Is it actually possible that male insecurity is preventing women from breaking the glass ceiling? We’re not sure of the answer in the absence of reliable data, but a recent HBR blog, Men’s Self-Esteem Drops When Their Female Partners Succeed , cites new data relating to romantic relationships. The data shows male self esteem dropping precipitously when female partners achieve high test scores. For sure, there are differences between romantic relationships and business relationships. Yet, our assessments show that predictive relationship proclivities between personality types apply in business relationships as well as in personal relationships.
Assuming this analogy can be drawn, it does not, by itself, support a correlation between threatened male security and the glass ceiling. To feel insecure is one thing, but for men to let these feelings sabotage gender diversity initiatives is another. On the other hand, it’s not unreasonable to believe that men will support a culture of office face time, road warrior heroics and foreign assignments, knowing full well that such a culture will help them advance while women competing with them are hampered by the need for work/life balance during their child-rearing years.
My recent blog, How Culture Kills Gender Diversity, makes a strong case for culture as a significant impediment to gender diversity, irrespective of flexible work programs and other diversity initiatives. When we work with senior leadership on improving gender diversity and breaking down cultural barriers, we find that no two companies are alike. It will help to consider adding “successful women leaders threatening male self-esteem” to the list of challenges preventing women from breaking the glass ceiling. I expect that it will be a consideration in a significant percentage of cases.
What do you think?