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Power: Women Like It and Pursue It, Survey Finds

Simmons School of Management and HP Survey Shows They're Also Redefining It

BOSTON (March 15, 2005) — Contrary to conventional belief that women often are ambivalent about power, a newly released survey finds that the vast majority of businesswomen like power and actively pursue it.

In a survey of businesswomen by the Simmons School of Management and HP, 80 percent of respondents said they were comfortable with power and liked what they could accomplish with it. Sixty-two percent said they enjoy the visibility that comes with power.

But women are redefining power, the survey showed: rather than measuring it by traditional means of having more people report to them or competing successfully for plum assignments, they say power means harnessing the support of co-workers and subordinates, empowering teams, and building networks of allies to change their organizations.

"This survey is a call to action for senior executives," said Deborah Merrill-Sands, dean of the Simmons School of Management in Boston.

"Smart organizations should look with fresh eyes at their female managers," she said. "Many women are exercising power that results in significant benefits to their organization, but often it's in less visible ways—through and with others, rather than over others."

The findings are from a computer survey of 421 middle and senior-level businesswomen with extensive work experience from around the nation who attended the 2004 Simmons School of Management Leadership Conference in Boston. Conducted by the Simmons School of Management and HP, a lead conference sponsor, the survey examined how businesswomen feel about power and how they acquire it.

Key findings include:

--Women are pursuing power, not shunning it: 80 percent of the respondents said they were comfortable with power and liked what they could accomplish with it. Sixty-two percent said they enjoy the visibility that comes with power.

----The majority of women were not pursuing power out of personal gain or self interest: 70 percent said they wanted power to make positive changes to their organizations; 84 percent said they want power to ensure business operations are socially responsible. Only 45 percent said they wanted power to move up the organizational ladder.

--The most important way the women say they pursue power is through producing results (95 percent), or by forming critical relationships through such means as empowering or obtaining support from teams and co-workers (92 percent), or building networks of allies (90 percent).

A majority also say they acquire power by taking risks others would not (88 percent) and making innovations in incremental ways (85 percent).

--The least important ways the women said they acquire power is through traditional strategies such as direct competition for plum assignments (52 percent), expanding the number of direct reports (35 percent), or working long hours (35 percent).

Other survey findings showed that women under 35 were most adamant that they wanted to use their power for socially minded organizational change (92 percent). Women of color were most determined to use power for social improvement (88 percent, versus 80 percent of white women).

The survey also showed that counter to recent media reports that more women are choosing to "opt out" of high-powered careers because of children, there were no statistical differences between women with children and without children in their pursuit of power or their attitudes towards it.

Each year, HP and the Simmons School of Management partner at the Simmons Leadership Conference to administer a computer-based survey examining leadership and management issues relevant to women. HP provides technology support, including HP notebook PCs, survey software, and initial data analysis to determine trends and patterns.

The Simmons School of Management (www.simmons.edu/som) is the only business school in the world designed specifically for women.

For more information, e-mail somdean@simmons.edu

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