What Keeps High Achieving Women from Choosing Executive Positions

What Keeps High Achieving Women from Choosing Executive Positions

Adler (1956) relates these reactions to what he termed an “inferiority complex” which as humans, we are always struggling to overcome. Since, according to Adler, the number one goal of humans—to achieve the image of perfection we created for ourselves when we were children—is rarely achieved, the number two goal for all humans is to decrease their feelings of inferiority. What may appear as a “superiority complex” is actually a façade created to hide the fear of being seen as inferior. The actions of people with superiority complexes show up in many forms of dysfunction, including narcissism and addictions including workaholism, bullying and self-righteousness.

Adler is also very clear on the ways humans can overcome inferiority and gain true power and significance in life. However, he said that because of how our society has been structured, women need the help of men to do this. Leaders in the workplace must create conditions that will enable women to reconcile with their feminine traits—capitalizing on the communal aspects women tend to bring to the workplace—and for everyone to respect women as leaders and honor their relationships with these women. (p.24)

Martell and DeSmet (2001) also predicted that behaviors in a female manager might positively influence respondents’ perceptions of her, including those who held previously negative stereotypes. Thus, evidence also exists showing that woman, by their own means, can rein in negative stereotypes and influence participants to evaluate them more favorably. Work needs to be done on both sides, with the women on their identities and behaviors and with the organizations on how to value women more in their structures and management behavior.


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Marcia ReynoldsIn addition to coaching leaders in global companies, Dr. Marcia Reynolds travels the world speaking and teaching classes in advanced coaching skills, leadership and emotional intelligence. She is the author of 3 books and has been quoted in major online and print publications in the US and Europe.

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