(The ones who haven’t been successful are not successful maybe because they do not want to)


There are stereotyped prejudices behind women managers not getting promoted while possessing work experience and competencies similar to their male counterparts.  In most of the organizations, where there is a promotion to take place with men and women candidates of similar characteristics, males are chosen for management for specific reasons.  In management literature regarding the evaluation of women managers working in executive posts in companies, it is mentioned that they will face some difficulties getting accepted by their colleagues and that they will only be successful at the jobs that the others see them fit in.  However, as Amrop International’s affiliate in Turkey with seven years of experience and more than 1800 interviews with higher level executives, our findings do not directly match with this particular presupposition.  In most of our executive search projects, we manage to find women executives that are reluctant to accept the position we find and promote for them.  Some women executives with adequate experience are unwilling for a change, a higher-level position in another company means competing in that new firm.  As a result, because of them being reluctant, this promotion does not take place, not because of an invisible glass ceiling interfering with a promotion.


Top-Level Women Managers;


1.       Achieve to be on top of the management in men’s world, they form an individual identity accepted and respected by other male managers.  This identity comes from a shared culture thus gender roles are never questioned.  As the executive group, the ‘goal’ is to realize company targets altogether and gender is not the determining factor.


2.       When faced and compared with their male counterparts, women show leadership to a greater extent in general in similar positions as men leaders.  In doing so, woman manager receives acceptance and appreciation from her employees and other managers.


3.       It is imperative that the woman manager be distinctively different and superior for both men and women to work with and underneath her.


4.       Successful women leaders see their career not as a battle ground but as a long-term, permanent and success oriented opportunity for the company with relational management understanding.  Women managers’ view of the new opportunities that Amrop International provides as new alternative positions for them differs greatly from men.  Considering an alternative position inside a new company, women managers ask themselves whether they can do the job appropriately or not and they share this sentiment open-heartedly with us.  Males on the other hand, do not experience this kind of questioning or do not share it with us.



In a study conducted by our Amrop Hever partner in United Kingdom in 1999, successful women managers in executive level share these common characteristics:



1.       Rightful Self-Confidence:  Self-confidence that arises from talent and the belief to decide with better judgment.  In United Kingdom, there isn’t any successful women manager who perceived their gender as a disadvantage but do so as an advantage.  Even though “self-confidence” is an important common characteristic in Turkey, women executives show self confidence with modesty hence do not choose to promote themselves as a person and use the noun ‘we’ instead of ‘me’ in line with Turkish cultural and professional life.


2.       Higher level Education:  Most of the top women executives in United Kingdom have an equal or greater degree of education compared with their male counterparts.  Since education is perceived as a direct window of talent and knowledge in Turkey, for successful women managers to have respect and acceptance in the eyes of their teammates, education is regarded as a prerequisite especially in corporations with foreign investment.


3.       Focus on the job, not the post:  Based on the research in United Kingdom, a lot of women managers have the talent to do the work by working hard and prevailing on the detail.  But they take this subject naturally and use it as an advantage against their male coworkers without making any mistakes.  Women top executives in Turkey work intensively till they have children and they tend to be more tolerant to their coworkers while balancing professional and private life after the child.  Based on the research conducted by Idil Evcimen for “Kapital” (Vol. February 2002), women after the delivery, delegate the work, find deputies and continue their job with external help.  Their detailed working plans and talent for pursuance increase to a greater extent their management skills.  They become successful unless they lose their focus on the job.


4.       Being thyself:  It has been proved in the research conducted in United Kingdom that none of the successful women managers play the roles conflicting with their personality.  Even though they might intentionally pursue different roles starting their career at the beginning, they display their own managerial style with time.



At this point, there is a certain need to differentiate between leadership and management and to evaluate women managers and/or leaders comprehensively.


  • Leadership and management are distinct but complementary concepts
  • Both of these competencies are required to succeed in today’s world.
  • Management is to cope with a complex system while leadership is to cope with change.
  • Successful companies do not wait for the right leader but they determine people inside the company with leadership potential and increase this potential for those chosen with different career experiences.  The important thing is to bring together these powerful leadership and management skills.


If we consider the studies regarding women and leadership in the literature, we notice that:


  • Management cultures based on the authoritative command and control systems do not bring forth higher performances thus fade away.
  • In new managements, culture sums up different vehicles and delegation, trust, respect, honesty and sharing a common vision stick out as important components.
  • In the social environment of this new century, labor (work) values of men and women can coexist together in harmony to be evaluated in different platforms.
  • Leaders of the future are those who can bring together different values of women and men.
  • Leaders (Servant Leaders) and their coworkers are more committed to their companies with leaders supporting heavily their coworkers, working hand in hand with them, taking common decisions, inspired by them and protecting them when necessary.


Does the concept of Servant Leader recently introduced into world’s leadership literature play the role of the “classical mother” of thousand years in the Anatolian and Turkish culture?  Aren’t our mothers the ones who are caring, sensitive and low profile to push her husband to the front in order to protect the integrity of the family?  Aren’t they the ones who push us to run for common goals while considering the internal balance of the family?


These leadership traits are known to have been part of women managers’ characteristics.  Some of these traits are empathy, active-listening, strong intuition and persuasion.  With the acceptance and appropriation of the concept of “servant leader”, leaders are having much more support from their coworkers and help them to strengthen their sense of responsibility.  We can think of “servant leadership” on a three dimensions:  ‘thinking’ that encompasses listening, persuasion, intuition; ‘feeling’ where we see empathy and commitment to others’ development; and the final dimension of ‘doing’ with important characteristics such as changing negative situations to positive expectations, trustworthiness, being together for a common goal.  It is therefore appropriate to divide into two categories the challenges and barriers that women managers face:




External Barriers

  • Prejudice against women work values (ethic)


During our interviews in Amrop International, we observe that while looking for a sales manager for example, due to reasons and prejudices such as not being able to move for work, after hour work and pregnancy, women managers are excluded from candidacy for this particular position.  However women managers work hard to fulfill the tasks and duties required for the job realistically without only considering fulfilling the post even if the job is very attractive.

  • Glass Ceiling Barrier


The Glass Ceiling Syndrome which affects women managers in most countries is considered as a barrier of promotion in Turkey as well. But Turkey’s peculiar strong multi-cultural history influences the perception of women leadership differently.  As an example, deified value and respect that we have for women in Anatolian cultures and Turkish society brings forth a natural level of tolerance and acceptance as well.  In family companies, we determine that women from the same bloodline (daughter, wife or other relatives) take an active role in management and accepted with less oddity than western societies.  The most contemporary mirror of this acceptance is observed in Turkish political life.  The most common characteristic that is required and asked for in leadership comes out as being a “family elder”.  This might be an example of typical paternalistic leader and its relationship with traditional respect and importance in the family.


  • Glass Wall Barrier


Same as glass ceiling, glass wall also prevents women managers from vertical promotion but also limits lateral movements as well, which makes it more difficult for women managers to develop themselves professionally in different arenas and force them to uniformity and monotony.  As an example, the desire to hold women managers in internal service functions such as Human Resources instead of marketing or sales is considered to be a glass wall barrier.  As Amrop, with long years of experience, we believe that imaginary or virtual glass walls do not exist especially in multinational companies.  For a post/position, candidates are chosen based on their interest and capabilities not as a barrier.


Internal Barriers


  • Fear of Success
  • Expectations of women gender roles
  • Balance between professional and private life


To give the perfect example for internal barriers, one can annotate the speech given by our president, Mr. Anthony Saxton, during the Amrop International Leadership Conference held in 2000 in Hilton.  Commenting on the new waves regarding leadership and especially ‘women’s role in leadership’, Saxton is the headhunter who put Marjorie Scardina to presidency for the first time in one of the Top 100 companies of the United Kingdom.  Sharing the results of a survey conducted in London with 30 successful women managers, he declared that those managers in the survey do not initially accept the existence of glass ceiling therefore questions the women who think that it is difficult to succeed in professional life with regard to creating their own failures with this belief.  As a result, all these examples prove that the individual can create for him/herself a barrier and limits his goals accordingly.  Our findings in Turkey prove this understanding from head to toe.