Company vs. Societal Culture
There are many companies and other organizations that pride themselves on their diversity and the effective programs that opened opportunities for women, but are they effective in changing the way people actually think?
Not so much.
MIT is an excellent case study, especially since it was an MIT study 12 years ago that triggered many changes; not just in academia, but in the corporate world, too. However, changing organizational culture is easy in comparison to changing societal attitudes.
Let me use a bit of personal history to illustrate.
In 1977 I joined MRI as a recruiter. Fortunately for me the manager with whom I interviewed left and it was his second in command who actually made the decision to hire me (his predecessor thought I was too pushy).
I was given a choice of two areas, insurance and telecom, and I chose telecom. Telecom meant engineering and included military, e.g., microwave, RF, radar, etc., not a typical recruiting field for a woman.
I worked telecom for 12 years, migrating from the military/industrial stuff to commercial voice and data. Another woman worked a biomedical desk.
Although we were both in the top producers circle all 12 years I can still remember other managers at the beginning asking my boss how he managed us and what he did if we cried. And the (usually) unstated assumption by male recruiters that we closed our deals by sleeping with our clients. (I found this hysterically funny considering the number of clients, most of mine on the East Coast, and the time that would be needed for "visits.")
Today the accusation is more general, that women are promoted because they are women, not because they are good at what they do.
“No one is getting tenure for diversity reasons, because the women themselves feel so strongly that the standards have to be maintained.” --Marc A. Kastner, Dean of the School of Science, MIT.
When I am working with clients to change/shift their company's culture I remind them that the most they can hope for is solid functional change. It is unlikely, if not impossible, that their efforts will actually change what I call MAP (mindset, attitude, P).
And I always remind them how far away we still are from Bella Abzug's definition of success, although I must admit we are much closer to that reality in politics.
“Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel."