The Clash of Women Power in Contemporary Society

 

Introduction

America has continued to learn how to deal with strong women during the great demographic shift in history. Media darlings such as Dolly Parton and Coach Pat Summitt highlight the power of women in their profession. According to Fortune Magazine, 15 Fortune 500 companies are run by women. Leading the charge are Secretary of State Hilliary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the government front. In fact, there is a long list of successful women in all types of institutions (Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Palin, Faith Hill, etc.).

Yet, the road to success for women isn’t easy. Many women’s dreams of a successful career have come to reality. Strangely enough, some women have been trying to have it all. This marks the clash. There are women who focus on the primary care of their families while delaying their personal dreams. Others dedicate their lives to their careers while compromising the stability of their families. In the middle, there are millions of mothers who attempt to do it all out of necessity and attempt to chase the great American Dream. I am focusing this discussion on the issues facing professional women in contemporary society. In fact, I conducted my own mini-action research project. I interviewed several professional women in the Knoxville area. However, their real names are not disclosed, to protect them. I am sure you can relate to potential drama since these ladies work in small industries.

The Problem

According to the 2005 Census Report, there are 82.5 million mothers in the United States, and there are 10 million single mothers living with children under 18 years old. Working moms make up 55 percent of mothers with infants. Feminists celebrate the liberation of working women while traditionalists postulate the merits of home-bound mothers for institutional stability. In fact, some people blame the moral decay of the country on mothers abandoning their families for  professional careers. Many women try to maintain a healthy balance of work and family life, but this balancing act leaves some of them “burnt out.” Therefore, there is a growing problem for women in particular and society in general in understanding consequences of women’s power in the near future.

 The Trend

Women stand at the fore front of disruptive change in the political, social, economic, and technological sectors of most counties. Dr. James Canton’s The Extreme Future notes “Women will comprise a high percentage of new workers and leaders, forever changing the politics of boardrooms and markets.” According to a US Census report, nearly one-third of all married women in the US make more than their husbands. More than 25% of working wives earned more their husbands in 2007 (up from 20% in 1983). Furthermore, women are earning college degrees at a faster pace than men. Between 2000 and 2001, women earned 57% of all undergraduate degrees.

Woman power is also being flexed in the corporate world. In 1983, women held 34% of all US executive and managerial positions. However, women held more than 50% of these positions in 2003. Futurist John Cashmen predicts women will forever change the landscape of all institutions: “The number of women in the primary breadwinner role will likely grow in coming decades, driven by social change and the fact that women’s educational achievement is outpacing men’s in many parts of the world.” Therefore, executives must consider how the changing roles of women in organizations will impact their corporate strategies.

The Career Strategy

Progressive women need to develop critical career strategies in a holistic fashion. Balancing work and family is difficult. In general, some men are already taking this transition personally. Some men are opting for the domestic life while their wives become the principal breadwinners. Therefore, society watches gender role reversals and wonder how it will end…relational success or failure?

For working women, any results are often problematic anyway. Yenissee Alonso and Vickie Brint, authors of the article Women in the Workplace, argue that women still deal with institutional barriers that keep them from being successful. For example, women in general are making less than their counterparts doing the same job with the same experience.

Alonso and Brint note, “Since nearly half of the workforce is comprised of women, it stands to reason that woman should be enjoying the same success as their male counterparts in terms of advancement opportunities and earning capacity.” Princeton researchers in a 2003 study concluded that college-educated women who hold higher expectations for their potential mate may lower their chances for getting married. In fact, some men may be uncomfortable with having a woman who has more education and makes more than them, postulate some theorists.

Sue Means is a professional engineer in a highly competitive consulting industry. She sees challenges for professional women. She notes that men are treated differently. Means explains, “Some of my colleagues talk about how pretty I am. They comment on my clothes and make suggestions regarding what I should wear. That would not happen to a man.”

Liza Fuller is a government program manager with a decade of experience in handling difficult environmental issues. She exists in a mostly male dominated industry. Fuller notes, “Women are still expected to work harder than men to prove themselves and avoid criticism. Attractive women still get grief about being promoted for reasons other than their own merit and it’s not fair.”

Furthermore, Canton suggests that the most educated, skilled, and experienced employees will be in high demand. Therefore, professional women need better strategies. Means recommends prioritizing what’s important: “I let go what’s not important. Most women get overwhelmed with trying to manage all of the household and family responsibilities while working at the same time. You need to be realistic about what you can do. It’s a balancing act.” Some women feel that they can have it all without any drop off. Fuller disagrees: “There is always a sacrifice because you spend more time away from your family.” Although there will be an ever increasing number of opportunities for women in the workplace, women must analyze every career move in a holistic fashion if they want to keep that delicate balance.

Conclusion

The future is bright for working women as never before. In fact, women will drive most institutions toward major changes in the near term. However, this article demonstrated that the road to success for most professional women isn’t easy. They must deal with sexism to a certain degree. However, the demands of their professional life have not kept up with the heavy demands of a family and personal life. Therefore, women must develop career strategies in a holistic manner that maximizes their efforts. In turn, society must learn how to embrace women’s power in the future if America hopes to continue to compete.

 Is it impossible for women in leadership to balance their professional and personal lives? If so, how? Can contemporary organizations change to fit the ever changing gender role reversals in society?

 © 2010 by Daryl D. Green

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24 thoughts on “The Clash of Women Power in Contemporary Society

  1. I believe is totally possible women balance their personal life with professional life. If they have a family support to help them with the home activities. Impossible is a full-time woman worker take care of all home care and kids by themselves. Everybody knows history about successful women that raise their kids and kept working to afford a good life for their families.

    However I believe women are less motivated to pursuit a managerial position, because of all the barriers she will have to pass trough. Additionally I also think that the labor market complicates women professional lives giving better salaries and opportunities for men, at least managerial positions. As the NY Times explains in the link below.
    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/16/the-gender-pay-gap-persists-especially-for-the-rich/?scp=9&sq=men%20earn%20more%20money%20than%20women&st=cse

    Some companies have programs to help woman to pursuit a carrier growth and a managerial position.
    Quotas for women managers is one option that companies in Norway, Germany and other European countries. Some companies hired a professional coach to help their female employees to find a balance between professional activities and personal lives.
    Other companies organize and fit women schedule for pregnant occasions or menopause periods between other sensitive situations for women.

    Others sources:
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/onbalance/2008/06/professional_help_for_balancin_1.html

    http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/22/using-quotas-to-raise-the-glass-ceiling/?scp=2&sq=helping%20women%20to%20have%20a%20better%20professional%20life&st=cse

  2. I feel women can balance their professional and personal lives just as well as men. It comes down completely to the individual and how they can handle it. Looking in my own family, I have male and female relatives that both work and have an average of two children. At some point, each of these people (males and females) had to cut back at work to spend more time at home. If a person works 12 hours a day, it is very difficult to spend the kind of quality time at home that you (most likely) desire. According to Judith Graham of the University of Maine, it is very important to set realistic goals and expectations. This is the main reason that individuals work those long hours. They are aspiring for something greater, that unfortunately, isn’t always achievable. Make sure to set realistic goals that include not only professional, but personal aspects. If you can successfully balance the two, you should achieve the time that you desire for both.

    As for contemporary organizations fitting “the ever changing gender role reversals in society”, I do not see or experience any of these gender changes in my workplace, so it is hard for me to tell. I hope that the inequality explained in the article is eliminated. Women can perform the same roles and tasks as men, so I see no need for the problem.

    Source: http://www.umext.maine.edu/onlinepubs/htmpubs/4186.htm

  3. One of the greatest lies ever sold to women is “you can have it all.” Truthfully, no one can have it all, not women nor their male counterparts. Isaac Newton trascended science when he said that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Without defference to sex this applies to everyone, and yes, believe it or not, it applies to men as well. Even in my own male dominated profession I have and continue to sacrafice time with my family to get promoted and advance. It is a complete misnomer to think that men do not face many of the same challenges as females in establishing a work-life balance. Therefore I, like many men, struggle with any concept that eases job related strain on one gender and not the other. I am all for contemporary organizations implementing programs that will equally help their employees better balance their lives and improve their personal relationshipe.
    Child care facilities at the office and work-at-home opportunities are great if equally and fairly offered to both men and women.

    http://www.forbes.com/2009/03/17/work-life-ceo-leadership-careers-imbalance.html

  4. Unfortunately, nowadays most females have to choose between career and family. Women are associated with motherhood, rather than with being working professionals. Many sacrifice successful careers to take care of their families, many juggling between their family responsibilities and careers, many chose career over a potential of having family. Out of all the female professionals I have met, I noticed an interesting fact about them: those who have already raised their kids by the time they have entered the business world, seem to be more successful than the ones who are trying to find time for both, business and their family.
    Another interesting thing that had emerged lately is “stay at home dads”. Basically, what happened was that successful females will let their husbands to stay at home and take care of their kids while they are doing what they do best – making money. For some families it works out the well, some are being judged… At this point, our society changes so frequently and there is no straight answer to the question “What is right and what is wrong?”

  5. Alla, good points too!

    OK…everyone…listen up again!

    This is not going to be a virtual food fight. If you post on this topic, you got to come ‘pretty strong.’

    You need to bring your A game to this discussion!!!

    You got to back up your strong opinions with facts, authorities, or other credible sources that support your position.

    Thanks,
    Professor Green

  6. Womens’ challenges in balancing their professional career with family life is similar to those faced by men. For those who are married and/or have children, women in leadership roles have to determine how much time and commitments to devote to their career and employer and how much to their family. When we say balance, it’s going to bounce all over the charts…..rarely ever being a nice 50/50 split. The more ambitious or driven a professional career minded woman or man is, the less time they’re going to spend with their family. Professor Mirjirna Radavic, PhD of Akamai University USA conducted a case study in Serbia on women leaders and their position in the business world.
    * Interviews conducted from 1.476 people,
    726 women and 750 men;
    * Interviewed people were between 18 and
    60 years old;
    * In the whole structure of respondents 30%
    were business owners;
    * 73 % were married ,19 % single and 8%
    divorced.
    One of the key findings of the study revealed that
    most respondents (60%) say that Corporate Culture is the most significant barrier to women achieving top executive positions, while only twenty-nine percent (29%) think work/family balance is a significant barrier to advancement and 36% believe that a lack of self-promotion holds women back from achieving top-level positions

    Reference:

    AdvancingWomen Web site Copyright © Advancing Women (TM), 1996 – 2006
    webmaster@advancingwomen.com.

  7. Women survived the recent economic recession better than men according to a recent study (February 2010) by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. “Jobless rate for men was 11 percent and that for women was 8.3 percent, the study showed.” (Cooke, 2010 Reuters). According to the study many of the jobs lost were in male-dominated manufacturing and construction industries. I think this is supporting evidence that more women than men hold executive positions in the U.S or hold positions that require higher education.

    According to a UNESCO report, on a global level, 67% of the working-time is covered by women. Another interesting statistic is that more women in the world are literate than men. So trends are looking bright for the future of women in the global workforce.

    It is possible for women to balance their professional and personal lives; however along with higher positions in the corporate world come more responsibility and more than likely less personal time available to the individual. Contemporary organizations have already started adapting to the shift in demographic workforce. For example, according to Fortune Magazine, one fourth of their best voted companies to work for in the U.S offer on-site child-care center. This is an example of adapting to the 10 Million working single mothers that live with at least one child under 18.

    I believe that men and women are affected in the same manner as individuals, however it is up to the person to create that balance between their professional/personal lives according to their personal priorities and culture.

    References:
    Kristina Cooke, reuters, 2010
    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN0214300820100302

    http://www.unesco.org/education/uie/confintea/pdf/3a.pdf

    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/bestcompanies/2008/benefits/

  8. The fact is colleges are full and expanding, this shows that people know what it takes to succeed. It does not come easy no matter who you are, the harder you push yourself and the more desire you posses to succeed, the farther you go in life. I believe everyone has the same opportunity, what a person does with it is up to them. There are too many success stories of people who had horrible childhoods and became great successes. Dolly Parton is a great local example of someone who was very poor as a child and has done great things for the community. Magic Johnson is another, I am reading his book on spotting opportunities in business. His family did not have alot as a child, he talks about gangs following him home and getting beat up. He has rose above that and tried different things, not all successful, but he did not quit!
    The quote by Erma Bombeck says it best, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me”.

  9. I definitely think women have the capacity to balance a professional and personal life; Means and Fuller both mentioned “prioritizing” what is important. I think one has to do some self reflection, find out what is truly important, and from there determine what is going to be sacrificed from either environment.

    Organizations will have no choice but to conform to the role reversals becuase, as stated in the post, women are obtaining degrees at a faster rate than men. Therefore for an Organization to compete globally it will have to attract, employee, and retain the best talent regardless of gender.

  10. Dr. Green, this is a touchy subject because I can have it all and nobody can tell me any different.

    Having it all depends on what the individual values. Life is about balance. What you individually determine to have value will determine your balance. Dare I say that women put more value in family?

    I do feel like I have it all. I am successful at what I do. My job allows me to take care of my son and myself while helping others. My family consists of my son and me. I am raising an amazing little boy and feel I have achieved great success at home as well. Having it all means knowing what balance is right for you and accomplishing that.

    • Dayla, thanks for the passion on the subject! I think it makes your comments more effective—passion that is!

      The subject is touchy. Yet, intelligent people should be able to deal with sensitive subjects in a respectful way. Each person has his or her own personal experience. When people offer their opionions as facts, that becomes problematic to any meaninful discussion.

      For example, an individual might passionately say it is impossible for women to have it all. You shout back “Yes, they can!” You got….a virtual food fight on your hands. Let’s not do this…period!!!

      Therefore, I ask each of you [again] to support your opinion with some facts and sources to enhance your position.

  11. Most companies are giving opportunity for females in leadership roles that were previously dominated by males. The question is has the companies adapted more or have the females adapted to the needs of the organizations. In 2009, most companies had very little overtime. With the economy on the decline, companies that survived were demanding increased productivity. The Family Medical Leave Act is available for males or females for situations, which are out of our control to protect their jobs. Many leaders especially females find themselves in conflict with personal family obligations and their job responsibilities. Many leaders find themselves facing medical problems, which are directly related to stress.

  12. “I arise in the morning torn between the desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
    E.B. White, American author and literary stylist

    In terms of work/life balance, both men and women are struggling to balance their personal and professional lives; however, in most instances the burden of caring for children while continuing to make a mark in the corporate world continues to fall more heavily on women. (Accenture, 2007) I do believe that organizations today are focusing on benefits and attributes to address the ever present need for both genders to balance their personal and professional lives. Select companies have begun to offer daycare services, on-site gym facilities and flexible work hours to promote their employee lifestyles. Will this be enough for women to be successful in today’s workforce? For all their successes, we see that even highly accomplished women still face subtle but pervasive inequities—lower expectations of how far they will advance when they begin their careers; slower pace of advancement than their male counterparts; greater pressure to be there for their families, their children and their colleagues; and higher dissatisfaction with both the work/life balance they have achieved and the personal income they receive (Accenture, 2007). Women will need support from their families, husbands and colleagues in order to achieve personal and professional growth and happiness. They should focus on themselves first, then prioritize their daily goals with acceptable time restraints.

    Reference: Empowering women from within. Accenture, March 2007

  13. Women can balance both their professional life as well as their personal life. In an article found on netnewspublisher.com, the growing trend of part time workers is catching on for women. This gives them the ample time to balance their career and family. Part time positions are in growing demand and more and more employers are starting to create part time management positions. This allows either male or female to create a better balance of family and job. In today’s society, the gender roles are being completely erased a little at a time. I believe that contemporary organizations are currently adjusting to the new demographic that they are finding themselves surrounded by. I believe that the part time option reflects this.

    http://www.netnewspublisher.com/employment-strategy-launched-for-u-k-women/

  14. I believe women can balance their professional and personal lives; we have men who are in the same positions as well e.g. single fathers who have to take care of their families and pursue their professional lives as well. Women tend to be more obligated to the family than their husbands, they should try to balance and split the responsibility.
    Women are part of the minority groups in the organisation and many organisations are now changing their attitudes and practices to accommodate these groups. As the roles are reversed, organisations are left with no choices but to accommodate the changes and also as Meghan said most companies are giving opportunity for females in leadership roles that were previously dominated by males.

  15. While it is only human to want it all, striking a healthy balance between career and home life is no easy task. Professional careers frequently demand long hours, travel and selfless dedication, which places tremendous strain on people also caring for children, elderly parents, sick spouses or partners in the case of the case of women or men it is not impossible to manage both your professional and personal life, but it is nearly impossible to achieve a perfect equilibrium. One will ultimately not receive as much attention as the other, its human nature a manager has his favorite employees, in a group of friends a certain two are always closer. But these two worlds can be maintained to which all parties are happy, but it is very hard for a woman to achieve this without the love and understanding of her family.
    In September 2006, the U.S. National Academies issued “Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering”, a report that concludes that women earn more than half of all bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering, and nearly 40 percent of the doctoral degrees in the same areas. The numbers are similarly reported in professions serving the technology community, such as law and accounting.
    With women making up almost half of the talent pool in science and technology, and men increasingly seeking balance in their lives, well-run businesses should be motivated to take steps to increase their appeal to this important segment. According to a Catalyst study in Women in Law, the graduates of five top law schools found that a nearly equal percentage of male and female attorneys — around 71 percent — report work/life conflict. In the same Catalyst study, 45 percent of women law graduates gave “Work/Life Balance” as the No. 1 reason for choosing their current employer.

    Reference: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11741.html

  16. It is a big challenge that professional women face to balance between the demand of family and business life. I think it is possible for women to be successful in both, home and work. To achieve this balance, women need to get their families agree on what priorities should be. Some organizations require their employees long hours and travel, and this is a big problem especially when children are involved. In this case people have to re-balance their life to spend more time with the kids.

    Contemporary organizations can help women to shatter the glass ceiling by ignoring gender-based stereotyping that undermining women’s capacity to lead, and create equal opportunities for both sex for leadership positions. Senior leaders need to consider accountability for women’s advancement. The society also should stop thinking about man when they hear the word “Leader”. Leadership positions should be held by qualified people regardless their sex.

    References:

    http://www.womensmedia.com/lead/89-what-keeps-women-from-reaching-the-top.html

    http://www.womensmedia.com/balance/192-how-to-balance-your-career-and-family.html

  17. Is it impossible for women in leadership to balance their professional and personal lives? If so, how? Can contemporary organizations change to fit the ever changing gender role reversals in society?

    I don’t think it’s impossible for women to balance their professional and personal lives. Women, though they may not receive equal pay across the board, are very commonplace in the modern work environment. Those that argue the contrary may state that women do not belong in the workplace or may need to limit their careers in order to raise families. However, there are a number of people that are waiting until later on in life to have families, if they even do so at all. The gender of an individual should not determine the success rate of a person anymore than the race of an individual. There is no law of nature that says that because an individual possesses some physical characteristic that their performance will be negatively or positively influenced. These decisions will be influenced by a person’s environment, education, and own personal drive and motivation to organize his or her life. As far as what organizations can do to accommodate changing times, organizations should always seek to ensure that equality and diversity is being enforced and encouraged. Organizations can also be sure that facilities are suitable for women to be in comfortable habitation for the duration of their time at work.

  18. Is it impossible? No. Is it extremely difficult yes. For women to enter the workplace they automatically know that there is a give & take to the situation, eventually one are most suffer more than the other. Either she will divert her time efforts more heavily into the organization or she will assume her role as mom. There is equilibrium, but this is fully dependent upon the company that she works for; there would have to be some leniency on their behalf in allowing her to have flexible job hours so she can tend to her family. “Of the working moms surveyed by Working Mother Magazine, 70% felt guilty for sending their child to school or daycare while ill, 48.5% felt stressed and 31.2% felt frustrated.” Despite the positive streams of income it does help to have mothers home, sometimes it is wiser for the mothers to be at home rearing these children giving them a sound moral base. Organizations are as of late doing more and more to accommodate women within the workplace; they can assist this dilemma, by giving the mother more flexible time and allow others to work from home. This gender role reversal could have a damaging effect on kids and cause them to go contrary in terms of the rearing.

    Williams, S. Managing Team Chemistry. Retrieved on April 10, 2010 from http://www.wright.edu/~scott.williams/LeaderLetter/chemistry.htm

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