and competencies at work has become an important part of modern career management whether we like it or not, and it is something most women are still unwilling or unable to do as consistently as their male counterparts, says Goodson.


Goodson’s research, presented at the annual convention of The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology and to other professional groups, confirms the vital but often neglected role effective self-promotion plays in the salary and status disparities between men and women.


“Men are more willing to draw attention to contributions they did (and sometimes did not) make and to participate in social and professional networking opportunities where they can direct attention to their skills and competencies. Women are less comfortable promoting their competencies. Many still cling to the myth that all self-promotion is socially unacceptable, un-lady like, and morally suspect. They believe hard work alone is sufficient to put them on salary and status par with their male counterparts,


“Good work is important, but good work alone does not, as the myth says, “speak for itself,” you have to give it a voice, claims Goodson.


After reading an article in a popular Australian publication a few years ago, Goodson launched a formal study of executive women in the U.S. who had already managed to successfully ascend the corporate ladder.  The Australian article suggested that some women who have made their way to the top of the corporate ladder tend to pull the ladder up behind them.  Goodson found some unexpected and troubling results from the U.S. study that seems to support the Australian experience.


According to study participants (women managers on the fast track), women executives may not be as encouraging or supportive as once thought. In some cases they may even sabotage the career hopes of aspiring women lower on the totem pole. This led many women in the study to actually prefer male managers to female managers, claiming men are more consistent and fair-minded than women.    


Compared to professional men, professional women in the U.S. worry more about outcomes, experience more stage fright, are more concerned about appearing intrusive, are more easily intimidated by persons with wealth, prestige or power, and do not make optimum use of social and professional networks.  Comparatively, professional women in Australia also struggle with stage fright and sensitivities about appearing too forward, pushy or intrusive.


The large and varied international makeup of Goodson’s study helps identify and clarify additional elements that keep women from earning what they’re worth. It also helps clarify specific inhibitions women may experience when promoting themselves, providing additional guidance to support personnel such as psychologists, counselors, consultants, coaches and others in the helping professions working with professional women to obtain the parity with men they seek and deserve.

Copyright 2009  Behavioral Sciences Research Press, Inc.  

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