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Women Leaders

By Sara White posted 01-04-2015 09:36


In this dual couple era what are the expectations and reality of men and women? In the December 2014 HBR article Rethink What You “Know” About High-Achieving Women” are the following insights. The authors surveyed more than 25,000 Harvard Business School (HBS) graduates and this article focuses on the MBAs as this is the 50th anniversary of women being admitted to the HBS.

  • As they graduate both men and women don’t differ much in terms of what they value and hope for in their lives and career
  • Among those working full time, men were more likely than women to have direct reports (81% to 71%), profit-and-loss responsibility (58% to 45%) and positions in senior management (57% to 41%)
  • In terms of satisfaction men are more satisfied than women in; meaningful work (59% to 49%), professional accomplishments (52% to 44%), opportunities for career growth and development (50% to 41%) and compatibility of work and personal life (58% to 50%).
  • A deeper analysis found that some prevailing beliefs about why women’s progress has stalled are unsupported
    • It simply isn’t true that a large proportion of these women have “opted out” to care for children
      • 28% of Gen X and 44% of Baby Boomer women had at some point taken a break of more than six months to care for children, compared to only 2% of men in those two generations
    • They also found that certain expectations regarding how couples will distribute career and family responsibilities may contribute to women’s stymied goals and lesser satisfaction.
      • In terms of expectations and reality of; career taking precedence over family, Gen X men expectation 61% reality 70% while Gen X women were 25% and 39%. Boomer men 56%, and 74%, women 17% and 40% so reality exceeded expectations
      • In terms of childcare a large majority of men expected women to take primary responsibility; Gen X men expected 78%, reality 86%, women 50%, 65% Boomer men 84%, 86% women 50% 72% so again reality exceeded expectations
      • Millennials; half of men expect their careers to take precedence over their partners while only a quarter of women have the same expectation. Two thirds of men expect their partner to take primary responsibility for raising children while fewer than half women expect they will take primary responsibly.
  • These data show that men generally expect that their careers will take precedence over their spouses’ career and that their spouses will handle more of the child care, and for the most part men’s expectations are exceeded.  
  • Women expect that their careers will be as important as their spouses’ and that they will share child care equally but in general neither actually happens.
  • These patterns appear to be nearly as strong in those currently still in their 20s


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02-09-2015 16:59

And as important as having a mentor might be, it is equally important to have a sponsor who will introduce you into the leadership pipeline. These are two very different functions and aspiring leaders need both. Men naturally acquire sponsors but research shows that this is not always so easy for women to achieve, particularly in healthcare.

01-11-2015 09:35

I agree it would be interesting to know how women pharmacists are experiencing their life/career.
Thanks for commenting

01-08-2015 12:43

Overall I think that this article is valuable, but I'm not sure that it represents women in leadership positions overall, as the demographic that was surveyed were graduates from HBS, which seems to indicate a higher achieving person. As Jaclyn mentioned, I would love to see this survey sent to women in pharmacy in general, not just administrators. I think that pharmacy is a great career choice for women who are motivated to lead. As the ratio of men to women in graduating classes continues to lean more towards women, I am interested to see the attitudes and beliefs that women hold regarding their options and future leadership positions, as well as the work/life balance.
Thanks for discussing this Sara!

01-08-2015 11:48

Hi Sara,
I am so glad that you brought this article up for discussion! When I read this article it resonated with me but also made me slightly fearful of the future of "expectations vs. reality", as you mentioned. I have read several books on women and leadership, and the trends addressed in this article are discussed frequently elsewhere. I find as a new practitioner, defining how career will fit in with other parts of life is extremely difficult, especially when many aspects of each are not predictable. I believe mentorship is absolutely necessary in these matters, as decisions related to both professional and personal life events are often multi-faceted and not straightforward. I have learned much about life from mentors throughout my academic and professional careers. It would be interesting to conduct a similar survey of pharmacy administrators as such information may be similar or different than the sample of business graduates described by this article. These topics are extremely interesting and should stir up some great conversation, especially amongst our women readership.