Women are entering the workforce better educated and fully prepared to contribute as knowledge workers, yet they still fail to obtain positions of power. Despite dramatic changes in technology, increased globalization, and a shifting workforce, women’s advancement to executive positions is still lagging.
We have to acknowledge that organizations are patriarchal and generally structured to benefit men in their policies and practices.
So is it because the “Old Boy’s Network” is alive and well in 2018?
What is this “Old Boy’s Network”? It is an informal system through which men are thought to use their positions of influence to help others who went to the same school or university as they did, or who share a similar social background.
The informal, invisible “Old Boy’s Network” has long been viewed as an exclusive club that affords inside information, facilitates advancement, and provides a social and support network to its members. Membership is automatic if you are a white male with the correct educational and/or family connections. Women do not have ready access or membership to this exclusive group, which makes their career prospects less attainable.
Most of us fail to recognize how patriarchy privileges men and delimits women’s potential as we all come to accept the social order and fail to recognize systemic patterns of discrimination.
Becoming aware of patriarchal forces requires gender consciousness on the part of both employees and organisations.
Some women who break through the glass ceiling do so often by emulating men and reinforcing patriarchal systems that discriminate against women. This behavior may lead to a lack of gender consciousness for men and women.
Some people believe that the “Old Boy’s Network” does still exist as a power dynamic which can be clearly seen when we look at the boardroom of most organizations. Others argue that it’s a thing of the past and it’s no longer about who you know and more about what you know.
So is it possible that the “Old Boy’s Network” has had a 21st Century makeover? Clearly, it still includes an aspect of exclusivity and it’s based on an ‘inner circle’, friendships, culture, and power structures. Women seem to agree that they are excluded and men more often downplay the importance of their networks and the benefits they derive from them.
The need for change and the need for men and women to support one another must determine what systems and structures in organizations encourage or prohibit inequality.
This understanding may lead to the construction of HR led initiatives which offset these barriers such as a diversity strategy to foster meaningful and lasting change.