As the chief executive of HSBC North America, the banking and financial services giant, Irene Dorner, is one of the few women to have breached the upper levels of American finance.
Looking back over her career, Dorner said, the reason many women have not reached the top is not the glass ceiling but what she calls the "sticky floor" — women who remain in lower-tier jobs because they don't proactively try to climb the corporate ladder.
"Women do funny things," said Dorner, 58,. "They do things like work very hard and expect to be noticed for it — and they're not, because it doesn't work like that."
Instead, Dorner argues that women need to take a page from their counterparts in pushing their own agenda and advancement. "I don't think we need to suddenly flip and all be acting in a male way," Dorner said, "but you can learn something from male behavior."
"If you offer a woman a professional management opportunity or promotion — and I've had this happen to me — the first thing they do is produce a long list of pros and cons: 'Oh, dear, what do I have to do with child care? I must and go tell my husband,' " she said. "If you offer it to a guy, he'll just say: 'Well, thank you very much. I'll do the best I can.' "