By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager
Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed., has 20+ years of sales and management experience that includes CEO of a ServiceMaster company and VP of Sales at Medical Staffing Network. She held executive positions in startup companies and Fortune 500 companies before becoming the President of Women’s Success Coaching and contributing writer to publications like Forbes and Business Insider.
We got in touch to talk, among other things, about the obstacles women face looking for an executive career in the Big4 today. She started by telling us there’s still a gender inequality
present in corporate America.
“It’s still male dominated, but male dominated also means there aren’t a lot of role models for women in leadership positions. That’s a major obstacle for high achieving women.”
Marcus also says unconscious and conscious gender bias continues playing an active role in the imbalances in the Big4 whereby men are still more comfortable hiring and promoting other men. She adds another ingredient to the mix.
“There are still a lot of myths about high achieving women and gender stereotypes that are really under the covers now,” she says, “and that makes it a lot more difficult for women to deal with.”
Because open discrimination is illegal, the often subtle ways these injustices surface make navigating the way up the ladder even more of a challenge. Marcus is also quick to point out women often bring even more baggage with them on this journey through the preconceived notions that have been instilled.
“For example, we know that it’s important to advocate for yourself and your team,” she says. “We know it’s important to self promote and we know that women have a lot more baggage in that area than men do because of the messages we’ve received in our upbringing.”
Traditionally, men have always been taught to compete as boys in competitive sports and the lessons learned often spill over into the C-suite and are classified as positive attributes. Marcus says that while those landscapes are shifting, women have historically acquired very different messages to start with. There are often difficulties even when they affirm themselves today.
“This backlash is very unique to a woman in the workplace,” she says. “It happens when they speak up and asset themselves and is very often construed as them being too assertive or aggressive.”
Adding to the issues women face is the false idea their attractiveness is inversely proportional to their ability. It’s another example where the opposite is true for men, according to Marcus.
We finished our conversation on a positive note.
“I just did a Forbes piece on Bob Moritz (PwC’s Chairman and Senior Partner) and he was quite poignant about what more needs to be done,” she says. “Bob was very clear in that the way he hopes to make these cultural changes within PwC is by really being disruptive.”
Marcus’ book, The Politics of Promotion: How High-Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, is available here.