We're all familiar with the glass ceiling that women often hit as they climb the corporate ladder towards the executive suite. The air is quite rarefied at the top and the numbers of women that get to inhale it are few (according to the 2009 Catalyst Census, women held 13.5% of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies in 2009), but new research finds that men are also subject to this limitation, perhaps for similar reasons.
According to Andrew O'Connell, an editor with the Harvard Business Review Group, new research from a team led by Mark Frame of Middle Tennessee State University found that as people move up the corporate ladder they are increasingly surrounded by "people who put a lot of stock in assertiveness and independence...rather than on such things as caring about others' feelings." On his blog about sensitive men O'Connell says the findings support the notion that upward mobility in corporate America requires more "task-focused behaviors" and less demonstration of "communal" qualities.
Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe: "Nothing happens until it gets sold."
The latest Technology Quarterly in the December 12 issue of The Economist profiles the career of Bob Metcalfe, inventor of the Ethernet, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist. Ambitious IT executives would do well to take a thoughtful read, because here is a larger-than-life example of someone who, though not an IT chief, embodies that magical combination of qualities that makes a CIO in demand. A brilliant technologist who invented the Ethernet at the tender age of 27, Metcalfe was enterprising (he founded 3Com Corp.) and adroit in communication. Indeed, he understood that communication was what turned great technology into money. For Metcalfe that money was his personal fortune, but the same concept applies to technology and business profitability. "Nothing happens until it gets sold," he tells The Economist. Even a technology as compelling as the Ethernet didn't make Metcalfe a zillionaire until he got the likes of Digital Equipment, Intel, Xerox, Sun, and even Microsoft behind it. (Incidentally, before settling on "Ethernet," names batted around for the networking technology included "Bulletin Board," "Parliamentary Procedure," and "Lazy Susan.")
We’ve all heard about the Peter Principle, based on the notion that people are promoted in the workplace until they reach their level of incompetence. The person credited with that concept is psychologist Laurence Peter who claimed this happened because we wrongly assume that people who are good at their current job will also be good at the job one step up the corporate ladder.