Is There A Singularity In The Motivation Of Women?

How to explain the absence of female managers in CAC 40 companies? Can the lack of a role model, of representativeness, alone explain this asymmetry? Or is there a professional setting in which women would express their motivation to lead more openly?

Zero. This is the number of women leaders of the CAC! Isabelle Kocher at Engie was the first “non-heir” general manager of the CAC 40. Since her departure in February 2020, there are no more women. And it is not much better in the SBF 120, which brings together the 120 largest French companies listed on the stock exchange: there are barely ten female managers.

Of course, to counter this trend, it would be necessary to activate the model role lever again. It’s very simple: the more women can identify with leaders, the more they project themselves, the more they allow themselves to go! And at the same time, they undermine the reductive stereotype of the quadra-fiftieth male leader with a high school diploma co-opted by his peers and benefiting from good networks. In 2011, the Copé-Zimmerman law aimed to influence these role models: it legislated on gender diversity on the boards of directors and supervisory boards of large French companies. As a result, if in 2011 we had 10% of women on boards of directors, in 2020 we will reach 45%. Unfortunately, this has not generated a joint dynamic in the executive committees and governing bodies. What more should be done to get out of this still bewildering situation? Could the Copé-Zimmerman law be addressed to the governing bodies? Because it is insane, they are the majority to win the mentions in the bac, to integrate the grandes écoles, to leave the 3rd cycle diplomas, form half of the employment, they are identified as high-potential but do not have no access to management committees. Is this an insidious effect of the internalization of male domination? Or, dare we ask the question, is there something specific missing in women’s motivation – in decision-making, in perseverance, in intensity of action, in clarity of direction – for to be CEO, CEO of these big ships?

Thanks to the work of Carol Gilligan, American psychologist and philosopher, we understand that one can be a feminist and point to a singularity of female motivation. In 1982, she defends in her book ‘A Different Voice. For an Ethics of Care, ‘a major second-wave feminist work in the United States that, in many cases, women do not put themselves first in a decision. Before deciding, entering a turning point, they question the balance and stability of a system. Gilligan thus demonstrates that their reasoning is based on an understanding of the particularities of the situation and the relationships between people. This results in a morality of care called “care”: individuals take care of others on a daily basis, whether they are customers, suppliers, employees and that this is not incompatible with profitability. According to Gilligan, women’s motivation is often underpinned by taking into account the needs of others, while that of men is underpinned by building individual success that makes more room for competition. This essentialist vision is as fascinating as it is open to criticism. Moreover, the American political scientist Joan Tronto underlines that men, when they are firefighters, police officers or caregivers obviously show their disposition for care. And she is obviously right.
We are not going to stoop to wondering to what extent “care” is, “by nature” or “by culture”, female or male. It would be unsuccessful! But, it is true that some women express demotivation, when in order to lead, they have the impression that they are expected to drastically truncate this “care” in favor of the competitive spirit. We can deduce that probably more women would be motivated to manage these large companies if extending this notion of “care”, to share it, to bring it to life brought them recognition. Only, do the CAC40 companies sincerely expect the primacy of “care” over the competitive spirit of a leader today? Or even just the coexistence of “care” and the spirit of competition? And, is it wishful thinking to imagine a renovated capitalism that might make more women want to take the helm?
Let’s take a detour, back to the famous theory of self-determination (Deci and Ryan, 2000) to understand: There are many kinds of motivation – autonomous motivation and controlled motivation – and the nature of motivation is generally more important than its intensity. Autonomous motivation implies that the individual behaves with a full sense of free choice, whereas controlled motivation implies that the person acts rather under the influence of pressures and demands. Self-motivation is strong energy, the source of greater persistence, better mental health, less burnout, better results and more creativity. And what interests us particularly is that one of the causes of the emergence of this autonomous motivation, of this so precious self-determination, is the expression of a value specific to the individual, of a quality that he desires. embody.
Thus, if we could invent a renovated capitalism where this “care” would be really expected, many women and obviously other men would probably declare themselves willing to lead because they could bring to life something that is close to their heart, this value that is important to them. is “care”. It is indeed autonomous motivation, self-determination, which would spring up in our economy and therefore a potential for significant results. Leading would have a new meaning: To be profitable, of course, but by extending “care” beyond private life and family; simply because it is caring for others that makes the world liveable. We would have more space to accommodate a new profile of leaders: and it might not be 100% male.

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