New York: When asked in an interview why there are so few female CEOs leading big corporations today, outgoing PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi pointed largely to work-life balance and a leaky pipeline as big culprits.
“I think the issue is that we get a lot of women in at the entry-level positions,” said Nooyi. “As you get to middle management, women rise to those positions, and then that’s the childbearing years. And when they have children, it’s difficult to balance having children, your career, your marriage, and be a high potential out-performer who’s going to grow in the company, in an organisation that is a pyramid. It starts to thin out as you move up. We have to solve for that.”
Nooyi’s exit will also leave an even smaller number of women with a minority racial or ethnic background with only a small handful running major public corporations. But a leaky pipeline and a lack of support for working mothers, however important those issues are to resolve are also just part of the explanation for why so few women, and particularly minority women.
White men are bias against others
- Research has shown that white men may even strike back after a minority or woman takes on a leadership role, if indirectly. University of Michigan business professor Jim Westphal found in a study of survey data involving 1,000 executives that white male leaders tended to feel less of an identification with their employers following the appointment of a female or minority CEO.
- That reduced their willingness to help colleagues particularly those with minority status which could have an indirect effect on performance during new CEO’s tenure.
- The explanation? prof Jim Westphal doesn’t sugar-coat it: “I think it is part of a biased reaction to a minority assuming a very high position.”
- Such explanations are, of course, only part of the complex reasons so few minority women lead major public cos.
- “If you boil it down to who people are expecting to see as a potential leader, there still is prototype of a leader being tall, white and male,” said Katherine Phillips,US-based professor.