Do Women Executives Tend to Shy Away From Supporting Other Women?

Michelle Duguid, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, is the lead author of a study of women in top levels of organization management. Her research found that in many instances women who achieve success in reaching top-level positions are not supportive of other women seeking to break the so-called glass ceiling.

Dr. Duguid writes that women who have been appointed to high-level positions in organizations are subjected to a “value threat” which impacts their behavior toward other women who seek to become members of top management.

“Competitive threat is the fear that a highly qualified female candidate might be more qualified, competent or accepted than you are,” Duguid says. “Women also might be concerned about bringing in another woman with lower qualifications, who could reinforce negative stereotypes about women and impact others’ impressions of them. This is collective threat.”

A third threat Duguid considered is the favoritism threat. “This is where female tokens in high-prestige work groups may be concerned about appearing biased toward other women and therefore will not advocate for them,” Duguid says.

Dr. Duguid is a native of Barbados. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Cornell University and joined the Washington University faculty in 2009.

The study, which was published in the journal Organization Science, can be accessed here.

WIAReport is interested in hearing readers comments on this research. Does her research ring true to experiences you have had in the academic world?

Filed Under: Research/Study


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  1. Dr. Kris says:

    ehem…”so called glass-ceiling”? I expect better from this publication!

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