back to article Women face 'glass cliff' after breaking glass ceiling

Women rising to high leaderships positions in business and politics - so having broken through the "glass ceiling" - are then faced by the additional menace of a "glass cliff". Dr Michelle Ryan and colleagues at Exeter Uni lay out their research in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly*. Essentially the theory of the " …

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  1. Simon Riley

    Politics AND business?

    Is the "politics and business" from the study or something El Reg has added?

    The study covers Tory candidate selections and is even called "Politics and the Glass Cliff". Someone's overextrapolating.

  2. Annihilator
    Coat

    Glass ceiling

    Personaly, I've never had a problem with women above the glass ceiling. As long as they're wearing a skirt.

    Sorry Miss Bee, I'll get my coat.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Carla Fiorina...

    would certainly fit the bill (in her reign as HP suprema). You could more or less force Mrs Thatcher into the theory too - Britain was in one hell of a mess in 1979.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Women cry foul over opportunities,

    cos we only give them the bad ones? and they base this on the most regressive, old-boy ridden industry of all - politics*? Jeez louise, gimme a break!

    Any potential merit this article might have had evaporated once they picked the wrong example.

    *I am assuming here the Reg's precis of the article is substantively correct.

  5. Velv Silver badge
    Go

    MPs

    Perhaps we should double the number of MPs and insist that every constituency return one man and one woman.

    Or better still, make being an MP part of a job share scheme with their being one male and one female. Then there can always be one MP in parliament and one in the constituency (which does of course assume the candidate actually lives in the constituency and doesn't just take it as a safe seat)

    1. Alpha Tony

      um...

      Tom, statistically you could argue that 'Britain is in one hell of a mess' whenever a new party comes to power - If it wasn't then the incumbant would likely not have been voted out.

      You could argue that we are in one hell of a mess now, but I don't see the parties all putting forward woman leaders...

    2. Alpha Tony

      or...

      ....or better yet genetically modified hermaphrodite MPs!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      weren't her problems more to do with ...

      CF being shit at her job?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Stereotyping - A Self Fulfilling Prophesy?

      I suspect that some female employees do play the harrasment and the discrimination card on occasion (Topical or what?). In my experience, women are generally a lot better than men, in their role and willingly bend over backwards to accomodate their male colleagues.

    5. Paul 4
      FAIL

      Not just politics

      but Tory politics... The people who chose the candiates are open in there view that "things were better in the past" so only try somthing new when it all gose wrong.

      Conservatives don't like change. What a supprise. FFS

      1. Paul 4
        Happy

        Oh...

        Im not saying its not true, it might be, but not a good group to choose. Im still of the view that someone needs to do a study of the number of female graduates in the "top job" age group (50+) to the number of Women in top jobs. Im sure this will have some effect on it, but I could be wrong.

    6. Dave Murray
      Thumb Down

      Arrrrgh!

      The LAST thing we need to do is increase the number of MPs. We already have far too many of these useless, lying, theiving, fraudulent, philandering scroungers and their equally despicable spouses.

    7. SmudgerUK

      Manifesto busting

      Geniu, You should suggest to Mark Thomas for his Alternative Manifesto.

      ( Mark Thomas is a UK Stand-up Comedian and somewhat political activist, he has recently collected together some audience suggestions for an alterntive manifesto and his production company are agreeing to back any Independent candidates who will run for parliament as long as they will campaign with at least one of the policies in the Manifesto)

  6. Mark 65 Silver badge

    I don't know

    There's just no pleasing some people.

  7. TRT Silver badge

    Bionic?

    Well, if she breaks apart, at least we can rebuild her.

  8. Mark Rendle
    Grenade

    IANAW, but

    I don't see any women complaining about the glass floor, below which men are expected to shut up and get on with it but women can suddenly decide that no, actually, they'd rather not work at all and can become "homemakers". If any female coal miners or sewer maintenance engineers are offended by that, then I apologise unreservedly. Everyone else can suck it.

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: IANAW, but

      Personally I will be happy with a glass coffin about now.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      homemakers? how about HR officers?

      I thought women who didn't want to work at all moved into Human Resources!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    I Believe the Proper Term Is...

    "Hiding behind their skirts."

    The other edge to this sword is, that if the woman pulls it off, she becomes incredibly valuable.

  10. Gordon is not a Moron

    The timing must be a coincidence..

    but on BBC 4 last night they screened 'Dinner with Micheal Portillo' all about Margret Thatcher and her effect on the glass ceiling for women in politics (should be on the iPlayer somewhere). Some of the panelists came to the conclusion that the biggest thing holding potential women MP's \ Party Leaders back is that most of the current crop of women politico's are all pretty much vapid, brain-dead, window dressing which makes it more difficult for the next woman lining up to be an MP and so on.

    1. Mark Stanbrook
      Stop

      Re: The timing must be a coincidence

      "most of the current crop of women politico's are all pretty much vapid, brain-dead, window dressing"

      Exactly what are they dressing the windows for then? Depression???

      Teresa May used to be my MP. Whenever I wrote to her the only thing I got back was a form letter:

      "Thank you for your recent correspondance regarding <subject>. We at the Conservative party think something else entirely, so please piss off."

      So who cares who's in politics... the policies come down from the top, decided by spin doctors not politicians.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Stop

        Same as every politico

        No point writing to MPs they only jump on bandwagons, current popular ones here are muppets who can't read immigration forms properly, want to jump the queue / be treated as a "special case" so run crying to the local rag who demand a response from the local MP who meekly agrees to press the home office to "make an exception", instead of saying "READ THE F*CKING FORMS PROPERLY!!!"

        If you write to them about anything else they go "dont care, go away, we believe this is *evil/wrong/not in the bible/koran etc*"

        Useless bunch of twockers

  11. riparian zone
    IT Angle

    ahem, management?

    In my experience, women managers (of which there are many) are not necessarily worth working with, for many many reasons. It may be different in politics, but the old boy network would just be changed into an old girl network if the rules changed... I tend to prefer the fact that when it comes to gender wars, we never make peace over the strengths each gender is endowed with.

    where's the IT angle?

  12. Paul Mitchell 1

    Cause and effect?

    So when women take the helm, a crisis usually ensues?

  13. LinkOfHyrule
    Paris Hilton

    Sod actually reading the article...

    ...lets make jokes about ladies facing a glass coffee table from underneath, in a cheesy 1970's Swedish "art house" film!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Symposium topics

      "How I got to the boardroom from the kitchen, via the bedroom"

      Ahem

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pathetic

    What a sad take on life - if a business fails with a man at the top, the failure was his fault. If a business fails with a woman at the top, a man is still to blame because he put her there.

    Here's what everyone taking a position of leadership throughout history has had to accept: if something bad happens, it's all *your* fault. Ask any politician...

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Pathetic

      So, if one boss or party leader (gender irrelevant) takes over from another, all the problems and issues his/her predecessor created or failed to deal with get wiped from the record? Tell that to Gordon Brown. Indeed, tell it to every other prime minister and everyone who's ever inherited a mess at work from anyone else.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pathetic

        @ "So, if one boss or party leader (gender irrelevant) takes over from another, all the problems and issues his/her predecessor created or failed to deal with get wiped from the record?"

        No, the problems from the previous administration all became Gordon Brown's fault the moment he took over. The problems are real, everyone wants someone to shout at, and Gordon Brown is the man who is visible at the top - so he is to blame for everything that goes wrong.

        It's a simple fact of the business world - the head of the business is to blame for everything. You can't point the finger at predecessors or employees etc. Everyone will hold you, and only you, accountable. Not nice, often not fair, but a fact of life. Be prepared for it if you ever step into any leadership role - it's the price of admittance!

      2. Alpha Tony

        Well..

        ...to be fair Sarah, a lot of those problems were/are financial and prior to becoming our unelected grey overlord, the dour cyclops was the chancellor of the exchequer. And for that matter when it comes to the other problems (Iraq, Afghanistan, the erosion of civil liberties etc) he voted in favour of them prior to assuming the premiership and has continued with the same policies since.

        So all in all I reckon he is fair game. We should hang him up like a giant grey piñata and give every taxpayer a stick IMO.

    2. Red Bren
      Pirate

      You must have slept through the credit crunch

      How many of captains of the banking industry took the blame for their failures and refused the golden handshakes and guaranteed pensions? And how many of their successors (regardless of gender) put the blame for the fraught state of their business on the previous leadership?

    3. Deb Swinney

      Except...

      "Here's what everyone taking a position of leadership throughout history has had to accept: if something bad happens, it's all *your* fault. Ask any politician..."

      You think our politicians accept that it's their fault when something goes wrong? Jeez, which country are you living in?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Except...

        @ "You think our politicians accept that it's their fault when something goes wrong? Jeez, which country are you living in?"

        Several - it works the same way in all of them. Think about - when have you ever heard a politician/CEO/headmaster say, "it wasn't my fault - it was so-and-so"? No one will wear that. Of course they don't say, "this is all my fault" either, because it's a given (you're the leader - you're responsible). No, what they try to do is either downplay the problem, misdirect attention to something else, or make bold statements about they're solving it ( carefully omitting any specifics). But if the problem persists, and is serious, they will carry the blame and the fallout (whether they really caused the problem or not).

  15. No, I will not fix your computer
    Stop

    Sarah Palin....

    ....that's all, just think about it.

    1. Seanmon

      ... Harman, Currie, Waqui Jaqui..

      Yeah, I think I'm beginning to see.

      In fairness, 14-odd years in IT and the best boss I've had to date was a woman.

      1. Jimbo 6
        Joke

        If I...

        ...had to date my boss, I'd probably prefer a woman too.

      2. Ned Leprosy

        Eric the title

        > "In fairness, 14-odd years in IT and the best boss I've had to date was a woman."

        One of my best bosses was also a woman. Mainly because she never turned up, other than the one occasion she announced she was now in charge. Six months of bliss, not being interfered with by one of our legion of PHBs.

        There does seem to be a better correlation between the effectiveness of a boss and their (in)attendance than any other factor, at least in my experience.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    especially for Sarah

    "the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly*"

    published 4 times a year rather than monthly because ...?

    puerile, childish, sexist - yes, I've heard of them

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: especially for Sarah

      Nice. Really nice. I bet your mother is proud of you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        yes she is

        paricularly with respect to my sense of humour

        1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: yes she is

          Right.

          I hate this thread, and I have absolutely no love for any of you, either. That is all.

          1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

            Re: Re: yes she is

            In fact, I'm going to hand over to my colleague for this one. Anyone who wants to complain about this evidence of me demanding preferential treatment can email kissthis@thereg.co.uk.

  17. cs94njw
    WTF?

    Perhaps women don't want to do the job

    Call me stupid (ok, don't) but perhaps women don't want to do the high powered jobs as much as men do?

    I bet most men don't want to work in childrens nurseries, I bet most women don't want to work as mechanics.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, women/men don't want to do everything that men/women do.

  18. Paul Nagelkerke
    Go

    Glass Cliff? Proudly Canadian Invention!

    The Glass Cliff was invented in Canada!

    Way back in 1993, our then Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney saw that he was going to get wiped out for his policy decisions (Good and Services Tax, unbalanced Free Trade Agreement favoring the US, etc), stepped down and let Defence Minister Kim Campbell become P.M. for 2-1/2 months.

    The party was voted off the map, going from a 151 seat majority to only 2 seats. Ms. Campbell was soundly defeated. Mulroney was such a jerk he didn't even vacate the Prime Minister's residence, Campbell was the only P.M. to never live in the P.M.'s official residence.

    Go Canada!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    here's a serious point

    "women tend only to be appointed to senior leadership positions when the organisation to be led faces crisis and everything is likely to go wrong, leading to a dearth of men willing to take the helm."

    doesn't that imply that women have poor judgement in that they are prepared to take on positions that men eschew?

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      @Serious point

      Or that so few opportunities are afforded to women that they will take on the most desperate of lost causes in the forlorn hope that they can turn it around and make it work.

      I have made that mistake, but I have also seen male colleagues make the same mistake in a promotion-deprived environment.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I can sympathise but

        "they will take on the most desperate of lost causes in the forlorn hope that they can turn it around"

        still equates to poor judgement

        1. Admiral Grace Hopper

          I take your point

          But when your range of what to make a judgement on is reduced to your choice of the crap left behind by the ones who get to choose the good stuff first, then you're on a hiding to nothing. As I said earlier, this doesn't just affect women, but it does seem to affect women disproportionately. This is only my personal experience, you understand, your mileage may vary.

          1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

            I get what you're saying

            It is like voting in the U.S. Sure you get to pick but regardless of whether you choose mayo or mustard you still get a shite sandwich.

  20. Thomas 18
    Joke

    iPad...

    Should help women stay comfortable and productive throughout the month even on heavy work flow days, its also quite heavy so can be used to beat people who make chauvinistic jokes.

  21. Neil Cooper
    Paris Hilton

    Glass cliff is baloney

    This article is ridiculous. It is hard to for anyone to get promoted into very high office, men too. Deal with it. You women don't think men face exactly the same issues?

    The fact is, many women aren't happy with just equality, they expect preferential treatment.

    Paris because she made it through the glass ceiling with no skills at all.

  22. Shig
    FAIL

    hmm

    you ever read a feminist journal? If a man penned that crap it'd be called mysogenistic!

  23. Hungry Sean
    Flame

    what the hell

    Why is it that articles like this bring out the most backwards, sexist, boneheaded bastards who have the nerve to complain, while putting down the fairer sex in puerile language, that they've got it rough and the women are to blame. This sort of crap is widespread-- during my graduate education, for example, there were about three women in my field, compared with about 50 men. When women stepped into the building, guys looked at them and said, "fnar, fnar, she must be lost, hurr hurr." Three of my four recent job interviews had no women at all in their department. My significant other just got back from a conference where one of the keynote speakers asked the audience to forgive his friend who couldn't make it because "his wife was crotch-fruiting." Obviously all these things are unconnected, and the lack of women in engineering is really just because women have a menstrual cycle and would rather be home playing with dolls, being barefoot and pregnant, and cooking dinner.

    Speaking as a man, I wish Sarah would moderate you all off the face of the map. FOAD

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    Some sympathies but better analysis required

    I have some sympathies with research that suggests either glass ceilings or even glass cliffs as in this case. But I would like to see some proper research done into why the glass ceiling exists. It could exist because women aren't being given the opportunities, it could also exist because there aren't sufficient women at lower levels in the organisation feeding into the upper echelons. My suspicion is a combination of both, but I would like to justify the argument about feeders.

    I've been a senior manager in the IT industry for many years. I will interview anyone whose CV crosses my desk with reasonable C++ knowledge. In the many years in IT, I've never interviewed a woman for a C++ job. I have worked with a few, but they are few and far between. At university, the engineering faculty had about 10% women, but the Computing faculty had no female students whatsoever. I would love my industry to have more women in it, because I believe they bring some different dimensions. The software I write has to be used by both men and women for example.

    What I would like to see is the statistics mentioned in the article about leaders in the top 50 companies backed up with statistics about the number of women at lower levels in the same companies. If I browse down the start of the fortune 500 companies, I see plenty of energy companies (eg ExxonMobil), plenty of engineering companies (eg GE, GM, Ford), plenty of IT/Telecoms companies (eg Verizon, Microsoft) and plenty of financial services (eg Citi, BoA, MS). I suspect that all of these industries are dominated at the lower levels by men. It would be really good to see percentages of men and women at each level in the pyramid in these companies. That would give us a much stronger indication of whether the big companies don't recruit enough women (either because of policy - which I doubt - or because insufficient women are interesting in that industry), or whether they are genuinely hitting a glass ceiling somewhere in the pyramid.

    Going straight for the jugular and saying that there isn't a 50/50 split at the highest level is useless if you don't deal with what the split is at lower levels. It is no different to saying that there are more Chinese than Americans in the world, so why aren't there more Chinese people at the heads of the Fortune Global 500 than Americans.

    Can we have a pointless manipulated statistics icon please?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      awww

      is it your time of the month?

      IRONY!

    2. graham crocker

      ....bettter analysis required......

      Excellent points made here. Well done. (This report reminds me of the gender pay inequality assertions from various pressure groups in UK. - Invariably, they omit to mention thata they are not comparing the same or even similar jobs, consequently skewing the results).

    3. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Not so easy

      I can't say that I've ever worked in a company where the leadership really resembled the majority of the staff. It seems to me that the ladder to the corner office is based on job function. That is to say there likely aren't many F.500 CEO's that started out as a welder on the shop floor somewhere in that company. There probably aren't many programmers or engineers in the top who aren't founders and even those are probably better motivational speakers than they are engineers or programmers.

      I guess what I'm saying is that people who become CEO aren't necessarily the ones classically trained in the industry they work. Look at Sam Palmisano at IBM, he has a degree in History not IT or technology; and Jeff Immelt at the conglomerate GE, Applied Math + MBA. I'm not sure that your occupation, where you start or what you study is relevant to reaching the top. What seems to matter is a desire to "get there" and the skills to do it. I guess like Steve Jobs, you just have to "think different".

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well I've got lucky I suppose

      I've worked for 2 companies (over the last 12+ years I've been in IT) and I'd say that 40% ( probably average of 30% at any one time) of those in my department were women. Lots have come from a relatively old fashioned COBOL/RPG background and the rest from PC Support and upwards. From what I can gather none of those did Computer Science as a degree (if they did one). So none of the classic CS course languages were represented. Probably explains why you've never interviewed a C++ programmer , they just ain't out there.

      All of them are good at their jobs, competent , confident, adaptable and in no way could be said to have got there through anything other but ability. Certainly some have been attractive, but that's a bonus.

      Two women have been at the top of their departments (one left to join a bigger place, the other still there). Neither to date have got to be on the board. I've not seen the Glass ceiling for women at work , perhaps a glass ceiling for techies.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      To Hungry Sean

      You have been well and truly brain washed

  25. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Doesn't leadership usually change just before a crisis?

    Either because the current leader sees the crisis approaching and gets out before it hits, or because the board notice the current leader's failings and get rid of them.

    So the vast majority of 'changes of leadership' happen just before a 'glass cliff' - presumably sometimes the crisis is averted, on other occasions it is not.

    Most of these kinds of study are fundamentally flawed and essentially useless, because they start with an assumption then look for evidence to support that assumption.

    That's just plain wrong, and isn't Science. (It's politics, actually.)

    Start with the evidence, and look for what that evidence suggests. Produce a hypothesis, try to knock it down - this is Science.

    Here's the critical flaw:

    In those 'safe seats', how many were incumbents? (The selected person had a seat already)

    Compare that to the 'dodgy' seats - what percentage were 'new', and did not previously hold a seat.

    My guess (given how these usually work), is that the vast majority of openings were in dodgy seats. Therefore, these were the only seats where 'new' people of any sex could attempt to take a seat. Given the distribution of male/female for incumbents, it becomes *certain* that there will be a greater proportion of male candidates for safe seats than for 'dodgy' seats.

    The valid comparison is between *available* seats and *new* candidates. Comparing incumbents to new people will always show the old bias, and not any change in bias.

    1. Alpha Tony

      I have to say...

      ... That you have absolutely nailed it there Richard.

  26. Andy Enderby 1
    Thumb Down

    what a load of misanthropic crap....

    .....the comments here are. Uncle Rant, are you going out of your way to be gratuitously offensive, or do you generally have slightly more IQ points than teeth ?

    That is all

  27. lovelyshady
    Flame

    Re what the hell

    Finally someone with a bit of intelligence!

    You lot are always allowed to fill the comments pages with sexist rubbish without fear of any sort of argument because there's either no women to read them or they can't see the point in arguing.

    We don't expect preferential treatment, just fair treatment.

    Although, any women bosses I've worked with haven't given us a good name.

    This is because they feel they have to behave differently to the men to get any sort of recognition (either shouting or flirting).

    Most of us just want to get one with the job and not have to listen to you lot wittering on about special treatment.....bring back Sarah.

  28. Graham Bartlett

    @Hungry Sean

    Yes, there are fewer women than men taking engineering degrees. What do you want to do about it? Quotas won't work if they won't sign up. Entry requirements are low enough that if you can't get in (2-3 C's at A-level is the norm) then you shouldn't be there in the first place, so "improving" quotas by forcing unis to take on girls who've scraped a D in Art isn't going to help anyone. (I knew a girl who took Elec Eng bcos she didn't have the grades for medicine. Lovely person, but a hopeless engineer.)

    I noticed not a shred of sexism when I was at uni. I lived in a shared house with one of the few women on the course, as it happens, and we'd all have heard about it if it happened bcos she wasn't backward in coming forward. She was also one of the better engineers on the course, incidentally.

    Since there aren't as many women taking engineering degrees, it's not unexpected that there'd be less women working in engineering. Those that do are often damn good though. Yes, I've heard comments in private about some women's appearance. I've also overheard the same comments about men in a majority-female PCB assembly area - and by men about other men. Engineers tend to be equal-opportunity piss-takers.

    When you look at management though, there are more women there than in the engineering area. Maybe they don't know the tech stuff, but they're taken on for their management skills. And I've only ever heard criticism of women managers when they've been lousy at managing, not ever for their gender.

    I'd also like to point out that there are way fewer men than women taking nursing degrees. For an extreme example (from my memory of graduation photos when I was last there), there have been no male physiotherapy graduates at all from Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge in the last decade. Why is this not worthy of mention?

    To be fair to the feminists, some *do* genuinely see all inequalities as worthy of mention, and try to do something about it. I've got a lot of time for Germaine Greer, who takes real equality seriously. I've got a lot less time for the likes of the people involved in this, who have apparently started from a base assumption of discrimination and have not made any positive contribution.

  29. asdf Silver badge
    Joke

    as Richard Pryor said

    "You stay in Jersey and make the damn mustard!" lamenting taking a glass cliff job on west coast in the flick Moving. Pretty good 80s comedy flick with Randy Quaid as well ("My brother says you are a real asshole.") teehee.

  30. Rodrigo Rollan
    Stop

    Statistics, Shamtistics....

    I have tow cents to add here:

    The so called Glass Cliff is there for men and woman alike. How many CEOs, PMs, Presidents, etc. have seriously F**D up ? I mean, really, really messed things up , quite publicly. Most of them were men. On the other hand Angela Merkel seems to be THE example this days. She's a woman and doing a great job.

    Also, the Alcatel - Lucent merger appointed a female CEO. She F***D that up on her own , you know ? No Glass Cliff lurking there, just poor management.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Troll

    At the Board Meeting...

    Looks like the company's going under! Last CEO left under suspicious circumstances, the rat bastard embezzled all the profits, fraud investigation incoming, major stockholders are asking uncomfortable questions.

    So! Who wants to be the new CEO?

    Anybody?

    Bill?...

    Jim?...

    John?...

    Come on guys, this is your big chance!

    George?...

    Herb?...

    Anybody?...

    Sally? SURE! .oO(Oh boy! My big chance!)

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Megaphone

    Is it still sexism if it's girl-on-girl hatred?

    One thing that has always amused me in the workplace is that the most chauvinistic and sexist attitudes come not from men towards women, but from women towards other women. I'm not just talking old guard ("a woman's place is") versus new guard ("anything a man can do I can do too/better"), nor am I talking about petty jealousies ("that girl got her promotion over me because she's younger/sexier/etc") either; I'm talking about pure, unbridled girl-on-girl hatred that seems to exist for no reason whatsoever.

    Men are simple creatures. Sex rules everything with us. We created fire to impress our girlfriends and we continue to go to work to create "fire" (new technologies, new machines, new medicines, etc) to continue impressing said nearly-always unimpressable girlfriends. We might think we're getting somewhere because they allow us to watch football and see them in the buff, but they're onto our game. Anyway, what male prejudice against women comes down to is a hundred thousand years of feeling we're superior because we're the ones with a penis. Sorry, ladies, that's testosterone for you. Ego and bravado are derived from always wanting to be the alpha male.

    The flip side of that coin - the side that is so insanely confusing to every working male ever - is a hundred thousand years of women having to put up with us wanting to constantly have sex with anyone or anything else within a day's hike. It's only recently that men started having to play along with the ladies to get what they wanted. Men certainly haven't evolved - at least not sexually - in the last hundred thousand years. Why would we expect women to have? And there's why, on any given day in any given office, there is at least one completely inexplicable case of two women, perhaps former-soon-to-be-again best friends, getting their hate on over why their male co-worker asked to borrow one girl's stapler instead of the others or why one's access card is working and the other's isn't or why Jeff always gets coffee at the same time as Stephanie BUT NOT ME AND WHY IS STEPHANIE UP FOR THAT PROMOTION BUT NOT ME NEVERMIND THAT I DON'T MEET THE SENIORITY REQUIREMENTS AND WHY IS COURTNEY WEARING WHITE ON HER WEDDING DAY WE KNOOOOW SHE'S NOT A VIRGIN AAAARGGGH BRAINSSSSS.

    Actually, I just wanted to see if I could spout off some insanely ridiculous verbal diarrhea that would make even Sarah Bee come back in disgust only to say that this is the exact reason she ran off in the first place. Actually, that's only half true.

    Since we're on the subject, the best boss I ever had was a woman and the worst boss I ever had was a flamingly gay man (also a woman). Now what's THAT say?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Woman And Engineering

    Many large corporations out there were founded by men, because men seem to love building stuff as much as most women like to work with human beings.

    Where is the Jane Gates of Microsoft or the Larissa Ellison of Oracle ? Or the woman who created this world-beating search engine ?

    I have worked in several large and small IT companies and 9 out of 10 women I came accross worked in administrative, HR or project management roles. During my studies there were only very, very few female students in CS.

    Only if you have done the grunt work as an engineer you have a proper chance to get up the ladder in a tech company (including the old-style tech companies like automotive and energy). Sorry girls, but you are simply not enough interested in technology. And I don't see this changing.

    As a previous poster wrote, we would love to see the C++ girls and not just the MBA, economics and sociology majors. Stuff is made in thousands of hours of hard technical work and not by nice talking and empathy.

    Much different in the healthcare business, but in that sector it seems to me that woman are pretty well represented.

    1. Hungry Sean
      Badgers

      @Graham

      Betraying some of your own prejudice? You start off your argument with the notion that getting more women involved in engineering entails bringing in women who could barely muster a D in art. The fact of the matter is that in recent years high school women have been beating the guys in math. Women are also doing fine in medicine and pure science, so the issue is certainly not one of capability. And the old argument that "girls aren't interested in computers" simply doesn't hold since women now use digital electronics, particularly mobile devices, at a higher rate than men.

      I don't have a great solution to offer, but I can throw out a few interesting examples.

      1) At my undergraduate, about the time I entered, the faculty in computer science decided that there were not enough women enrolling, and made some changes in their selection criteria. By the time I graduated computer science was relatively gender equal. Over in computer engineering, this was certainly not the case, and in fact, computer engineering was worse than mechanical engineering.

      2) A friend of mine at graduate school was a very good computer engineer and exceedingly sharp with her math. During her undergraduate, she met with her advisor to tell him that she intended to go on and get a PhD. He told her that she probably wouldn't be able to get into a graduate school and not to bother.

      3) Another friend of mine from grad school had a paper rejected on the basis of "I read the introduction to your paper, it's crap, and I didn't bother reading the rest of it." Now, I'd seen my friend present her work and it was absolutely top flight. I can't say for sure, but the odds are good that the reviewer saw a female name at the top of the paper, and mentally shut everything else out.

      I could go on, but honestly, just look at the first 20 posts on this article, and reflect on the fact that those posts are coming from people in this field who believe this sort of stuff is perfectly ok to spew. Sometimes it only takes one bozo to turn someone away (or interest them), and running into this crap through the course of lower education (girls don't do math) through university (girls don't do computers) and onwards, it's no surprise that very few women persevere to the end when those who are capable of doing it have plenty of other options for their talents-- if engineering is full of dicks, might as well become a lawyer, make five times as much money, and know your rights.

    2. Admiral Grace Hopper

      If you've ever programmed in any language whatsoever

      Then your following in the footsteps of Ada Lovelace and my namesake.

      Oh and if anyone wants to see the mythical female C++ programmer then give me a call. It would be a pleasure, I'm sure.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well...

    In my company there are more women than men, however there's no female engineers, and the engineering managers are male - finance and admin staff are female. That still makes the second most senior employee a woman however...

    We've never had an application from a female engineer, or indeed anybody in that sort of sector (including my IT department). That doesn't mean they wouldn't get hte job - some of the best temps I've had on the IT team were women they just don't seem to want permanent jobs in the sector.

    No point artificially struggling to appoint women if they don't want it. Out of all my lady friends I know one who has any interest in "geekery" (their word, not mine) at all, and none who like doing oily stuff (apart from my other half, but none of her friends would so much as change the oil in their own car...)

    People are just in to different things. I have no interest whatsoever in working in *insert traditionally feminine job here* - but that doesn't mean I think it's a crime that there's not enough men doing it, it just doesn't interest me.

    I can't speak for other businesses, but if one of our female employees wanted top spot, they could have it if they could do it - but none of them would want it as it comes up regularly in office discussions :p

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Well...

      The whole 'women just don't want these jobs' thing is an entirely separate argument. There are jobs that women do want, that they go after, and if they are capable of doing it then it has to be ensured that there are no more obstructions for them in their pursuit of that job than there would be for a man.

      That doesn't mean queue-jumping or favouritism or bias - that's what equality is. It's a balance that is to be strived for. And contrary to what the majority of you seem to think, it isn't one that is already tipping wildly in one direction all of a sudden. It really isn't.

      I shall be shutting this thread down shortly, so if any of you want to make my day before I do that, you'd better hustle.

  35. Mark2410
    FAIL

    what a load of carp

    to get to the top one assumes it takes a hell of a lot of long days, staying in the office any time there is a need and kissing much ass. women strangely are more likely to prioritise things other than their job as being the most important thing in their life. this does include having babies, often once produced women like to see their kids in a way that some men just dont. kid is off school sick? odds are the mother is the one that takes the day off.

    oh and men get fcuk all paternity leave so when men are as able as women to stay at home and raise the kids as women are only then are the number of women at the top going to equalise with men.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Troll

    so....

    so you get promoted to the glass cliff - not necessarily a bad thing - if you managed well - you can still come out with respect even if it is an overall failure (i.e. things don't go as badly as expected / the situation is handled well).

  37. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    "Crotch fruiting"

    Grossly insensitive but a quality line nonetheless.

    My college course was unusual in offering make up course if people did not have maths. This may have accounted for the above average level of women on what was basically a mechanical engineering course.

    During my time in software development all of my jobs had women staff or supervisors. Howeever this was in the COBOL/RPG type environment.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Hmmm

    The 2 most dislike managers in my work place are female, they are disliked because they have the empathy of a great white shark with toothache.

    The higher mid lvl magement is about 50% split and no issues with any of them.

  39. Magnus_Pym

    Visible differences

    Forgive the levity of the title but when you look around the workplace it is easy to see that women are under represented and it is easy to see that certain ethnicities are under represented but I'm sure that if everybody had to display their ethnicity, backgrounds and education in a prominent manner it would be easy to see middle class public school 'old boys' from (in England at least) the south east are massively overrepresented in the above-the-glass-ceiling positions. The higher you look the less likely you are to find anyone who is not part of this group.

    Sex and ethnicity are just the easy to spot manifestation of this but 95% of the population suffer.

    1. A J Stiles
      Happy

      Interesting idea

      This is certainly an interesting idea, and worthy of further investigation: a social study conducted completely without reference to sex, race or religion.

      "Social mobility" is largely an illusion which has been created by cheap consumer products and the dumbing-down of education. The fact remains that Britain is still basically split into pound-earners, shilling-earners and penny-earners. You can pretend you're not working class because you have a flat-screen TV, but that doesn't make it so.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Usual whining tosh

    I've haven't read so much claptrap in at least...er 24 hours.

    This idiotic notion that we can socially engineer our way to equality is just enervating, and the clap trap pseudo science used as proof of prejudice and inequality is nearly always never backed up with safe evidence.

    There will always be inequality because people aren't equal...in roles or ability. What is so wrong with meritocracy? If women head toward traditionally male dominated professions in their droves, and excel in those fields, then I have absolutely no doubt at all that the balance will occur without any artificial support. Get their on your own merit.

    Some of the top scientists in the world are women. A lot of the top surgeons and medical professionals are women. Women entrepreneurs are in abundant supply, and are extremely successful. Stuff is happening because women really want it to and that's the key here...

    I really loathe feminists.

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Usual whining tosh

      You loathe feminists? Do you even know who they are and why exactly you loathe them? I suspect you don't really want to examine that too closely as it's liable to make you uncomfortable.

      So many of you have merrily skated right past the point here, which is what always happens in these threads when you're so enraged you just want to take a shot at the general subject of a story rather than the specifics.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: You loathe feminists?

        @Sarah Bee

        Well, yes, actually I do know who some of 'them' are, and yes, I do know why I loathe them so: as a teen emerging unprotected into the eighties I can assure you the indoctrination didn't bypass my single male brain cell.

        Oh, btw, I am actually very comfortable with 'who I am': incredibly open about it as well..in the real world! I don't have a problem either way, so you're definitely on the wrong track there...

        However, I was fortunate (cough) enough to be surrounded by a full quartet of feminist loopy fruits who were almost always in stereotypical (for the time) feminist regalia (braless, dungarees and disgusting sweaters) as I grew up...and aside all of their crazy and often malevolent antics, I had to endure their emasculated gorpy followers that all too frequently dropped in to ingratiate themselves with my baggy panted misandrists. Three quarters of the troupe have since turned to the dark side, but the other one has lot of cats, lives on her own and is going grey gracefully.

        So, yeah, I may have a slightly tainted view perhaps, but nonetheless, my views on meritocracy do stand by themselves and don't require the presence of prejudicial opinions about feminists. To be quite honest, I just added that remark because I knew it would definitely rile any borderline militants that read the post ...a little childish antagonism is good for the soul :-)

        Thanks.

    2. Magnus_Pym
      FAIL

      What is so wrong with meritocracy?

      Nothing. It's a nice idea but there are so many barriers to achieving it. Some are automatic for instance education is expensive, so it is naturally more easy to gain if you have your own (or your parents) funds. Some are put in place by the entrenched earlier generation to support the status quo.

      So much in one's life and career requires an interview especially higher education and employment. So much in one's life and career require approval of the establishment. Try becoming a barrister, for instance, with out private funds and the 'right' connections. Not Impossible but certainly not a 'meritocracy'.

      There are so many points at which you can be prevented from moving forward simply because your face doesn't fit, Especially during hard times when there are so much competition. When there are lots of similar candidates why choose the woman for the job when there is a guy up for the job who belongs to your golf club, went to your school, knows the same people, socialises in the way, speaks with the same accent, carries the same prejudices, would make a great addition to the departments five-as-side, or any of the million reasons that people tend to like people like themselves?

      Male dominated establishment makes for a male dominated future. It takes thought to change that and people don't like to think if they can help it.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Curious question,..

    there's lots of anecdotal either way on the subject of women in IT here, surely someone (BCS, local govt, university) must have done a proper study, to examine recruitment and retention and mobility questions?

    There's obviously interest judging by the number of comments - El Reg, fancy stepping up to the plate here with your own study? Numbers, facts, a few opinions?

  42. Mart 2

    what the hell

    is a trick-cyclist and why is she pretending to a professor?

  43. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Well,

    Frank Robinson was the first African-American manager in major league baseball. He broke in with Cleveland Indians about the middle of their forty years in the wildnerness. His last stint as manager was with the Baltimore Orioles shortly after they had gone from great to awful.

    So on its face the argument is plausible.

  44. Graham Bartlett

    @HungrySean again

    Try reading. It's not a difficult skill.

    I said that if you want to increase numbers of women on an engineering course, you either need to increase the number of women applying or you need to decrease the entry standards. Decreasing the entry standards ("D in Art" example) results in people being taken on who simply aren't good enough and will fail - this is as applicable to men as to women. You say that entry criteria in your uni were changed to be more favourable to women? Well if selection is simply done on merit (i.e. grades), the only possible answer is that your uni was taking on female students with lower grades in preference to male students with better grades. This looks great on admission stats - no-one needs to know that vastly more students (mostly female) are flunking out, or if they're not flunking out then the pass grade has been dropped way lower so the course is worth less than it was. UK unis have had exactly this issue (non-gender-specific) over the last decade or so - they're paid by the number of students enrolling, not by the number completing, so they accept loads of kids who should never be there. As a result the first semester of the first year has an attrition rate like Hamburger Hill.

    So assuming that you're not applying positive discrimination, the only way to get more women on engineering courses is for more women to apply. The problem here is not capability (as I clearly said, if you're capable then you can get on the course fairly easily), it's that they're just not applying. Surveys have shown that women don't avoid engineering because they think it's dominated by sexist men - the reason they don't do it is because they think it's a technically hard subject. And they're *RIGHT*. Any women who are up for the technical challenge of engineering are quite capable of doing it - for that matter, absolutely anyone with an IQ above room temperature can do engineering if they put their mind to it. But more men than women are interested in that kind of technical challenge, and it really is as simple as that.

    You want equality of opportunity? Engineering provides it, right down the line. If you're good, you'll fly; if you're lousy, you'll be told about it in no uncertain terms, because engineers are more interested in results than in sugar-coating bad news. But you want special treatment because of your age/colour/gender/sexual orientation? Better go elsewhere.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why there's not many women in IT

    I'm a woman who works in IT, and I think the reason there's not many of us is just that - there's not many of us. In my old department there were several other women and we used to get together and have a laugh about the "alpha male" type behaviour of many of the men we worked with, which is the behaviour encouraged by my company if you want to succeed. This made it seem less bad. Now in my new department and I'm the only woman - I've no-one to laugh with and just one person laughing on their own is a mad woman. Not sure how much longer I'll be working here :-(

  46. JohnG Silver badge

    Naive

    On their way up to the upper echelons, anyone (male or female) should acquire experience of the nasty political manoeuvres that may befall them or those around them. Anyone naive enough to take a promotion without questioning the motives of those around them is too naive for such lofty office.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Can science save us?

    Erm... I'm fairly sure I saw a documentary not so long ago that, whilst studying chimpanzee behaviour, had demonstrated that male chimps liked toys that had multiple moving parts and that female ones preferred toys that acted as props in social situations.

    Perhaps its true that at a genetic/subconscious level males and females actually just enjoy different types of work? Just how many male nurses are there expressed as a percentage of nurses employed as a whole? If the study also shows that the majority of Nurse-Manager types are female too does that mean that ALL women are sexist and biased against men? Is this evidence of a 'Linen Ceiling' too?

    No, of course not.

    Vive la difference, surely? Any effective team should be made of mixed skills, abilities and talents. Stop trying to homogenise us into a uniform shade of beige!

  48. Ondrej Doubek
    Welcome

    Ore maybe it's exactly the other way?

    My manager for instance is a woman. And and no cliches You can throw at this, also not the ones I will offer below, would apply. She deserves to be the boss. Period.

    Generally, looking at the rate of female managers in our line of work, even though they are (unfortunately) a minority, their ratio seems to increase the higher You go up in hierarchy. (True, currently no female on "C" level, but there is less than a handful, isn't there.)

    Say: If in any given company the lower charges shows some 5% of female workers, and it becomes some >10% in middle management, and get's even higher from there- wouldn't that suggest that women are twice or more likely to be promoted than men?

    And couldn't the reason be in many cases overcompensation for the threat to look sexist?

    The principle of unfair advantage of minorities based on fear to be blamed for discrimination is as old the constitution of equal rights for minorities itself. And while I am absolutely for equal rights, and have friends in quite some different minority groups, I find this pattern, and the way some minorities are exploiting it, irritating.

    That applies especially to feminists.

    I can't see any signs of discrimination for women in IT at all- at least not in my workplace. They are highly appreciated! And I actually believe they do make the better (people-) managers. I simply don't see enough women around here in the first place...

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