The Common Good

Women Underrepresented in Big Business: Does it Matter?

In a recent post on Forbes, career and executive leadership coach Kathy Caprino points out that only five women made it on Fortune Magazine's recent "40 Under 40" list. That means that even though women make up 47 percent of the "workforce," few are reaching the top echelons of the business world. Why are so few women making it to the top? Caprino ignores this question and instead poses a slight rephrase-"how can more women advance to the top of their fields?"

What follows are "eight essential steps for women to rise to the top." Among them such instructions include: never leave the workforce to fulfill familial responsibilities, embrace your inner desire to be "number one," take "massive" risks, and always say "YES."

While I appreciate some of Caprino's suggestions-especially the ones that encourage women to speak up, take up more space, and trust their own thinking-much of the article rubbed me the wrong way. My own deepest goals and dreams lie far from the kind of competitive success featured in Fortune, but I support a woman's right to aspire in this way-if that's where her heart is. What I don't support is the assumption that in order to prove our out-of-home worth women have to meet men in the cutthroat "achievement"-driven world of the overworked (and I say "achievement" facetiously because what does that even mean, really?).

In my vision of the emancipated world, women will not be sitting at the top of some profit-driven society, relishing power and basking in material wealth. In the reign of God, women will be able to take the time we need to be mothers and daughters without having to let go of our more far-reaching aspirations. And men will have the time they need to be fathers and sons. We will love and value ourselves without playing into the false worldly notion that we can and should be "number one." And we won't be afraid to say "NO," when we're tired.

If what is really at stake here, as I suspect Caprino would argue, is not only wealth and power, but also women's ability to live into our full creative and innovative abilities, then I say instead of asking women to take a step up, why don't we ask men to take a step in a different direction? Why not imagine a world where we all get to act a little more human, rather than trying to convince women that we are stifling our own success? So, for whatever it's worth, I would offer eight essential steps for men:

1. Take a break from the workforce.

2. Follow someone else's lead

3. Become a better listener.

4. Learn to be collaborative, not competitive.

5. Expand your mind.

6. Spend time with friends and family.

7. Make decisions that are in the best interest of those around you.

8. Rest and be present.

Anne Marie Roderick is an editorial assistant for Sojourners.

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