Continuing on my last post about why I will never become a vice president, I’ve been thinking a lot about all these articles about gender equality in the workplace. The findings show that the higher in the organization, the more male it becomes – and, most shockingly, this starts with the first promotion when men are more likely to be promoted to manager than women.
The report assumes women WANT to be senior leaders (or that we should want to be senior leaders.) Who really wants to be a senior leader? There are two reasons you would want to become an executive – money and power. You can make money without being a senior executive – definitely not as much money – but you can make enough to have a happy and satisfying life lower in the organization. Since men tend to make more money anyway, women have the option to marry someone who is making a lot and have other ways to have that lifestyle anyway (*I did not go this route as I marry a man who makes less than50% of what I earn today.) If you don’t desire a high income and you don’t want power, then why WOULD you want to be a C-level executive?
For women, the point in their lives when they have to make the decision if they want to become leaders happens at the same age when they likely are having their first children. Even if they were chasing money and power before, suddenly prioritizes shift. Some women may not want to be caregivers and want to become a senior executive. But many of us don’t have that desire. I see what it’s like to be a senior exec, I know the responsibilities first hand – and while I want to want that – I don’t want that. Yes, it would be nice to have a large house in Marin or Palo Alto or Hillsborough, but I don’t NEED to have a large house. I don’t need to be the 1% to be happy.
Moving up the corporate ladder means increasingly more pressure, more stress, more sleepless nights, more inability to see your family and be anything but your job. For some women, that’s what they want, and that’s fine. But many of us don’t want that. And we don’t see it as something that we have to do. Maybe men feel that way as they are raised to be the breadwinners, or they attach so much of their personal identity to their jobs and their career success. As a woman, despite managing a team and earning nearly $200k a year, I do not feel successful right now. In fact, I’m more lost than ever.
Maybe a lot of men feel this way as well – but it’s less socially acceptable to admit this. And as a male executive you live in a world of mostly other men who you can bond with and go to drinks with. For men, going to work may be fun. For women, it’s always a job.
Sheryl Sandberg tells us to learn in — don’t leave before you leave. Keep fighting your way to the top. But why? Why should we want to be at the top? Why should ANYONE want to be at the top? Will that really make you happy?
Now if you’re responsible for managing a product line or creating something that can help save the world then maybe you might happen to enjoy being in a leadership role because you get to call the shots on what to build. But other than that, being a senior executive sucks. I really want to survey men who in these senior level roles – do you love it, and why do you love it? Is it the money? Is it the power? Is it because you attach your identity to your professional status? And then I want to ask senior-level women the same thing. I bet there would be some interesting findings.