Why We Need More Women in Management Roles
A Short History of Women in the Workplace and Gender Discrimination
While the recorded history of women in Western society working in the home goes back several millennia, the history of women in the workplace is a relatively recent phenomenon.
At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom's Victorian era, very few women held positions of power outside the home – with one notable exception: the top-level executive position held by Queen Victoria!
Indeed, during the second half of the 19th century, jobs at the new industrial factories (blue collar jobs) as well as the emerging class of administrative, legal and commercial functions (which soon became known as white-collar jobs, thanks to the prominent fashionable white colors attached to men's shirts at the time) were nearly all held by men.
This began to change dramatically in the mid-20th century. Labor shortages during World War II marked a start in the reversal of gender discrimination in the American workplace.
According to statistics published in The American Economic Review (https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/goldin/files/the_role_o...), the rate of employment of married white women in the workplace began to rise dramatically during 1940, as men were called into the armed services. In the post-war era, many women gave up their "Rosie the Riveter" jobs and returned to the home — nonetheless, the percentage of married white women in the workplace continued to increase at the faster rate. By 1960, the percentage was 30%, nearly double the rate in 1940.
A study on Gender Inequality in the Workforce published in the Journal of Business Studies Quarterly (http://jbsq.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/March_2013_17.pdf)indicates that by the year 2000, the percentage of women in the workplace had risen to 48%, achieving near parity with men. But before we can celebrate the success of 'women empowerment' across the board, the study authors point out that gender inequality remains a fact of life when it comes to top management positions* — a situation described since the 1980s as the "Glass Ceiling" phenomenon.
(*Compensation is another area of widespread gender discrimination. According to the study, on average, women make less than men working in equivalent positions holding similar responsibilities.)
How Much Disparity Exists for Women in Management Positions?
According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, the percentage of women in the workplace is highest among entry level positions (mid 40%). However, as the seniority of the jobs increase — from entry level, to manager, to senior manager/director, to vice president, to senior vice president to the C-Suite – the corresponding percentage of women in those positions decreases in a nearly straight line. Women represent less than 20% of the top C-Suite executive positions.
The CEO position is even more elusive for women. An analysis by Catalyst of the women who currently hold the title CEO among the Standard and Poors (S&P) 500 top companies (http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-ceos-sp-500) indicates that, as of January 2017, there were only 29 women CEOs out of the entire S&P 500 company list. In other words, women hold the title of CEO at fewer than 6% of S&P 500 companies.
This number corresponds to survey results published in a Peterson Institute for International Economicsworking paper. Among nearly 22,000 firms surveyed around the world in 2014, fewer than 5% had a woman CEO, and nearly 60% had no female corporate board members at all.
Why Aren't There More Women in Upper Management Leadership Positions? Is It Due to Gender Discrimination Alone?
There are many possible reasons why women are less likely to be in senior management roles. Here are three to think about:
1. Are There Enough Women in the Career Pipeline to Fill Future Executive Roles?
One line of reasoning is that the ability of any woman candidate to rise to a top position, such as CEO or corporate board member, is dependent upon having as large a number of female candidates moving up the same career ladder pipeline as male candidates.
However, given that women are now awarded more than half of all college degrees, the percentage of female MBA graduates and managers should continue to rise closer to parity with that of male MBA graduates and managers.
2. Do Disparities Between the Type of Degrees Earned by Men and Women Make a Difference?
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