Impact of double bind & promotional paradox on work performance of women.

AuthorMadaan, Vandana


"Becoming a leader depends on acting like a leader, but even more crucially, it depends on being seen by others as a leader."--Natalie Porter and Florence L.Geis.

India is a diversified country with varied traditions and customs and in all the creeds, women hold an esteemed position. But since ages the role of women has been restrained to household responsibilities and limited to innate issues. With the change in time, the potential of women was recognized and progressively status of women wheeled up in the society. Further, the focus on education of women also transformed the role of women. Due significance was given to women's career and professional life (Kumar, Sundararajan & Mahendran, 2015).

One of the most substantial and optimistic changes taking place all over the world is the increasing number of women in every type of profession. The current trend suggests a promising rise of women in managerial positions all over the globe but the cause for concern is that they are mostly focused in the lower and middle levels of management and their representation at the senior and top management level remains extremely low (Buddhapriya, 2009). A rising body of research points out that stereotyping is a key contributor to the gender gap in corporate leadership (Catalyst, 2007).

Organizations around the globe are making commitments to develop future leaders and increase the diversity in workforce so that better results can be achieved for customers, stakeholders and employees. However, there is a noticeable lack of emphasis on leadership development for women, which is one of the largest of all diversity groups in any geography (Neill & Boyle, 2011).

When women are in a situation where they are at risk of being judged by a negative stereotype they tend to underperform relative to men (Shantz & Latham, 2012). Irrespective of whether the justifying factor is discrimination, the extreme gap of women versus men at the highest levels provides energy for many of us to push together harder and go beyond in creating a fair and just system that will allow more women into leadership pipeline but the mixed messages deprive women of confidence and crush their desire to jump into the fight. The world today needs the best competent women to set up to the plate and women should be able to knit their way through the challenges (Flynn, Heath & Holt, 2013).

Women managers are conspicuous by their minority in Indian organizations. However, studies show that Indian organizations are better off than their Western counterparts as far as presence of women in the top management is concerned. Around 11% of the top corporate organizations in India are headed by women against a corresponding figure of 3% for Fortune 500 companies. Trends in the Indian banking sector are highly favorable for women leaders.

But now comes the hard part. Despite the success of high-profile women, female bank employees face many hurdles in climbing the corporate ladder. Indian women often turn down promotions if it means shifting to another location and disrupting their family life. As in Western corporations, Indian businesswomen feel they have to perform above and beyond the standards for men in order to advance and ultimately shatter the glass ceiling. You need to have high knowledge levels and you need to work 10 times harder than your male colleagues to prove yourself.

Financial institutions have the persistent problem of female employee retention and advancement into higher level positions. In particular, stereotype threat plays a significant role in fostering a chilly climate, whereby female employees feel as though they do not belong and choose to exit. This gives a direction towards considering financial services sector concern for promoting women in leadership roles.

Double Bind Paradox

Women must be able to project the seriousness in order to advance at work but at the same time they are also required to maintain their "feminine mystique" in order to be liked. Perhaps, gender stereotypes are making it difficult for females to feel comfortable in taking authoritative positions because they are observed as either competent or liked but rarely both (Flynn, Heath & Holt, 2013). This is something that puts a woman in the situation of double bind. Double bind is defined as a psychological deadlock which is created when contradictory demands are made of an individual so that in every matter whichever directive is followed, the response will be considered as incorrect (Catalyst, 2007).

We all know the feeling of being stuck in a double bind--that troublesome sense that whatever we do, we cannot do it right. Gender stereotypes are powerful but invisible threat to both the women professionals and organizations in which they work and lead. A wealth of studies have found that both women and men perceive that the qualities attributed to be a successful manager are more likely to be held by men rather than women (Boyce & herd, 2003; Cabrera, Sauer & Thomas-Hunt, 2009).

Research on double bind dilemmas for women concentrates in particular on 'gender stereotyping'. Stereotype can be defined as mental shortcuts or generalizations that are used to make sense of our complex social world. These shortcuts help us to differentiate among different groups of people and in gender stereotypes, between men and women.

Both men and women proclaimed that men excel at conventionally masculine "taking charge" kinds of skills such as persuading superiors and problem solving characteristics (Agars, 2004) whereas women are viewed as out of place and require to put great effort into proving them otherwise (Catalyst, 2005). Stereotypes create an invisible obstacle to women's advancement, which are often difficult to fight or even detect. Another challenge consists of stereotypes' rigid nature; as people believe that men and women should behave in ways that are gender consistent (Eagly & Karau, 2002).

Double Bind Dilemmas

According to Catalyst (2007), there are three specific predicaments or double bind dilemmas that women face at workplace:

  1. Extreme perceptions: Too soft, too tough and never just right.

  2. High competence threshold: Women leaders face higher standards and lower rewards than men leaders.

  3. Competent but disliked: Women leaders are perceived as competent or likable but rarely both.

Predicament 1: Extreme Perceptions: Too soft, too tough and never just right.

Women are caught in a catch-22 situation regarding leadership, if they are strong they are seen to be aggressive and if they work more in a consultative way they are seen to be weak.

Stereotypes strongly influence the general perceptions of women leaders, especially when women do make it to the top their performance goes through extra analysis and is...

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