Food for thought

Are there Cracks in the Glass Ceiling?
 Women in Executive Positions

by Dr. Ulrike C. Strasser

"The future is female!" was the title Margarete Mitscherlich published in 1987. My father gave me the book for my diploma! What a prophecy!!!

Time for an interim balance 25 years later: is my and our future female? 

In the late 80s I was one of the 32% female students. My eldest daughter is currently studying in Amsterdam, making her one of 55% of all students.

With my career at Arthur D. Little I was among the less than 5% female consultants. Today, the ratio in leading management consultancies is around 20%. In the meantime, as an executive coach, I am glad to accompany the career of women. 

With my job I am the bread winner. As a couple family, we today belong to 10% of all couples in Germany. It was 6%, 20 years ago. I had great fun in my job when I was expecting my first girl and earned more than my husband. Our family with three girls has been living well since that decision. 

It is going in the right direction, but there is still a way to go

What is my resume? Something is happening. Even though the much-discussed glass ceiling still leaves a few at the top. It is going in the right direction, but there is still a way to go - for me, for my girls, for my husband, in our country and in the world. Beyond the pure numbers, the causes are to be investigated and made aware of all. Equal rights in my opinion means that women and men can decide equally freely for their studies, for career and for family. The prerequisite for this is that we know the options and deliberately weigh them, taking into account our own abilities and motivation. We will not be able to ignore our social imprint, we should know it and use it consciously. Men do not have to become more feminine. Women not male. We should complement each other and respect and promote the competencies and motivation of the other. So I translate for me the statements of Margaret Mitscherlich, which was the question of whether women are "our salvation, (if) there will be no future without them and the world of men facing their downfall."

A closer look at women's decision-making behavior

At the start of my new series, I took a closer look at women's decision-making behavior. My current investigation "Leaving is entering" is not about the approximately 20,000 daily micro-decisions, but about those big decisions that lead to a new life, a new job, in a new city, in a new country. I asked female executives for one of these decisions and examined the decision-making process, behavior and retrospective assessment. 

The often-cited stereotype states that women are indecisive, that women do not decide under uncertainty, that they prefer not to decide because of doubts and fears. My study results give a completely different picture:  84% of the interviewed women made their life decisions, although the consequences were associated with doubts and fears. In 71% of the cases the uncertainty was very high: The women did not know what the new one entailed or had imagined otherwise.  How do women describe their decision-making process? 68% have acted consciously, 61% have evaluated the options objectively and discussed with stakeholders - partner, mentor, friends. Only 11% have followed their gut feeling. And only 16% had to talk bad about the old situation in order to be able to decide against it.  As an executive coach, I work a lot with Otto Scharmer's U model: a person can become more active and able to act, the better he has made himself aware of the situation with his open mind, heart, will and thus had the opportunity to leave.  

Raising doubts and fears, set free and enable great (life) decisions

This model and my diverse experiences with women in leadership positions lead me to the following thesis: Deliberately raising doubts and fears, set free and enable great (life) decision. And the best news at the end: 87% of the women were positively surprised by the new situation.

Dr. Ulrike C. Straßer works with executives and their teams. The goal is to increase flexibility. Personal development and personal maturity are no longer buzzwords! Ulrike’s honesty, empathy and quick trust building support the coaching process and clarification of „what?“ and „why?“. 20 years of own leadership experience and a large toolbox enable the sustainable integration of insights into everyday leadership situations. 

"The future is female!" Ulrike has been working on the realization of this prophecy for 25 years: As a leader she fights against her own unconscious bias. With her articles she publishes her research on female leadership behavior. As a coach she works passionately with both male and female executives.

In her opinion it should be crystal clear: “Women and men have to complement each other as well as respect and promote each other's competencies and motivation.”

www.leadership-choices.com

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