By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management at American Public University
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on President Trump’s comments about women in the workplace. The scenario that I shared was as follows:
“During a ‘Thank You’ tour in Cincinnati, Ohio, Mr. Trump gave a shout-out to female entrepreneurs and implied that they are better at their jobs than men. What if he based his policy on who he thought would fuel the economy in the coming years? Is this his way of supporting a woman’s decision to have both a family and a career, especially if her job, as an entrepreneur, is job creation to stimulate the economy?
His daughter, Ivanka, has always been a role model for him. Has she influenced his decision on what would work for women in this position or is this his way of keeping a promise to the women who voted for him? If one believes in this train of thought, maybe the average worker was never his intended audience for this policy.”
These comments were made BEFORE Trump became president. Fast forward to the present, and we have a meeting between President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They discussed how they can work together to empower women in the workforce by removing systemic obstacles that prevent women from full participation in the workplace.
As a result, there was an announcement on the formation of the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders. The council will be made up of 10 female executives: five from Canada and five from the United States.
Job Council Formation: PR Stunt or Genuine Help for Women?
Should we believe the hype surrounding this council formation? Here are some ways of looking at the initiative:
- Once again, Ivanka Trump was present to assist in advocating for women to be able to balance work and family. She has her father’s ear, and he has watched her growth and struggle over the years. Her rise to power provides him with a “vision” of what a female leader must go through to succeed in business.
- California sociologist Sarah Thébaud conducted three experiments on entrepreneurs in the United States and England. The results indicated that a woman had to be exceptional and innovative to secure funding, while men could get by with less effort. How will this new council address this type of mindset to promote female business leaders and entrepreneurs?
- This meeting was a PR stunt that gave both men the opportunity to address a safe topic that is not controversial for either country. Also, the initiative is seen as a way to gain credibility among women in both countries.
- What about women who are business leaders or entrepreneurs? How does any action by the council help the average female employee of an organization? How will this group address systemic obstacles within organizations? Will the focus be on righting wrongs, generating business growth in both countries or a combination of both?
For the initiative to be successful, the team will need to overcome public concerns. For example:
- Hillary Clinton’s election loss has some still believing that women cannot break the glass ceiling for the highest office in the United States. For some, the election campaign gave women a sense of hope that they had arrived and had an opportunity to achieve the highest office. How far can women go in an established organization?
- According to British/American psychologist Raymond Cattell, our society tends to punish people who do not follow acceptable culture patterns and work outside the boundaries. He referred to this behavior as “coercion to the biosocial mean.”
Not only do women face glass ceilings, but they are put into boxes that limit opportunities and advancement. If a woman attempts to work outside traditional boundaries, she is chastised for displaying behaviors not becoming to the female gender.
Investing Women with A Sense of Hope
I believe some people were surprised by the number of women who did not vote for Hillary Clinton. I had the opportunity to speak with some of them. They said they were not against a female president. They believe the United States is ready for a woman in the White House.
However, they did not believe Hillary was that person. For the United States, the glass ceiling has been cracked, but not yet broken.
However, we can look across the Atlantic for a sense of hope by watching what has happened in England. The British have had two female prime ministers, Margaret Thatcher and now Theresa May. Both women proved that they had the skill set to lead their country.
About the Author
Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.
Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and strong leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and an ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.