Friday, January 6, 2012

The Paradox of Power

I've been writing a lot recently about women in business and how to narrow the persistent gender gap we see both in entrepreneurship and in executive leadership.

Just in time, here's a new research paper, "Women and the Paradox of Power," written by two female researchers, Jane Perdue of Braithwaite Innovation Group and Dr. Anne Perschel of Germane Consulting.

You can download the entire document at their website (click link above) but here's a few of their findings after the jump:

*Perdue and Perschel find that many women relate to power in ways that prevent them from attaining senior level positions, be it lack of confidence; cultural conditioning; or simply not understanding what power is.

*Reshaping a male-dominated business culture, changing the ratio of women to men, and thereby improving bottom line results, requires a very specific set of actions by those currently in leadership positions as well as by women themselves.

*Women must know power and be powerful. Perdue and Perschel found that 61 percent of survey participants hold mistaken views about how to advance their power (and themselves). The authors emphasize that women must study power, understand power, and use their power to change the culture of business.

• Ditch Cinderella: Over 60 percent of the participants preferred passive approaches to gaining power, opting to be granted access, rather than actively taking it.

• Show up. Stand Up. Voice Up: 52 percent of the barriers to power that participants identified are personal and internal, e.g., “what I need is a constant drip-feed of confidence.”

•Unstick Thinking: 38 percent of participants opted for being well-liked rather than powerful. Perdue and Perschel contend this need not be a choice.

The researchers also list a series of actions that corporations must take to make gender balance real. Take a look at the whole report; it's fascinating.


  1. I don't know where I heard this -- no doubt some NPR program -- but in Scandinavia, leadership is much more gender-balanced. And as a direct result, they believe, their companies have far fewer scandals of the Enron, banking variety we see over here.

  2. True. I wrote about this a couple weeks ago:

    In Norway, more men start new businesses, but women are almost as likely as men to own their own businesses.

    Maybe it's sexist, but I firmly believe that ethical problems will decrease a lot when more women are in charge of business, governments, etc.

  3. Karen - Thank you for including highlights of our report on your blog and for the very respectful way you did so.

    Regarding Scandinavia and running a business with feminine values: If you haven't seen her yet, Halla Tomasdottir does a fabulous TED presentation on the financial services company she and another woman started just before the economic crisis.

  4. You're so welcome, Anne! Thanks for your insightful research.

    I will watch Halla Tomasdottir's TED talk today, thanks for the recommendation.