Glass Ceiling - Essay Example

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Attorney Meghan Evans, despite her parental roles and responsibilities, managed to attain an outstanding record at Wilson, Barnes, Sauer, and Kahn, a law firm with more than 200 attorneys. She has the knowledge, skills, clientele record and personality that should have earned…
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The Case of Atty. Evans: Men and Women at the Workplace The April 27, Attorney Meghan Evans, despite her parental roles and responsibilities, managed to attain an outstanding record at Wilson, Barnes, Sauer, and Kahn, a law firm with more than 200 attorneys. She has the knowledge, skills, clientele record and personality that should have earned her a full partnership status at her company, but the Associates Committee rejected her promotion on several grounds that did not fit her actual clientele satisfaction record and legal analysis skills. The Associates Committee is liable for gender discrimination, which reflects the overwhelming masculine organizational culture that resists the rise of women to topmost management levels. Having men and women as full partners will improve organizational performance by diversifying communication and decision-making styles that can lead to enhanced management processes and organizational outcomes.
Male and female law firm partners have distinct communication styles that can improve how decisions are made in the company, which can boost collaboration and networking that, in turn, will consequently boost morale and firm performance. The American society continues to generally follow a gendered approach to parenting and educating children. Traditional institutions teach gender differences in values and expectations, where women are generally brought up to be empathetic and passive in communication and collaborative and seeking harmony when making decisions, while men are usually trained to be direct, aggressive, and competitive in communication and logical and rules-based in making decisions (Parcheta et al., 2013, p.244). Evans actually seems to balance masculine and feminine communication and styles because the Associates Committee either sees her as too passive or too aggressive. Either way, she brings in her own way of thinking, speaking, and interacting that can enrich how the firm manages the business and attracts clientele. If she is promoted, this will have a positive morale-boosting effect on female attorneys and encourage many of them to also aspire for partnership status. As they do so, these female lawyers will work harder and be more productive, thereby improving total firm performance.
Aside from bringing in new communication style, having women as full partners can enhance decision-making in the company. Bear and Woolley (2011) mentioned the 2010 study of Woolley et al., where the latter found out that having women in groups increased collective intelligence because women boost social sensitivity, turn-taking, and empathy in group communication processes, which increase access to the various knowledge and skills of team members (p.148). Evans can help men become more open to family issues that afflict their organizational culture. She can make them become more considerate of and responsive to work-family balance, which can one day hopefully change the toxic work environment of the firm. Furthermore, men and women have different gender strengths that can also contribute to company performance. Some of the women’s strengths are in their high emotional and social intelligence, while men’s strengths are in their ability to focus on results and use logic to make profit-making solutions (Parcheta et al., 2013, p.244). Evans can encourage the development of better emotional and social intelligence among male lawyers, which may result to gender-fair policies where men and women can balance work and family duties. If such policies are implemented, they can reduce employee dissatisfaction and turnout. Hence, gender diversity enhances cultural processes and organizational performance.
In analyzing men and women in groups, it will be useful to analyze and describe their behaviors using human capital and gender stratification theories because the latter will help understand how gender impacts differences in individual choices and social sources of discrimination Human capital theorists examine individual choices and investments in human capital, such as investing in work-related capital versus family capital, where women tend to focus more on family than employment capital due to traditional gender norms and responsibilities (Young, 2010, p.76). Human capital theory can describe how people make decisions because of their choices regarding family and/or work capital investments. Many female lawyers are not able to attain full partnership status because they are investing more on their families, while male lawyers have an advantage over female counterparts when they can attend more professional and non-professional social activities because they prioritize work over family inputs. Another useful theory for analysis is gender stratification theory that asserts that women undergo personal discrimination at work because of how women and men are segregated into different gender-stereotyped occupations (Young, 2010, p.76). In this theory, social structures tend to create impediments to both equal and socially healthy workplace conditions, policies, and practices for men and women alike. The Associate Committee, for instance, wants to promote Evans in domestic issues, where female lawyers usually are. In essence, they are maintaining the sexist status quo through preserving gender-segregated career paths. These theories help analyze how individual and social elements impact men and women’s career options and behaviors.
The case study shows various challenges to equality of men and women in terms of top management positions in the workplace. The first set of challenges is individually-based. Men tend to be more aggressive in fighting for higher pay and in getting promoted, while women tend to be inhibited and less in control in demanding higher salaries and during promotion decisions (Parcheta et al., 2013, p.242). Male lawyers provide more time for company-related work, so they tend to be more visible to committees in charge of promotions, than women who have families and set aside time for the latter. In addition, women lawyers also tend to accept work with lower promotion status but better scheduling control (Haley-Lock & Ewert, 2011). They may be doing more or equal work as other men, but they accept it than following the same billable hours as men, hours that reject the notion that men and women should also have time for their families. The study suggests that women seem to accept poor workplace terms and conditions easier than men (Haley-Lock & Ewert, 2011). The second set of challenges is social or environmental. They can come from the organizations themselves that have gender bias and stereotypes against women and do not have strong gender equality policies and implementation (Haley-Lock & Ewert, 2011). Challenges can also come from society itself, where the culture and media promote gender stereotypes of women as passive, submissive employees, who have to invest more on their families than businesses or careers than men (Parcheta et al., 2013, p.242). Human resource management policies and practices that do not promote work-life balance harm men and women too who have children and/or old parents to take care of (Parcheta et al., 2013, p.245). In the case of Evans, clearly, HR does not aim to correct unfair HR policies and practices that disadvantage men and women who want to have time for their families. Companies that have long work hours, inflexible scheduling, demanding performance quotas, and limited staff tend to give high-paying jobs and management positions to men who have wives, whom they rely on to take care of household and childcare responsibilities. Women do not have wives to take care of their household chores and parental duties, so many of them depend on part-time jobs that are low-paying or leave the workplace altogether to focus on family-raising responsibilities.
To increase the effectiveness of men and women in groups, they must learn from and respect each other’s different communication and decision-making styles. Men must learn to balance logic with emotion, while women must add logic to their emotional sensitivity (Parcheta et al., 2013, p.244). Men should also decrease the need for domination and control and be open to collaboration and finding win-win solutions like women (Bear & Woolley, 2011, p.148), as well as hiring women to full partnership status. To strengthen the effectiveness of hiring women in top management positions, a top management career preparation should be applied. Management candidates must come also from traditionally female-led departments, such as domestic issues (Parcheta et al., 2013, p.241). Mentoring, coaching, and other forms of formal/informal training will be combined, where male and female lawyers are provided opportunities to apply for the career preparation program. Thus, by enforcing gender-fair HR policies and gender-equal corporate values and practices, Attorney Evans and women and men like her can have a chance of being promoted as full partners in the firm.
Bear, J.B., & Woolley, A.W. (2011). The role of gender in team collaboration and performance. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 36(2), 146-153.
Haley-Lock, A., & Ewert, S. (2011). Serving men and mothers: Workplace practices and workforce composition in two US restaurant chains and states. Community, Work & Family, 14(4), 387-404.
Parcheta, N., Kaifi, B.E., & Khanfar, N.M. (2013). Gender inequality in the workforce: A human resource management quandary. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 4(3), 240-247.
Young, M.C. (2010). Gender differences in precarious work settings. Industrial Relations, 65(1), 74-97. Read More
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