Why Men Don’t Promote Women, and Other Insane Babble.

Harder-cuter-she-looks1 I feel uniquely qualified to speak on this topic, because I’m a man (well, at least I like to say that to my wife, whenever she won’t allow me to do man things like use a chainsaw or shoot a gun or spend money at the Home Depot). I also have had the pleasure of working for, working with and promoting all kinds of women. So, when Shaun Rein decided to write Why Men Don’t Promote Women More…Because Women Aren’t Pushy Enough for Forbes.com recently – I had to respond.

As Mr. Rein puts it:

“I will be honest. In my career, I have tended to promote more men than women. I have even generally given men higher salaries. Why? Am I sexist? Do men do a better job? The answer is a resounding no to both.

Actually, it is mostly womens fault. They simply don’t ask for raises or promotions as often as men do.”

He also adds these gems:

“Our research also suggests, perhaps surprisingly to some, that most men have nothing against working for a female boss. Only a minority of men told us they would object. In fact, many said they’d prefer a female boss, because of the greater likelihood she’d understand the need for work-life balance (which I wrote about in “Enforce The No-BlackBerry Rule”).”

So, let me start the retort on behalf of women in my life –

Shaun, I hate to say it, but you are probably sexist, and it’s not “mostly womens fault” that you didn’t promote them.  While I’m sure you would argue you are very in-touch with diversity issues, because of your heritage, I would also assume that same background has given you a skewed view of gender issues and the historical battles they have faced in climbing leadership ladders. The fact that you write that some might be surprised that most men have nothing against working for a female boss, shows you yourself were somewhat surprised by the data. Most men don’t have issues working for women, only sexist men have problems working for women.

You also espouse the belief that women need to be “pushy” (a very gender biased term) to get promoted, while men just ask for raises more often. Men have to ask, women have to be pushy. You find nothing wrong with that thought process? What great leadership advice for Forbes readership – I’m sure that works well in Communist China.

So, Mr. Rein let me give you a couple of reasons why women don’t get promoted before men:


1. People (men or women) tend to select others for promotion based on personality fit and how comfortable they are with the individual. Men tend to connect better with other men – they have common interests, communication styles, etc.  Since most senior leadership in the Fortune 500 ranks is male, they tend to promote more males.

2. Women tend to communicate a bit differently than men. Women tend to be more collaborative, ask questions, gain clarification in their decision making process. Some males find this to be challenging their opinion and become defensive – thus probably not helping their cause when going after promotions that are being decided, once again, by other males.

So, how do we get more women promoted into leadership roles? Diversity within the selection process, diversity with the succession process and diversity within the recruiting process. There isn’t any quick way to change a lifetime of habit, and as Mr. Rein suggests in his article being more aggressive and dressing more conservative, isn’t the magic bullet either. Organizations need to ensure that the representation of diversity they desire within must match those sitting at the selection table – even if it means bringing in some outside diversity when going through the process to help ensure the best selection is made – not the most comfortable selection.

FOT Background Check

Tim Sackett
Tim Sackett SPHR, is the ultimate Mama’s Boy!  After 15+ years of successfully leading HR and Talent Acquisition departments for Fortune 500s and smaller technical firms, Tim took over running the contingent staffing firm HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, MI. Serving as the Executive Vice President, Tim runs the company his mother started over 30 years ago, and don’t tell Mom, but he thinks he does a better job at it than she did!  Check out his blog at www.timsackett.com. Because he's got A LOT to say, and FOT just isn't enough for him.


  1. debbie says:

    Bravo. Tim this is a good explanation for why 85% of public boards and Officer roles in the F500 continue to be white male, even though the workforce dynamics have changed. Leadership styles are different- and Men and Women may have outside interests that differ- Your solution is interesting- I suspect our daughters and granddaughters may also move the needle a bit.

  2. On the other hand, there are studies which show that women are respected less if they show anger, which is just on the other side of what some would call “pushy.”
    Many women who wish to break the glass ceiling and find themselves working for close-minded jerks need to understand that it’s not them, it’s their boss. And go work for the bosses’ competitor. And crush him.

  3. “I feel uniquely qualified to speak on this topic, because I’m a man.”
    Hahahahahahahha. Most men feel that way about everything.
    Seriously, though, good post — but please don’t give this amateur/hack any more attention, Tim. He doesn’t deserve it.

  4. Thank you for this…
    I am not and do not want to be a man…I do not want to act like, think like, dress like or behave like a man to get ahead in business…and am offended to be told I have to.
    I’m good, I’m smart and I can do the job…deal with it.
    Oh and regarding Forbes in general…does anyone else hate the “separate but equal” feeling having a Forbes business magazine on the one hand and a ForbesWoman business magazine on the other hand. Does that mean that Forbes should really be called “ForbesMan?”
    Nice post

  5. Kim says:

    Amen. Thank you!!

  6. Sharon DeLay says:

    Interesting original story and follow-up post. I would agree with most of what you say in that like promotes like and potential for defensive reactions. Neither of these are a surprise and neither should be presented as strictly the realm of men (or the reaction of men). I think these are common human nature responses. Why are referral bonuses (like recommends like) used and successful?
    However, I work with women and happen to be one. I do find that many, and not necessarily those already at senior management, have not developed the scripts to ask for what they want. We’re still getting there. I believe women and companies in general have a responsibility for providing every candidate with potential a succession plan and internal mentor.
    BTW, the upcoming generations are in dire need of mentors. They may have no problem asking, and even expecting, to move up, but they don’t have the other skills (technical and interpersonal) to do it as quickly as they think.
    Great post and great dialogue.

  7. Meg Bear says:

    I LOVE this post. Tell your wife you have my vote to spend money at Home Depot Tim.
    – Meg

  8. Melissa says:

    Awesome, Awesome, Awesome…..loved the evaluation of the sexist comments, which he didn’t even know were sexist!

  9. Jane Sanders says:

    Great post! To add a bit of perspective…#2 can be expanded with the fact that men also often perceive women’s collaborative style as less decisive and competent, and therefore promote men instead. Regarding #3, I believe women do need to learn how to ask for what they want and deserve, and I teach that in my workshops (actually I teach overall gender communication with all its implications). But the point is taken that women shouldn’t be overlooked just because they aren’t asking. That is leaving talent underutilized and frustrated, leaving, and negatively impacting the bottom line.

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