The research project in a nutshell
The doctorate aims at finding a new and scientifically sound explanation for the shortage in female leaders. This should provide the basis for a raft of practical measures to counter the decreasing proportion of women at the top of the career ladder (“leaky pipeline”) and thus for an increase in female leaders.
Despite the growth in academic attainment, specific plans to promote females, equal opportunities policies, gender-equity and, in particular, targeted offers in the STEM sector, the number of potential female candidates for promotion and employment is decreasing to the same extent as their level of qualification is going up. Even when women are meant to be selected for promotion or for leadership positions only a few are ever considered. Although there is a growing number of young female professionals they seem to get lost on their way to top management positions. Aspects of acceptance and competence have already been scrutinised several times, but do women actually “want” to take on leading positions in the first place?
Status quo: Despite many studies clearly indicating that heterogeneous teams in organisations are much more successful, more innovative and socially more responsible, women are still under-represented in top management. In view of the positive impact of more gender-diversity the lack of female leaders seems to make little sense from an economic perspective.
Research status: The research conducted thus far has resulted in various theories and reasons. Causes for the lack of female top managers range from stereotype role expectations in society to an inability to combine career- and family commitments to discrimination and a perception that women lack leadership abilities.
In 2013, Kennedy & Kray (USA) focused in their study on moral behaviour which was a new approach. Moral behaviour is often at stake – e.g., the global financial crisis in 2007 and the diesel emissions scandal. Leaders in particular are confronted with moral conflicts. Thus, values such as honesty, fairness or respect are traded off for career progression and corporate goals. According to the above-mentioned study, moral concessions in this context are more severe for women than for men. Therefore, the Kennedy & Kray study has led practition.
In terms of the modus operandi, more well-founded empiric studies will now be conducted by Isabelle Ermer over a defined period of time. The following questions will be addressed:
| Is there a difference between women and men when it comes to situations of moral conflict?
| Are women less willing to make moral concessions when ethical values are at stake? If so, why?
| What is the correlation of such ethical values as far as job and promotion interests are concerned?
| What practical implications does this have for leadership in general? What strengths do women have in business?
LEIZ Communication Management
Isabelle Ermer, PhD student and initiator
Prior to gaining her PhD in the Department for Business Psychology and Leadership Ethics at the Leadership Excellence Institute Zeppelin | LEIZ Isabelle Ermer completed her Masters in Communications & Cultural Management at Zeppelin University and conducted research into leadership motivation. She completed her Bachelor degree in psychology at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna. She has more than three years of practical experience in personnel management and leadership from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Personalführung (German Association for Human Resource Management), the cosmetics manufacturer Brooklyn Soap Company and the fashion company Abercrombie & Fitch.
Alongside her PhD Isabelle Ermer is currently working as a Business Development Manager at PREDCITA|ME, a start-up in the field of HR innovation, in Frankfurt am Main.