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Women can’t break glass ceiling because of workplace 'sexual display,' researcher says

Wait a minute, wait a minute. Women can't break the glass ceiling because of, er… what?

According to The Telegraph, one of the first witnesses in a British government inquiry into sexual discrimination against women in the workplace says women have trouble making it at the top because men and women interact through "sexual display" in the boardroom.

Independent researcher Steve Moxon told the members of Parliament that this involves men showing off their competitiveness, while women "back off."

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"You must start from the biology. The basis of the biology is, 'Is there a difference between the sexes?' You are damn right there is," Moxton is quoted in The Telegraph as saying. "Males compete with other males to sort out the men from the boys as it were; females, preferentially, sexually select the highest-status males, i.e. the males of a higher rank in the male dominance hierarchy."

The workplace, he adds, "is a hierarchy for obvious reasons that we do not need to go into. Males fit into that very well. Females obviously do not."

Even more explosive is Moxon's claim that "it is no surprise that women have difficulty in the workplace. Not only do they have difficulty; they do not want to be in it in the first place." (Anyone care to object?) He argued that his theory on mating rituals is the main reason why the government will never succeed in increasing the ratio of male to female board members of listed companies to 50:50 from its current 10:1.

The Telegraph describes Moxon as a "self-described academic" and the author of an "antifeminist" book, titled The Woman Racket.

Maybe things work a little differently in the boardrooms where Moxon has worked, but if your own company's boardroom is an arena for "sexual display" and mating rituals, you may want to alert your human resources department.

There are, of course, numerous reasons why women are still underrepresented in executive positions. Among them are conflicting attitudes about how women should balance their home and work lives. Just look at the tough spot in which Yahoo's chief executive Marissa Mayer found herself when she took a two-week maternity leave (which critics deemed too short) and went on to spark another firestorm for describing her baby as "easy."

While many have chastised Mayer for setting unrealistic expectations for women in the workplace, no doubt she is also under pressure to prove she is well capable of running the company, regardless of what the Moxons of the world may believe.

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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