The Professional Rise of Women: Quotas and the Imposter Syndrome
Updated: Dec 19, 2021
December 5th 2021
The issue of professional equality between men and women has been on the corporate agenda for at least two decades. Since then, the idea of quotas for women has been developed to guarantee their professional advancement. Whether or not quotas exist, it is always a source of lively get-togethers where the women themselves are usually the most enthusiastic opponents ("I want to be promoted for my talent, not for being a woman"). I am, always have been, and will hardly stop being, an advocate of greater corporate power for women – I have no doubt that their qualities and skills add a lot to an organization. Their fantastic time management, greater sensitivity to people matters, a significant concern with the majority of stakeholders and especially with the environment, their tendency to privilege cooperation vs. conflict, and the absence of "personal agendas" makes the female a professional group very well prepared to lead. Obviously, much of this is stereotyping: there are good and bad examples on both sides of the "trench," but in general terms, I have no doubt that much of what I write can be easily proven. At least experience has taught me that. All this context is to lead me to the unsolved mystery. Follow me through these data that the investigation has proven and the facts backed up:
European data indicate that, generally, there are 50% of women and 50% of men graduating from universities (the main difference being the type of course when this is not the case).
Corporate Middle Management comprises 60% men and 40% women (the main difference being the type of functions when this is not the case).
Top Management comprises 80% men and 20% women (the main differences being geography and type of industry when this is not the case).
What is decisive in career advancement is emotional intelligence and not so much IQ. The IQ is good for getting good grades at the University and opening the doors for some jobs, but it is hardly the "recipe" for professional success.
Emotional intelligence comprises twelve variables (from self-awareness of emotions to empathy, from adaptability to conflict management).
Recent studies show that women are better than men in eleven of these twelve skills.
Which brings us to the obvious question – but then why? If this is so, why are women so little present at the top of the corporate pyramid? And here begins the "coffee conversation" where all opinions are allowed. I dare to contribute to this conversation by bringing to the table the concept of the Imposter Syndrome, which I summarize in one sentence: "I'm not as good as others think I am, and one day I'll be discovered." The imposter syndrome affects a lot more women than men and is a solid barrier to thought and action. I always remember a study carried out by Hewlett-Packard a few years ago, where its executives were asked, "if an advertisement comes out for a job that requires the fulfillment of five requirements, how many do you think you have to fulfill in order to actually apply?". Women answered "obviously five", men… "three and candidate me". That's what I'm talking about. And I end as I started, talking about quotas: from everything that is written, I am a strong advocate of quotas for women – you have to "push" for the rise to happen—hoping that one day we will no longer need quotas. Nuno Moreira da Cruz Executive Director Center for Responsible Business & Leadership