Many professional women know the importance of being visible at their workplace for the advancement of their career, in spite of that they intentionally avoid the spotlight, so that they can prevent backlash and balance work with family responsibilities, reports a new study.
The study by Stanford University researchers found that women adjusting to evolving family needs often determined that embracing a behind-the-scenes approach allowed them to be effective while staying out of the spotlight and avoiding negative backlash.
‘Many professional women intentionally stay behind the scenes at work which can help them to avoid negative backlash. These women adopt a strategy known as 'intentional invisibility' which refers to a set of risk-averse, conflict-avoiding approaches that can make them feel authentic, manage competing expectations in the office, and balance work and familial responsibilities.’
These women adopted a strategy that the researchers called "intentional invisibility," a risk-averse, conflict-avoiding approach to navigating unequal workplaces, according to the findings published in the journal Sociological Perspectives
Many women in the study, the researchers wrote, found that "they can only pursue their ambitions to a point to ensure stability."
"Women in our study chose this strategy from a limited set of options," said one of the researchers, Priya Fielding-Singh.
"Because there was no clear path to having it all, many chose to prioritize authenticity and conflict reduction at work and home," she added.
For the study, the researchers focused on a women's professional development programme at a large non-profit organization in the US.
They conducted interviews with 86 programme participants and observed 36 discussion groups and 15 programme-wide meetings where many women shared the barriers and biases they encountered at their organization as well as the strategies they used to overcome them.
They found that for many of the women they studied, there are competing expectations that get in the way of them following common career tips like "take a seat at the table," "speak with authority" and "interject at meetings."
Many of the women participating in the study told the researchers that they felt a double bind -- if they worked on the sidelines, they could be overshadowed by their colleagues and overlooked for job promotions.
But having a more assertive presence in the office, many women thought, could also backfire.
In the end, the authors said, it is organizations - not the women embedded within them - that need to adapt to create gender equality.