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Women now face `labyrinth' of work challenges.

Byline: Pamela H. Sacks

COLUMN: Speaking Volumes

Pity the poor woman in a position of power. She has to be assertive and warm, demanding and kind. If she can't maintain that balance, she won't have many friends of either gender.

"If you present a highly competent but not particularly warm woman, it bothers men more than it does women," says psychologist Linda L. Carli. "Men are more likely to report such as woman as threatening and difficult. If a woman is very high-level management or in politics, she rubs both genders the wrong way."

Carli, a psychology professor at Wellesley College, and Alice H. Eagly, of Northwestern University, have studied why so few women make it to the top ranks of corporate management. They have presented their findings - and outlined a useful set of strategies for avoiding pitfalls - in "Through the Labyrinth: The Truth about How Women Become Leaders" ($29.95, Harvard Business School Press).

Women occupy 40 percent of all managerial positions in the United States. But only 6 percent of the Fortune 500's top executives are female, and 2 percent of the firms on the list have women CEOs. Don't blame it on the glass ceiling, Carli says. A labyrinth of twists and turns takes women off course.

The pressures on men and women are different. Today's corporate culture demands that managers be available 24/7. Yet three-quarters of men have stay-at-home wives, whereas three-quarters of women have working husbands. The child care and household duties largely fall on the shoulders of the women.

In the workplace, women often are not directed toward line-management responsibilities. Those who gain the experience are promoted less quickly than men with the same qualifications, Carli says. People tend to be resistant to women in leadership roles, viewing successful female managers in a negative light. Women in management must deal with contradictory expectations: A woman should be warm and compassionate; a good leader should be assertive and in control.

Stereotypes of what constitutes good leadership have to be broken down, Carli says. Both men and women do well in an innovative, flexible and creative style of management, rather than a command-and-control approach.

Carli has three pieces of advice for women who want to climb the corporate ladder:

Pick a partner who will share family responsibilities.

Combine competence with warmth on the job. "When you give an order or instruction, you smile," Carli says. "When dealing with subordinates, you seek their views, as well. Men don't have to do that."

Find powerful mentors and create social capital by developing a network of supportive colleagues.

"It's pressure all the way through," Carli says. "It's all kinds of twists and turns. The women are in this labyrinth. Some actually make it through and get to the center of leadership."

Carli will explain more about the path to power as the keynote speaker at a meeting of the Society of Professional Communicators on Wednesday at Maxwell Silverman's Restaurant on Union Street in Worcester. Registration and networking start at 11:30 a.m.; a buffet lunch and Carli's talk will follow from 12 to 1 p.m. The cost is $15 for SPC members, $19 for nonmembers. The deadline to register is today; go to register@spcgroup.org or contact Cynthia Wright at (508) 842-1410. A limited number of walk-ins will be accommodated.

Investigative reporter Warren "Mitch" Mitchell and photographer Alan Jeffrey are on the trail of another killer in "A Deadly Calling," Glenn Ickler's fifth installment in his Mitch and Al series. This time the intrepid news hounds want to know who killed Big Eddie Plummer, a nationally known square dance caller who collapses on stage and dies during the National Square Dance Convention.

The suspense deepens the next morning when a second national caller, Lefty LaBlanc, is found dead in his bed with a half-empty bottle of gin beside his naked body. Investigators discover poison in both men's drinks, and Mitch and Al put their noses to the ground.

Before writing mysteries, Ickler says, he worked for newspapers "in just about every capacity, from copy editor to editor-in-chief." The square dance theme in "Deadly Calling" ($14.95, SterlingHouse ) is a natural for Ickler. He and his wife have been members of the Fairs `n Squares of Framingham for 23 years. His latest book is dedicated to the club and to square dancers everywhere.

Ickler, who lives in Hopedale, will be signing copies at 1 p.m. Saturday at Tatnuck

Bookseller, 18 Lyman St., Westboro.

Archer Mayor, author of the Vermont-based Joe Gunther mystery series, will talk about his new novel, "Chat" ($24.99, Grand Central Publishing), at 5 p.m. Saturday at Tatnuck Bookseller, 18 Lyman St., Westboro. Mayor is the 2004 winner of the New England Independent Booksellers Association Award for Best Fiction - the first time a writer of crime fiction had been so honored. The Chicago Tribune described the Joe Gunther series as "the best police procedurals being written in America."

Mayor has good reason to know what he's writing about. He is a death investigator for Vermont's chief medical examiner, a deputy sheriff for Windham County, a volunteer firefighter and the EMT captain of his local rescue squad.

Pamela H. Sacks can be reached at packs@telegram.com

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Psychology professor and author Linda L. Carli will speak at noon Wednesday.
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Title Annotation:ENTERTAINMENT
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 9, 2007
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