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Management article
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Reference no. 94308
Authors: Randolf Schrank
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Published in: "Harvard Business Review", 1994

Abstract

The Outward Bound raft trip in 1977 was meant to build better teamwork and teach the art and techniques of survival under difficult conditions. Over the week that followed, the five people on Raft No 4 created a supportive atmosphere. Everyone was required to take a turn at the helm, a challenge that the men embraced but that the women tried to avoid and then carried out badly. On the fifth day, with one of the women at the rudder, the raft overturned in a rapids. The dunking was a narrow escape for them all, and from then on, only men took the helm. It was only when the trip was over that the author began to realize what really lay behind Raft No 4''s accident. The men had unconsciously worked together to hold on to their power, building on the women''s individual doubts about their own capacities for leadership. The author draws parallels with the gender rivalries that keep women from rising to positions of power within organizations. The author and three women - including one of the two women on Raft No 4 - comment on whether and how circumstances have changed since HBR first published this article 17 years ago.

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Abstract

The Outward Bound raft trip in 1977 was meant to build better teamwork and teach the art and techniques of survival under difficult conditions. Over the week that followed, the five people on Raft No 4 created a supportive atmosphere. Everyone was required to take a turn at the helm, a challenge that the men embraced but that the women tried to avoid and then carried out badly. On the fifth day, with one of the women at the rudder, the raft overturned in a rapids. The dunking was a narrow escape for them all, and from then on, only men took the helm. It was only when the trip was over that the author began to realize what really lay behind Raft No 4''s accident. The men had unconsciously worked together to hold on to their power, building on the women''s individual doubts about their own capacities for leadership. The author draws parallels with the gender rivalries that keep women from rising to positions of power within organizations. The author and three women - including one of the two women on Raft No 4 - comment on whether and how circumstances have changed since HBR first published this article 17 years ago.

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