Catalyst studies show that women are just as ambitious as men and use the same career advancement strategies but they don’t get the same pay off. “Clearly, access to the ‘hot jobs’ and to senior-level sponsors with clout to create that access can make a dramatic difference in closing the persistent gender gap.” said Ilene H. Lang, President & Chief Executive Officer, Catalyst.

According to a new Catalyst report, Good Intentions, Imperfect Execution? Women Get Fewer of the Hot Jobs Needed to Advance, women get fewer of the high visibility, mission-critical roles and international experiences the so-called “hot jobs” that are key to getting ahead at global companies. Unequal access to those “hot jobs” may be an underlying cause of the persistent gender gap at senior levels.

If women are equally ambitious and use the same career advancement strategies, what prevents them from the access to these “hot jobs”? It’s the glass grid.

Everyone talks about the glass ceiling and having to knock on the glass ceiling to get ahead. What’s really going on is that women have a glass grid. This is a power grid that is so hidden and buried that women don’t know it exists and because they don’t know it exists, they don’t know how to navigate it.

Think talent and hard work are enough to get ahead? The workplace is a highly politicized environment where key decisions about who gets ahead, who gets the plum assignments, who gets the scarce resources are not just decided on merit. Understanding the politics and what really happens behind how decisions are made in the workplace is essential if women are to succeed.

Women tend to have less power and less access to power than men which puts them at a disadvantage. In their book, Political Skills at Work, authors Ferris, Davidson, and Perrewe state:

Women do not see the necessity of political maneuvering. This political deficiency relegates them quickly to the losers brackets and probably explains what appears to be active and blatant gender discrimination in promotion and advancement.

The glass grid redefines the journey women have to the top. The higher up you get in an organization, the more competitive the environment. In fact, the power often shifts as women move up which results in additional challenges to navigate the grid successfully. Political skill and savvy become even more important as women ascend the corporate ladder.


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