A very interesting piece of research on women and power was published by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Melinda Marshall of the Center for Talent Innovation in 2015.
They surveyed professional women, between the ages of 35 and 50, in the US, the UK and Germany to find out what they wanted.
It was discovered that they want they same things that professional men want.
- to feel in control of their career
- to have their work recognised
- to find meaning and purpose through their work
- to be able to empower others
- to have financial security
The difference that was found between women and men is this. Men in this age group sustain their interest in the importance of power and seek it. Women lose their interest in power, as they get older.
The report continued with recommendations for employers on how to encourage and retain talented women. They quote the following data from another US study.
Women without Power
Ability to flourish 18%
Ability to excel 70%
Feeling purpose 26%
Feeling empowered 14%
Contrast this with –
Women with Power
Ability to flourish 58%
Ability to excel 87%
Feeling purpose 63%
Feeling empowered 61%
Here the word power means ‘powerful position’.
I think the figures are on the low side even for women with the power of position, excepting the opportunity to excel. Those figures mean that 42% of women in powerful positions do not feel that they are flourishing. 47% do not find meaning and purpose through their work. 49% neither feel empowered nor feel they have the opportunity to empower others.
No wonder, in the UK, women leaders are the fastest growing segment of self employed entrepreneurs (reported by Jean Martin in the Guardian, May 2015).
The biggest drop out of women from the corporate world comes at the mid career point.
While it might be easy to assume that this is for work/life balance while raising children, this may not be the full story.
Apparently, a whopping 38% of American women, 39% of British women and 41% of German women aged 35-50 do not have children.
Do you think this could mean that as many women drop out due to disillusionment, as due to wanting better work/life balance?
In my experience:
People opt out when they believe their current circumstances won’t change.
People opt out when they are fed up with the feeling of hitting their head against a brick wall.
People opt out when the environment that they are in is not conducive to their growth or in alignment with their values.
In the 1980’s (yes I was in the workforce then and can speak from personal experience) women’s empowerment was all about breaking the ‘glass ceiling’. And some women succeeded.
Is it possible that the new wave of women leaders are not as interested in proving themselves within male dominated environments?
Just maybe they don’t lose their interest in power. Maybe they lose their interest in the forms of power that prevail!
If so, by opting out they are saying no to something that doesn’t work for them and yes to something that could.
It makes no sense that women would lose their interest in power as they get older, given that wisdom traditions the world over consider the menopausal transition as being a passage to power for women.
Is it possible that women that ‘drop out’ are really ‘dropping’ into tune with their innate feminine power?
It interests me that women may be opting out in their peri-menopausal and menopausal years driven unconsciously by biological impulses.
If you are one of those women, I can help you to reframe the whole topic of power – in order to step into your most powerful and significant expression yet.