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Advice to Women who would be CEOs: "Stay away from HR"

Another blurb in Fortune caught my eye:

Why aren't there more female CEOs? Interestingly, that question (Nov. 14) inspired many more comments from men than from women, and plenty of them echoed this one, from Henrik S.: "When a man in a high position fails, the reason people give is never 'because he's a man.' Imagine, for example, how different the press coverage would have been if Michael Eisner had been Michelle Eisner." Most correspondents passed along advice for young female go-getters. The consensus: More women need to major in the sciences and engineering, go to business school, and, as one reader put it, "stay away from jobs in soft support-staff areas like HR, which don't usually lead to the top no matter who (male or female) is doing them."

It is a sad fact that women are just not getting to the top.

The culprit in my view is cultural inertia coupled with myopic vision in the boardroom.

See also: "Leadership in Your Midst: Tapping the Hidden Strengths of Minority Executives" by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Carolyn Buck Luce, and Cornel West (yes, that Cornel West).

Here's the article abstract:

All companies value leadership--some of them enough to invest dearly in cultivating it. But few management teams seem to value one engine of leadership development that is right under their noses, churning out the kind of talent they need most. It's the complicated, overburdened but very rich lives of their minority managers. Minority professionals--particularly women of color--are called upon inordinately to lend their skills and guidance to activities outside their jobs. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, who heads the Center for Work-Life Policy, and her co-authors, Carolyn Buck Luce of Ernst & Young and Cornel West of Princeton, present new research on the extent to which minority professionals take on community service and other responsibilities outside the workplace and more than their share of recruiting, mentoring, and committee work within the workplace. These invisible lives, argue the authors, can be a source of competitive strength if companies can learn to recognize and further cultivate the cultural capital they represent. But it's hard to convince minority professionals that their employer respects and values their off-hours responsibilities. A lack of trust keeps many people from revealing much about their personal lives. The authors outline four ways companies can leverage hidden skills: Develop a new level of awareness of minority professionals' invisible lives; appreciate the outsize burdens these professionals carry and try to lighten them; build trust by putting teeth into diversity goals; and, to finish the job of leadership development, help minorities reflect on their off-hours experiences, extract and generalize the lessons, and apply what's been learned in other settings.

Frankly, it's even worse than this. Most companies (not just in the US) are still run by paternalistic, chauvinistic and yes, racist, management. I'll blog about this soon.

In the meantime, stay away from HR, PR, and Accounting- if you want to get to the top, that is.

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