What Men Think about Executive Women



In the July–August 1965 issue of HBR, Garda W. Bowman, N. Beatrice Worthy, and Stephen A. Greyser examined the views of 2,000 executives (half men, half women) on that subject in “Are Women Executives People?” Charlotte Decker Sutton and Kris K. Moore followed up in the September–October 1985 issue with “Executive Women—20 Years Later.” Collaborating with Baylor University’s Kris Moore (one of the 1985 authors), we’ve picked up where the second research project left off, using the same survey questions and a fresh sample of 286 executives randomly selected from leading public and private corporations.

Over the past 40 years, female respondents have indicated steady support for the idea of women in senior management, and men have warmed up to it along the way. Since 1965, favorable responses from men have increased from 35% to 88%. Indeed, in the most recent survey, men’s answers were as positive as women’s. While companies have come a long way in the last 40 years, there is still a gap between how men and women view executive women.  It appears that today’s organizations are not providing balanced opportunities for talented men and women.  However, what is even more unfortunate is that men do not even recognize the inequities.  In order to have more women in corporate board rooms, perceptions will have to change.  Only then will we be able to shatter the glass ceiling.


Dawn S. Carlson is an associate professor of management at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

K. Michele Kacmar is the Durr-Fillauer Chair of Business Ethics and a professor of management at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Dwayne Whitten is an assistant clinical professor of information and operations management at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.