Wall Street Power Woman Irene Dorner On “Sticky Feet” And Glass Ceilings

I am a single, 25-year-old woman who is still in graduate school. I can hardly see down the road to my next assignment deadline, or even what I’ll make for dinner.  Yet the ongoing discourse about women in the workforce has me thinking (and generally pretty terrified) about the future.

In a New York Times article, “Woman in a Man’s World,” Irene Dorner, the chief executive of HSBC USA, shared her regrets about not pushing to change the status quo for more women than just herself while she climbed the finance ladder on Wall Street.

Like Sheryl Sandberg, whose book Lean In has received flack for telling women to be more aggressive, Dorner says there is a “sticky floor” problem in conjunction with the glass ceiling.  She does not necessarily believe that women of Wall Street need to be more like men, but does highlight a difference…

“If you offer a woman a professional management opportunity or promotion — and I’ve had this happen to me — the first thing they do is produce a long list of pros and cons: ‘Oh, dear, what do I have to do with child care? I must and go tell my husband’ … “If you offer it to a guy, he’ll just say: ‘Well, thank you very much. I’ll do the best I can.’ ”

She offers her advice at a time when many industries are actively looking to close the gender gap.  Organizations are encouraging girls to learn computer code; banks are introducing mentorship programs and even paternal leave.  Governments like Norway’s are demanding that 40 percent of public company boards be made up of women.

According to the Times, Dorner wishes she’d pushed for more programs and reforms to encourage more diversity in the workplace.  She hopes that women in the middle there now take a stand and push for these on their way to the top.

As a blossoming writer and self-proclaimed feminist, raised by a badass businesswoman mom, I find the conversation about women in the workforce fascinating.  Still, the lack of consensus is mind-numbing at times and  terribly confusing: we’ll make less if we stop to have kids, we don’t demand promotions, we’re better caregivers and should stay home.  We can or cannot have it all.

I already fret about the job search I naively thought would be over (for a while) at 22 when I was hired in a political office.  Now, I also worry about what will happen to me when I do go back to work, and the choices I’ll face.  I love a good pro/con list.  I do have “sticky feet” sometimes.  Which way will I lean?

[NY Times]

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