Light Navigating the Labyrinth
With complicated passages comes much responsibility. How do we create opportunities for women to be challenged to grow while also supporting them as they navigate the labyrinth.
Our (Lucia & Padgett) research hopes to contribute. Here’s a sneak peak.
My colleague Mila Padgett and I met for the first time almost twenty years ago but did not have an opportunity to work together and really get to know each other until 2011 when we began our journey as faculty for a professional development school for NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation. We became automatic roommates (no choice in the selection, haha – Mila you are stuck with me), little did I know at the time how much her friendship, mentorship and sponsorship would mean to me.
When this post goes live, I will be in a conference room with Mila in downtown Aiken, South Carolina drinking coffee and diving into discussion about the women we interviewed for our research study titled, “Passage Through the Leadership Labyrinth: Women’s Journey in the Collegiate Recreation Profession.”
Mila and I have had the opportunity to interview 37 women over the last year and a half.
I believe the universe brought Mila and I together, we connected right away. We shared a passion for the development of women in the field of campus recreation and this passion has bled into other areas of our lives where we find ourselves mentoring women. Over the past eight years, we have presented at the state, regional and national level discussing topics such as charting professional pathways, superwoman syndrome, imperfection, and the leadership labyrinth.
All of this presenting got us thinking and one day we came across the “labyrinth” metaphor. We began brainstorming a professional development workshop (with women representing various identities) that we lead for 3 years. We began to see the need for our current research study.
We were first fascinated when we read that the idea of the “glass ceiling” was not a suitable metaphor to explain a women’s experience for obtaining success.
Hmmmm, we wanted to know more.
Reading Eagly and Carli’s (2007) book titled, “Through the Labyrinth: The Truth about How Women Become Leaders” a few years ago, Mila and I decided we wanted to better understand the professional trajectory of women in our industry of campus recreation.
We had come across a new way of thinking about how women navigate their personal and professional lives. Typically the “glass ceiling” metaphor is used to describe a barrier women cannot see until it is right in front of them (and typically later in their career – for example, a job that is unattainable at the top) making the “labyrinth” a more suitable metaphor to explain the complexities women face throughout their entire career as entry-level, mid-level and executive-level professionals.
In a book review, Morgan (2008) commends Eagly and Carli for the replacement of the discouraging “glass ceiling” metaphor with the hopeful “labyrinth” metaphor to suggest there is a path to success. The labyrinth implies that there are walls all around and that the journey women face is complex by identifying various obstructions.
Women find themselves making or declining professional decisions based on the influence of their human capital, self-efficacy, stereotypes and prejudices, and gender differences. Here is a quick link to a Harvard Business Review Article titled, “Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership” to give you a quick snap shot.
The reviewer goes on to state that Eagly and Carli could have stressed the importance of “having someone go before you with a ‘string’ to guide you through the labyrinth” (p.315). Stating that current women leaders have a responsibility to serve as mentors and guides for peers and the younger generation. (This inclination came from– in Greek mythology, Ariadne gave a thread to her lover so that he could find his way out of the labyrinth after he had slain the monster, Minotaur. Morgan, 2008, p. 325).
Our hope is that our work will benefit professionals by highlighting characteristics of various experiences had by women in the field to positively impact future experience and outcomes for women. It is vital to understand the complexities to better serve, develop and mentor women in our personal and professional lives.
Mila and I are excited because we will be sharing the preliminary results at the Athletic Business Show in Orlando, Florida in November. With hopes to submit our manuscript early spring. We can’t wait to share more with you soon!
Our 3rd year with the Women Leading Women Preconference Workshop with amazing friends, colleagues, mentors and sponsors.