Rosabeth Moss Kanter holds the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professorship at Harvard Business School, where she specializes in strategy, innovation, and leadership for change. Her strategic and practical insights have guided leaders of large and small organizations worldwide for over 25 years, through teaching, writing, and direct consultation to major corporations and governments. The former Editor of Harvard Business Review (1989-1992), Professor Kanter has been named to lists of the "50 most powerful women in the world" (Times of London), and the "50 most influential business thinkers in the world" (Accenture and Thinkers 50 research). In 2001, she received the Academy of Management's Distinguished Career Award for her scholarly contributions to management knowledge, and in 2002 was named "Intelligent Community Visionary of the Year" by the World Teleport Association.
Kanter is well known for her classic 1977 study of "tokenism" on how being a minority can affect one's performance due to enhanced visibility and performance pressure. She is the author or co-author of 17 books, focused largely on business management techniques, especially change management. Her most recent book, America the Principled: 6 Opportunities for Becoming a Can-Do Nation Once Again sets forward a positive agenda for the nation. Her previous book, Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin & End was a New York Times business bestseller and a BusinessWeek #1 bestseller. The book draws on more than 300 interviews with leaders in business, sport and politics to explore the role confidence plays in the performance of institutions and individuals.
Question: What needs to change for women in business?
Rosabeth Moss Kanter: Women in business, as well as women in leadership positions in any sector, have been something that I've been concerned about my entire professional life. I have to say we're selfish because I got my PhD at a time when there were very few people like me. I was often the first of my kind sitting in a room with people of another kind. That's sometimes true, by the way, when I go as an American to the Middle East now where I'm very different in many respects. So I was very concerned about getting more women. I thought it was in my self-interest to have my women colleagues. First of all then the whole image of women would have been elevated. But also I wouldn't have had to sit there and answer silly questions about, “What's the women's point of view? I wanted more at the table. I also do care about opportunity, and I care about not breaking … not being confined. I care about …. I care about opportunity, and I care about not being trapped behind stereotypes. So now we've had the breakthroughs. There are certainly more women in leadership positions and lots and lots of women in the pipeline. What I'm concerned about now is that we haven't changed institutions enough to make it possible for women who want to devote themselves to their children during formative years to do that, or for men for that matter who say, I'd like to devote my time to my children to do that without feeling they sacrifice their careers. I think we still don't have enough women in leadership to make it totally normal, or we wouldn't ask today's silly woman question, which is, “Was Carly Fiorina fired because she was a woman? And the answer is, “No, she wasn't." But all the attention she got afterwards was because we had so few women CEOs we didn't take it for granted. But I think we have to get more women in leadership. In order to do that, we need to help those talented women in the pipeline feel that they can continue to advance without sacrificing important things to them in life. They don't have to sacrifice their career, nor do they have to sacrifice their family. I think that more men ought to take on some of those family responsibilities. That was important to me. I always felt there was a reason for two parents. And my husband did a great deal. And so we could lead more balanced lives. I think that, to me, is the frontier. It's what we do about work and family … work-life balance. And if we craft that, we will see all those talented women taking on responsibilities. And it will look completely normal to have women do important leadership tasks.
Recorded on: 6/13/07