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A Study of the Promotion to Partner Process in a PSF: How Women are Disadvantaged. BAM GIM SIG – January 2007 Dr. Savita Kumra . Career Advancement of Women. Widespread research studying career progression managerial/professional women

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a study of the promotion to partner process in a psf how women are disadvantaged

A Study of the Promotion to Partner Process in a PSF:How Women are Disadvantaged

BAM GIM SIG – January 2007

Dr. Savita Kumra

career advancement of women
Career Advancement of Women
  • Widespread research studying career progression managerial/professional women
  • Women experience greater difficulties in achieving senior positions despite:
    • Similar education levels
    • Years of Service
    • Job Performance (Powell, 1990)
  • ‘Glass ceiling’ defines this phenomenon, evidence it remains intact (Powell, 2000; Burke & Nelson, 2002)
  • However is the ‘glass ceiling’ the same in all contexts?
  • Argue for a more differentiated treatment of the phenomenon
women in the professional services firm
Women in the Professional Services Firm
  • Trends show increasing numbers of women entering PSF’s including, law, accounting, consulting and banking.
  • Many firms now have a majority of women at entry level, e.g. law firms
  • Partner aspirational position; but few women in these positions – typically 7-15%
  • Reasons for attraction:
    • Level playing field (Crompton & Sanderson, 1986)
    • High salary, respect, job security and rewarding challenges (Eckberg, 2001)
promotion to partner process
Promotion to Partner Process
  • May present particular issues for women (Spurr, 1990; Spurr & Sueyoshi, 1993)
    • ‘Statistical discrimination rather than economic discrimination
    • Risk of women leaving because they relocate with their partner
    • Discrimination in the promotion to partner decision-making process
  • Evidence to support this from:
    • Malos & Campion (1995) options-based model which doesn’t take account of subjectivity
    • Gilson & Mnookin (1989) many of the criteria for promotion to partner are inherently subjective
the study
The Study
  • Single-site case study of an international consulting firm
  • Interviewed 34 male and female consultants at various levels within the firm around their perception of the promotion to partner process
  • Analysed interviews using Nvivo software; enabling a systematic approach to data analysis in order to determine key themes/issues
  • 3 main areas of disadvantage for women were identified
  • These were:
    • Understand Rules of the Game (86%)
    • Self-managed nature of career development (97%)
    • ‘Fit’ mould to succeed (74%
understand the rules of the game
Understand the Rules of the Game
  • Formal systems don’t always operate as they ‘should’; grateful to more senior organisational members for pointing this out
  • To assess the ‘rules of the game’ important to know what the firm values and ensure contributions are recognised and rewarded
    • “some of the people I’ve worked with have worked 12/13 hours a day and expect themselves to get noticed and promoted on the basis of that, and I have to take some of those people to one side and say it’s not the way it works here, but unfortunately most of the people tend to feel that” (Female Principal Consultant)
  • Active management upwards also felt to be a key way to achieve advancement
self managed career development process
Self-Managed Career Development Process
  • Necessity because of project-based nature, and geographic mobility of employees for individuals to be self-motivated to seek out opportunities to build their careers
    • “The reason it’s a relatively unmanaged business is that there isn’t anybody to think about people that are off on assignment working” (Male Consultant)
    • “I think you have to be quite proactive when you arrive. I think if you’ve got a good partner who’s looking after you they’re doing the promotion for you, but if you haven’t then you have to get around and knock on doors and just be in people’s faces and say I’m here, can I help? Get involved in something, anything just to get on the radar screen” (Male Consultant)
self managed career development process9
Self-Managed Career Development Process
  • Evident that women less comfortable with proactive nature of the process
  • Examples given of Networking (54% female sample expressing some discomfort, cf. 13% males)
    • “The people that get promoted quickly are exceptionally effective networkers, interestingly that doesn’t suit women” (Female Consultant)
  • Self-promotion also discussed (72%), expected and accepted way of operating, couldn’t expect busy seniors to notice achievements needed to tell them
    • “Show you are interested and promote yourself. Make sure people know who you are and what you do” (Female)
  • with 48% of the female sample indicating discomfort with the process
    • “I absolutely cringe, it tends to be people just saying how wonderful they are, or telling the partner how wonderful the partner is. Its’ just obvious and I find it really difficult” (Female Consultant)
fit mould to succeed
Fit Mould to Succeed
  • Discussed by 74% of interviewees:
    • Prevailing success model within the firm requiring visible commitment, and aquiescence with requests
    • “…there is a mould you’ve got to fit and if you don’t fit that the other bits you’ve got never get pulled out” (Male)
  • Nature of the mould ‘gendered’; masculine culture, success measured against this
    • “just to summarise and say that it is nothing to do with quality of work and I think it is fair to say that people have much in the way of glass ceilings and having said that it is a very male culture, and the people that do get into the partnership tend to be like existing partners” (Male Director)
fit mould to succeed11
Fit Mould to Succeed
  • Example given of impression management
  • Discussed by 83%; conscious others impressions could affect career progress, important to ‘manage’ impressions
  • However only women in the sample mentioned IM:
  • IM as a defensive strategy (58%)
    • “Not everyone would agree with me on this, but I’ve always felt that people do not want the full you in the working environment” (Female Director)
  • IM of ambition (34%)
    • “Be open about ambition with the right people. Just putting a marker on yourself as being very ambitious makes sense, because although most people don’t want to stand still, there’s a big difference between most people and the person who is ambitious” (Female consultant)
  • The need to be liked (44%)
  • Understand rules of game, disadvantages women because:
    • Tend to rely more on formal processes(Stewart & Gudykunst, 1982; Hennig & Jardim, 1977)
    • Women less likely to be part of informal structures, (Reif et al, 1975)
    • Joined PSF for ‘level playing field’ (Crompton & Sanderson, 1986)
  • Self-managed career, disadvantages women because:
    • Men culturally conditioned to take credit for personal achievement (Buss, 1988); women more likely to co-operate (Nelson, 1978)
    • Self-promotion ‘intuitively and normatively more acceptable for men than women (Miller et al, 1992)
    • Authors, 2001; more women believed that their hard work would be noticed, senior women did not feel this.
  • Fit Mould to succeed, disadvantages women because:
    • Burden to disprove negative gender stereotypes (Heilman, 1983)
    • Less access to developmental opportuntiies
    • Commitment frequently questioned (Gammie & Gammie, 1995)
  • Thus call for a differentiated treatment of glass ceiling phenomenon
  • Helps understand sector-based issues; and the combined effect on women’s advancement of firm-based and societally-based factors