"Female Execs Can't Break Into Boys Club" read the headline of reporter Francine Knowles' piece in The Chicago Sun-Times this week. "Women continue to bang their heads against barriers, despite making limited gains in advancing to. . . top leadership positions. . ." reveal the findings of the Chicago Network, a women's professional group that produced a report on the progress of women in Chicago's top 50 companies, Knowles reports.
Less than 15 percent of directors in Chicago's top 50 companies are women.
The report labeled women's progress as "uneven and inadequate." Sheli Rosenberg, retired president and chief executive of Equity Group Investments and a Chicago Network member, called the numbers "depressing."
The Sisterhood is always depressed. Enough already. The only depressing thing here is the "gender equity" moaning and groaning.
The reality is that to the extent the glass ceiling still exists, it's mainly the result of choices women themselves are making. Shouldn't we celebrate that?
Popular author Warren Farrell showed in his 2005 book, "Why Men Earn More"(AMACOM), that the answer is largely that women more typically choose less demanding, less risky career tracks, say human resources versus sales, than men do. Men are more likely than women to choose the "hardship" tracks whether physical danger, or lots of traveling/70 hour workweeks/relocating frequently. Farrell actually shows that when women take on equal risks and responsibility as their male counterparts in the workplace, they tend to make more money for the same job.
In fact the evidence is overwhelming that when women are willing to do what it takes to grab the "golden ring" in corporate America, they are as likely as men, maybe even more likely, to get it. Good for them.
But fewer women than men choose to put themselves on the path to the executive suite.
And just why is that a problem to "fix"?
"What's key to more quickly bringing about gender parity?" in the ranks of corporate Chicago (or corporate America), as Knowles puts it, is actually the wrong question altogether. "Why aren't we celebrating women's choices?" would be the better query.
The feminist world erupted in fury when Brenda Barnes, inches away from the CEO spot at PepsiCo, stepped off the hard-charging track because of the toll it was taking on her and her family. (I think the sisterhood would have cheered a man doing the same thing, by the way.) On ABC's "Good Morning America" last year, law professor Linda Hirshman said that "privileged, educated women who choose to stay at home to raise their children are hurting themselves and others." Really?
Too bad for Hirshman and her elitist friends. Census data show that 54 percent of mothers with professional or graduate degrees choose not to work full time. 54 percent. This drives women like Hirshman nuts.
We don't, and won't, have gender parity in boardrooms for the same reason we don't have gender parity when it comes to elementary school room parents. It's about the choices women make. And that's powerful.
As an (unexpectedly) single mom to four kids, I'm especially grateful now that I always worked, at least part-time, when I was married, so that I have more options today. Besides, I love it. I've often written that work for pay is a great thing for moms, even if it's only a few hours a week, partly because it keeps us from getting too wrapped up in our kids!
I'll encourage my daughters to pursue their educational and professional dreams. But I'll also instill in them a sense of gratitude that they live in a time and place where they have choices choices that many men don't have. I'll encourage them to use those choices wisely. Maybe they can "have it all," however they define it, just not all at the same time. That appears to be the choice many women make, and that's something to celebrate, not whine about.