February 12, 2015 Practice Points

Blame the System—Not Women

By Maria Mariano Guthrie

In a recent article published in The Cut on nymag.com, Lisa Miller stated that we need to stop blaming women for holding themselves back from advancement in the workplace. The popular theory, she notes, has been that women’s lack of success is attributable to their willingness to scale back, accommodate family demands, and simply take themselves out of the running. It is much easier to place the blame on women for the gender gaps in the boardroom because they presumably value their careers less than men.

However, Ms. Miller notes that this fundamental and popular premise is flawed. Women are not pulling back, but are raising their hands and leaning in. Yet, why are there still so few women in the corner offices or the boardrooms? It is the system within which women work that is still “entrenched and fundamentally sexist.”

She points to a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review that surveyed 25,000 MBA graduates of Harvard Business School over three generations that demonstrate that companies, not women, need to try harder. In the study, the researchers found that while men and women have the same amount of ambition at the outset of a career, men achieve greater success. She notes that a very critical finding was that there was “no correlation at all between career success and decisions an individual makes to accommodate family, by limiting travel, choosing more flexible hours, or moving laterally within a company.”

Ms. Miller discusses that the problem lies within the workplace culture. Women should stop shouldering the blame and we should stop blaming them for lack of gender equality. The Harvard study demonstrates that women are trying without succeeding. She advocates that “Companies need to try harder, too.”

Keywords: woman advocate, litigation,workplace, gender equality, ambition, female success

Maria Mariano Guthrie works at Carlile Patchen & Murphy, LLP in Columbus, Ohio


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