CGO Insights is a series of short briefing notes on topics promoting organizational effectiveness through improved gender equity and diversity. These are written for practitioners and scholars alike and are available as a free PDF download.
CGO Insights No. 36: Confronting Contradictions: Exploring the Tensions of Women as Breadwinners by Mary Shapiro, Stacy Blake-Beard, Suzanne Carter, Regina O'Neill, Cynthia Ingols, Alicia Margoles Bartolozzi and Mary E. Ogle (March 2013).
CGO Insights No. 35: Dreaming Big: What's Gender Got to Do with It? The Impact of Gender Stereotypes on Career Aspirations of Middle Schoolers by Mary Shapiro, Patricia Deyton, Karyn L. Martin, Suzanne Carter, Diane Grossman and Diane E. Hammer (October 2012).
CGO Insights No. 34: Panacea or Placebo: Are Women's Networks Working for Women? by Patricia Deyton and Deborah Marlino (April 2012).
This publication draws on data gathered at the 2011 Simmons Leadership Conference.
CGO Insights No. 33: Women Working Together: Understanding Women's Relationships at Work by Anne H. Litwin. (March 2011).
CGO Insights No. 32: Closing the Women's Leadership Gap: Who Can Help? by Špela Trefalt et al (April 2011).
This publication draws on data gathered at the 2010 Simmons Leadership Conference.
CGO Insights No. 31: Using Corporate Social Responsibility to Motivate and Retain Female Employees by Shuili Du et al (January 2012).
CGO Insights No. 30: I Think It's a Cultural Thing and a Woman Thing: Cultural Scripts in Latinas' Careers by Evangelina Holvino (January 2010).
By exploring the simultaneity of gender and cultural factors unique to Latinas in corporations, this study goes beyond one-dimensional approaches to understanding the career and leadership opportunities and barriers they face.
CGO Insights No. 29: Strategizing for Success: Women Entrepreneurs Accessing Venture Capital by Teresa Nelson, Sylvia Maxfield and Deborah Kolb (July 2009).
This CGO Insights explores why women's businesses in the US receive such a small share of venture capital funding.
CGO Insights No. 28: Risky Business: Busting the Myth of Women as Risk Averse by Vipin Gupta, Sylvia Maxfield, Mary Shapiro, and Susan Hass (April 2009).
This CGO Insights briefing asks the question, are women risk averse, or are there gendered dyanmics that obfuscate or mislabel their risk-taking? Based on a survey of over 650 managerial women present at the May 2008 Simmons School of Management Leadership Conference, this CGO Insights briefing note reports that women do in fact take risks, refuting conventional wisdom about risk aversion, and that their risk decision-making is sensitive to many gender-neutral factors.
CGO Insights No. 27: Paths to Leadership: Women's Experiences with and Aspirations for Board Service by Paul Myers, Mindy Nitkin, Hugh Colaco, Patricia Deyton, and Indra Guertler (March 2008).
As the number of women in all job categories has increased, there has been corresponding interest in cultivating women's leadership talent. Feminist scholars have suggested that to develop as leaders, women must recognize, question, and replace old mindsets and practices based on limiting, internalized, and gendered messages. This CGO Insights briefing uses and extends ideas from the transformational learning literature to explore how this type of change is achieved among women in formal leadership training.
CGO Insights No. 26: The Whitewash Dilemma Revisited: White Women as Catalysts for Engendering Diverse Leadership in Organizations by Lynda Moore, Bonita Betters-Reed, and Laurie Hunt (January 2008).
Insights briefing note number 26 is a call to action on the part of its authors, Lynda L. Moore, Bonita L. Betters-Reed, and Laurie M. Hunt, for white professional women to take an active role in helping to remove barriers and clear the path for all professional women, especially women of color. By first pointing out the roots of "Whitewashing," and the false assumptions created and perpetuated by it, the authors explain how it represents a systemic dilemma, which can only be addressed through widespread cultural awareness—including the recognition that women of color have experiences and needs that differ from those of white women— and through the proactive leadership of white, female managers and mentors.
CGO Insights No. 25: Optioning In versus "Opting Out": Women Using Flexible Work Arrangements for Career Success by Mary Shapiro, Cynthia Ingols, and Stacy Blake-Beard (January 2007).
At the turn of the new millennium, the personal decisions of a few highly visible women to take time off from work set off a firestorm of public debate about women's career choices. The predominant rhetoric was that the number of women leaving the workforce-whether entirely or by using flexible work arrangements (FWAs)-proved that women just don't have what it takes to succeed at demanding careers. Women's career choices aren't seen as career self-agency, but rather as deviations from the unsustainable "work is primary" model. We hypothesize that women are rejecting the "work is primary" career model and are instead enacting a new, "self-employed" one. To test this hypothesis, the Simmons School of Management surveyed professional women about the rationales behind the career choices they are making. Authors Mary Shapiro, Cynthia Ingols, and Stacy Blake-Beard discuss the findings of this survey and show the benefits of FWAs for both employees and employers.
CGO Insights No. 24: "Tired of Choosing": Working with the Simultaneity of Race, Gender, and Class in Organizations by Evangelina Holvino and Bridgette Sheridan (March 2006).
Increasingly, accomplishing organizational goals and activities depends on interactions that occur among people who belong to different social identity groups, be it race, class, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, religion, nationality, and other differences. Since 2000, one of CGO's research priorities has been finding ways to encourage the coming together of members of different social identity groups invested in and supportive of long-term change efforts from within. The organizational challenges CGO began to identify and explore revealed that working across differences, while easy to envision, is quite difficult in the practice of organizational life. Authors Evangelina Holvino and Bridgette Sheridan discuss key concepts and specific practices to support building alliances across differences in organizations. These concepts and practices can help organizations achieve their bottom line and be more supportive of their employees. The authors also provide guidance for individuals who want to engage more fully in working across differences.
CGO Insights No. 23: It Pays to Ask: Negotiating Conditions for Leadership Success by Deborah Kolb and Jill Kickul (January 2006).
Research has shown that business and professional organizations often operate in ways that can place women at a disadvantage. Labeled second generation issues to distinguish them from overt discrimination and bias, certain structures, cultures, and norms of operating that appear natural and neutral on the surface can have differential effects on men and women. Second generation issues mean that women often have to ask for and negotiate about things that men generally do not, such as good assignments, comparable titles, and credit for invisible work. Because of potential second generation gender issues, where a woman's authority and influence as a leader cannot necessarily be assumed, negotiating the conditions for success becomes even more important for women in leadership roles. Authors Deborah Kolb and Jill Kickul discuss the findings of a Simmons School of Management survey of professional women. These findings suggest that there are actions individual women can take to position themselves to be more effective in the leadership roles they get. The authors also offer recommendations for women who are transitioning into new leadership roles.
CGO Insights No. 22: The Entrepreneurship Gender Gap in Global Perspective: Implications for Effective Policymaking to Support Female Entrepreneurship by Sylvia Maxfield (October 2005).
The entrepreneurship gender gap measures the difference between the number of men and the number of women participating in entrepreneurial activity. The latest data show that among the countries with the largest entrepreneurship gender gaps are nations as varied as Poland, Argentina, Norway, and Greece, while countries with among the lowest gaps include South Africa, Peru, Portugal, and Japan. What explains variation across countries in the extent of this entrepreneurship gender gap? How do economic circumstance, social structure, and culture impact the determinants of female entrepreneurial activity? In what ways are the determinants of female and male entrepreneurial activity different, if at all? To the extent we can explain the variation in entrepreneurship gender gaps, we can better design programs and policies aimed at increasing women's entrepreneurial activity. To understand the gap, author Sylvia Maxfield surveys the limited literature on female entrepreneurial activity worldwide and discusses three possible channels through which policies and programs might encourage the rate of female entrepreneurial activity: venture financing, social networks, and national culture.
CGO Insights No. 21: Women Entrepreneurs on the Forefront of Continual Growth: Procuring and Leveraging Capital for Sustainable Business by Jill Kickul and Lindsay Titus (September 2005).
The emergence and growth of viable women-owned entrepreneurial new business ventures (NBVs) have generated value and fueled innovation on community and global levels. Research in this area has examined the many forms of economic and social value that women-owned NBVs generate vis-à-vis peculiar barriers constraining their establishment and growth. These barriers constitute unique challenges for women, as research has shown that men are able to surmount them more easily. With the goal of delineating the unique circumstances of women entrepreneurs, authors Jill Kickul and Lindsay Titus undertook a study of over 700 entrepreneurial businesses. Their findings point to the kinds of steps aspiring or actual women entrepreneurs can take to pursue entrepreneurial success more effectively. They discuss their findings in conjunction with past work, giving special attention to what women entrepreneurs can do to procure resources, send signals of credibility to the business community, and achieve entrepreneurial success.
CGO Insights No. 20: Women Pursuing Leadership and Power: Challenging the Myth of the Opt Out Revolution by Deborah Merrill-Sands, Jill Kickul, and Cynthia Ingols (February 2005).
Recent media articles have heralded the "Opt Out Revolution," claiming that women are shunning leadership and power at work for full-time motherhood. Underpinning these arguments is the assertion that women are ambivalent about leadership and power and are willing to sacrifice these to invest in their families. These assertions about women "opting out" are disturbing and, indeed, dangerous: they are representative of a small sample group; they reinforce gender stereotypes that women are not as committed as men to the world of work and that women do not "have what it takes" to be leaders; and they take the mantle of responsibility for change away from organizations and policymakers and place it squarely on the shoulders of individual women. In response, the Simmons School of Management surveyed professional women about their views of power and leadership. Our findings challenge the assumptions underlying the purported "Opt Out Revolution." Learning from these women's perspectives can not only help us understand women's career motivations and aspirations, but it can also deepen our understanding of the exercise of power and leadership in the service of building effective organizations.
CGO Insights No. 19: Enhancing Working Across Differences with the Problematic Moment Approach by James Cumming and Evangelina Holvino (October 2003).
Can you recall an instance when something happened in a group with which you were working and you didn't know what to say, or you knew what you ought to say, but didn't? Moments of silence frequently occur in group conversations and interactions, and they can have different meanings depending on their context. In this briefing note, authors James Cumming and Evangelina Holvino focus on a particular kind of moment of silence-a "problematic moment"-that marks the presence of a theme, or collective memory, that the group wishes to push aside. This repressed theme blocks the reflection the group needs to undertake in order to deepen their experience with each other and enhance their ability to work with their differences. Problematic moments are unlike other moments because they mark a brief point in time when the conditions of possibility for the group to have new, more productive, and deeper conversations can be realized. Cumming and Holvino discuss how to recognize problematic moments, and present their approach for turning these moments into constructive opportunities to work across differences and attain organizational goals.
CGO Insights No. 18: The Equity Imperative: Reaching Effectiveness through the Dual Agenda by Lotte Bailyn and Joyce K. Fletcher (July 2003).
The potential benefit of the diverse set of perspectives and experiences that arise from the new workforce is constrained by organizational practices that are built on the assumption that workers have no responsibilities or interests other than paid employment, and that equality-sameness for everyone-is the fairest way to manage people. This mismatch between the organization of work and the needs of the workforce creates inequities for workers and detracts from effective functioning for organizations. Authors Lotte Bailyn and Joyce Fletcher propose that by dealing with these inequities, we serve a dual agenda: to provide equitable, though not necessarily identical, conditions that allow employees to live up to their full potential, hence creating effective organizations. But to do so requires a reframing of the relation between equity and effectiveness. In particular, when considering how the diversity of employee needs can best be met, one has to get away from an individual accommodative approach and reconsider, in a systemic way, the organizational norms, values, and structures that created an inequitable workplace in the first place. Using case examples, the authors present a new business case for gender equity work redesign.
CGO Insights No. 17: Working Across Differences: Diversity Practices for Organizational Change by Evangelina Holvino and Bridgette Sheridan (April 2003).
Increasingly, accomplishing organizational goals and activities depends on interactions that occur among people who belong to different social identity groups. At the Center for Gender in Organizations (CGO), we have been conducting research and convening groups of academics, managers, and change agents to identify concepts and practices which will facilitate working across these diverse groups. In CGO Insight number 17, "Working Across Differences," authors Evangelina Holvino and Bridgette Sheriden discuss and outline these concepts and practices; helping organizations to become more equitable and supportive of their employees.
CGO Insights No. 16: Building Constituencies for Culture Change in Organizations by Linking Education and Intervention by Deborah Kolb (April 2003).
CGO is known for its unique approach to organizational intervention. CGO partners with organizations to analyze deeply embedded work practices and cultural norms that undermine the dual agenda of both gender equity and organizational effectiveness. This is a long-term process in which team members from CGO work with internal stakeholders to carry out all phases of the collaborative, interactive action research approach. As part of its mission to extend this work, CGO experiments with alternative ways to retain the essence of the dual agenda in organizations, but in ways that may be less time and effort intensive. One such experiment involves linking individual leadership education for women to systemic change with very interesting outcomes for both the individual participants and the organization that sponsored them. Author Deborah Kolb reports on this experiment and the opportunities it presents for future change efforts.
CGO Insights No. 15: Critical Trends and Shifts in the Mentoring Experiences of Professional Women by Stacy Blake-Beard (January 2003).
A recent, prominent survey that examined how businesswomen are faring in relation to their male counterparts suggested that increased access to mentoring for women may be one step toward achieving gender equity. Other studies have found that mentoring is significantly connected to career-related success. At the same time, lack of access to mentoring is one of the most widely reported barriers to career advancement. To advance understanding of women's experiences with mentoring, Simmons School of Management conducted a survey of professional women. Author Stacy Blake-Beard elaborates on the survey's findings, which confirm that mentoring remains an important developmental relationship from which women in contemporary organizations can benefit.
CGO Insights No. 14: Asking the Question: Uncovering the Assumptions that Undermine Conversations Across Race by Karen Proudford (December 2002).
Why is it that discussions about race still paralyze groups in organizations? While many would suggest that ignoring race is an undesirable and ineffective approach, others would argue that focusing on race has not proven to be a successful strategy either. Those who engage in discussions about and across race may leave the conversation believing that the gulf is wider and deeper than they anticipated. To facilitate these discussions, author Karen Proudford proposes "asking the question"-a process through which individuals use inquiry as a method for inviting others to consider basic assumptions that are generating conflict, to consider what is not being said but is nevertheless present. The information gained by asking the question can provide insights that help the group view both its purpose and its interaction from a different perspective-one which may complicate the boundaries between races such that groups can move beyond their racial differences without ignoring them. Using real-world examples, Proudford demonstrates how to facilitate asking the question and the group benefits that result.
CGO Insights No. 13: The Greatly Exaggerated Demise of Heroic Leadership: Gender, Power, and the Myth of the Female Advantage by Joyce K. Fletcher (August 2002).
New models of leadership recognize that workplace effectiveness depends less on individual, heroic action and more on collaborative practices distributed throughout an organization. The belief that, "we don't need another hero" has ushered in an era of what is often called "post-heroic" or shared leadership. This new, more relational approach is intended to transform stodgy, top-down organizational structures into flexible, knowledge-based entities able to meet the demands of the information age and global economy. Despite the rhetoric calling for a new approach, there is ample evidence that people-and organizations-find it difficult to put this new leadership model into practice. Author Joyce Fletcher argues that the difficulties result not only from the fact that new models challenge old ways of thinking, but that these challenges are linked in subtle ways to gender and power.
CGO Insights No. 12: Gender and "Virtual Work": How New Technologies Influence Work Practices and Gender Equity by Maureen Scully, Natalie Matus, and Deborah Merrill-Sands (May 2002).
A whole new set of work practices is changing organizations under our very eyes-and fingertips. "Virtual work"-work accomplished with new information technologies, without traditional regard to time, place, or organizational boundaries-is a reality in most workplaces. Authors Maureen Scully, Natalie Matus, and Deborah Merrill-Sands explore the impact of virtual work in three areas: opportunities; productivity and creativity; and work and life integration. For each of these three areas, they present some competing predictions about the impact of virtual work on gender equity and report findings from a survey of women professionals. Could gender equity-and the kinds of steps taken to achieve it-increase the effectiveness of virtual work?
CGO Insights No. 11: When Less is More: Exploring the Relationship Between Employee Workload and Innovation Potential by Kate Kellogg (April 2002).
The systems, practices, and norms of knowledge-based organizations tend to value workers who spend long hours at work. However, equating employee performance with long work hours favors workers with partners to handle their private sphere responsibilities or workers without major responsibilities outside of work. Business leaders often realize this organization of work is difficult for employees, but believe that employee quality of life and business goals are at odds with one another. Author Kate Kellogg describes her research showing that heavy employee workload is not necessarily more effective. In fact, it is associated with the poor business outcome of reduced employee innovation potential. This research also questions the basic and broader assumption that enhancing employees' quality of life inevitably results in lower effectiveness. Rather than being mutually exclusive, the goals of employee well-being and the organizational bottom line may well be complementary.
CGO Insights No. 10: Mentoring Relationships Through the Lens of Race and Gender by Stacy Blake-Beard (October 2001).
The benefits of mentoring have been widely touted in both the popular and scholarly literatures, and individuals in mentoring relationships are clearly at an advantage when compared to those who do not have access to such relationships. These relationships have been suggested as particularly crucial to the career development and advancement of women; mentoring may also be an effective tool for getting more women into top leadership roles. While access to mentoring for White women has been well documented, the same can not be said for women of color. In the is article, author Stacy Blake-Beard examines the intersecion of gener and race in mentorship practice, and offers suggestions to researchers and practitioners for future mentorship studies and activities.
CGO Insights No. 9: Women as Leaders: The Paradox of Success by Deborah M. Merrill-Sands and Deborah M. Kolb (April 2001).
Women now make up 50% of managerial and specialized professional positions in organizations in the United States, yet the dearth of women in top leadership roles is striking. While the percentage of women in leadership positions has increased over the years, the trend is disconcertingly slow. A common explanation for the lack of women in leadership roles is that they simply lack the experience and skills needed to be effective leaders. Yet recent studies comparing the leadership and managerial performance of men and women across a wide range of organizations, challenge this conclusion and suggest that on the basis of leadership skills alone, men could beneficially learn from women. So herein lies the paradox of success: while women are succeeding in applying a broad range of leadership skills to work and are achieving positive results, they are having considerably less success in being promoted to top leadership positions. Authors Deborah Merrill-Sands and Deborah Kolb examine the gender norms at play in organizations that give rise to this paradox and present strategies to challenge this paradox for women who aspire to be leaders.
CGO Insights No. 8: Invisible Work: The Disappearing of Relational Practice at Work by Joyce K. Fletcher (March 2001).
Sharing information across organizational boundaries, doing whatever it takes to get the job done, fostering teamwork and collaboration, and thinking systemically rather than individually: these practices are touted as the essence of good leadership by proponents of the new leadership models. Yet these new models ignore the importance of "relational practice," the collaboration and teamwork that occurs behind the scenes and is essential to organizational and leadership success. Why is relational practice devalued or dismissed in organizations that tout the importance of collaboration and supportive teamwork? Relational practice gets "disappeared"-that is, denigrated, ignored, or even penalized-not because it is ineffective, but because it is out of line with deeply held, gender-linked assumptions about good workers, exemplary behavior, and successful organizations. Author Joyce Fletcher explores why and how relational practice gets disappeared in the workplace and suggests strategies that individuals and organizations can use to interrupt the cycle.
CGO Insights No. 7: Class and Gender in Organizations by Evangelina Holvino (October 2000).
New organizational forms, the nature of inequality in organizations, and the relationship of class with other social processes like gender demand that we address class as an important issue in today's organizations. While class is ever present in organizational life, it is rarely discussed directly or with legitimacy. By not including class as one of the dimensions of difference and identity, we miss a vital piece of the dynamics of gender and diversity in organizations. Author Evangelina Holvino shows that the same change strategies and processes that are used to address differences such as race, gender, and sexual orientation in the workplace can be adapted to address class differences. Engaging in the process of understanding issues of class benefits organizations because using the lens of class allows managers to see differently, and to become aware of organizational dynamics that require new solutions.
CGO Insights No. 6: Tempered Radicalism: Changing the Workplace from Within by Debra Meyerson and Maureen Scully (November 1999).
Tempered radicalism is a proactive approach to surviving in an organization while keeping one's sense of self intact and pursuing changes to make the workplace more equitable and inclusive. It arises from a desire for authenticity or from a conviction that change is needed. Women and men whose identities or ideals do not fit with the dominant culture where they work can relate to this delicate balancing act: fitting in just enough to stay in the game while using an insider's leverage to change the game. Navigating between conformity and marginalization, tempered radicals preserve their distinctive identities and engage productively in change efforts. Using examples from their research, authors Debra Meyerson and Maureen Scully present strategies that tempered radicals use to find a viable middle course between conformity and stridency.
CGO Insights No. 5: A Radical Perspective on Power, Gender and Organizational Change by Joyce K. Fletcher (August 1999).
Why is gender equity in the workplace so difficult to achieve? The answer is that traditional ways of thinking about power are inadequate to the task of understanding and intervening in the deeply rooted gender dynamics at play in the workplace. Achieving gender equity requires a more radical perspective on power, one that moves beyond individual agency and begins to examine the deep structures in organizations that shape the distribution of power and affect gender equity. Author Joyce Fletcher discusses the two traditional dimensions of power, as well as a third dimension that is the most potent and insidious because it is embedded in the deep structures of organizational systems. To bring about real change toward gender equity, change agents must focus on this third dimension of power. Fletcher offers practical advice for implementing organizational change efforts from this perspective.
CGO Insights No. 4: Integrating Gender into a Broader Diversity Lens in Organizational Diagnosis and Intervention by Robin Ely and Debra Meyerson (March 1999).
Organizations are facing an unprecedented challenge to develop and manage increasingly diverse workforces. Many have begun their efforts to deal wit this challenge by focusing on gender. Although many organizations have tried to make their workplaces fairer and more hospitable to women, few have had a sufficiently comprehensive understanding of the complex role gender plays in organizational life that is needed to effect real change. In addition, raising gender issues in the workplace often surfaces other kinds of inter-group tensions and equity concerns, such as those stemming from differences in race, ethnicity, nationality, social class, sexual identity, and religion. Authors Robin Ely and Debra Meyerson have extensive experience working with organizations that have struggled to address these broader equity issues. In this briefing note, they explore why and how organizations that have already undertaken gender initiatives-or are contemplating doing so-might expand those initiatives to include other aspects of identity group relations.
CGO Insights No. 3: Gender and the Shadow Negotiation by Deborah Kolb (December 1998).
Being able to deal with conflict and to negotiate effectively is a requirement for survival in the flatter and more fluid organizations of today. Author Deborah Kolb, a renowned expert on negotiation, explains how to manage the social as well as the substantive part of negotiation. This "shadow negotiation"-the negotiation about how to negotiate-is where expectations and relationships are created. It is in the shadow negotiation, where we empower ourselves and try to get connected, that gender can come into play. Kolb reveals how to manage the shadow negotiation process to solve problems creatively and to obtain desired outcomes without compromising relationships or oneself.
CGO Insights No. 2: Looking Below the Surface: The Gendered Nature of Organizations by Joyce K. Fletcher and Deborah Merrill-Sands (November 1998).
Organizations are gendered, having been created largely by and for men. Given this deeply rooted masculinity, it is not surprising that efforts to achieve gender equity by traditional means-which correct overt discrimination and focus on getting women to "fit in"-have been insufficient in achieving real and lasting change because they do not address the invisible assumptions that reinforce and reproduce gender inequities. Using an example from CGO's work with an international agricultural research center, author Joyce Fletcher shows how organizational change efforts that take account of this deeply rooted masculinity, challenge the basic assumptions that drive organizational behavior as well as alter the effects of these assumptions at the level of everyday work practice. Changing these gendered organizational structures and practices benefits not only women, but also men and the organization itself.
CGO Insights No. 1: Making Change: A Framework for Promoting Gender Equity in Organizations by Deborah Kolb, Joyce K. Fletcher, Debra Meyerson, Deborah Merrill-Sands, and Robin Ely (October 1998).
This first CGO Insights briefing note lays out the CGO framework for improving gender equity within organizations. Useful for organizations interested in addressing the issue of gender equity in a comprehensive and sustainable manner, this comparative framework illustrates why most approaches to gender equity are partial solutions and do not achieve lasting gains. Authors Deborah Kolb, Joyce Fletcher, Debra Meyerson, Deborah Merrill-Sands, and Robin Ely present an innovative fourth frame, an integrated perspective that acknowledges the complex role gender plays in organizational life. It offers a new category of organizational intervention as well as a way of recasting traditional equity initiatives. This fourth frame leads the way toward effecting lasting organizational change for equity.