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Cover Story
As Shatter-Proof as Ever!
Women have broken a lot of Gender Barriers in Society, But The Glass ceiling is not Exactly in that List Yet
Issue Date - 17/03/2011
Putting it all together

The following conclusions seem warranted. First, women’s participation rates have increased in almost all countries, but occupational segregation still exists. Child care is an important concern for women in almost all countries. Second, women have increased their participation rates in university education, equaling or exceeding that of men in most cases. Third, the proportion of women in management has increased but still remains very low at the higher levels of organizations. There is also considerable variability among countries in the percentage of women in management. Fourth, women increasingly moved to small business and entrepreneurship in most countries to earn income. Female entrepreneurs tended to develop small businesses and earn less income from them than did men. Fifth, an increasing number of countries developed legislation to support women at work and women in management. Unfortunately it seemed as if these initiatives lacked teeth in many cases. Legislation did have the desired effect of increasing women’s representation in the workforce and working toward creating a more equal workplace experience (e.g. Norway, Spain) .Sixth, there were only a few countries in which employing organizations developed initiatives to specifically support the development and advancement of women (e.g. Canada, UK, US). Seventh, data indicated some positive developments in several countries (e.g. more women in education, higher levels of country support for women in the workplace, changing family roles and responsibilities, improved employment and labor market conditions), but several aspects seemed slow to change (few women in senior management, women paid less than men, bias and discrimination)

Why should organisations develop and use women talent

There are several reasons why supporting the aspirations of talented women makes sound business sense. Organizations that do this get the best people for leadership positions, providing senior level male executives experience in working with successful women. Supporting capable women signals to women employees (and both male and female clients and customers), that women will be treated similarly to men, and have similar access to development and advancement. Finally, supporting qualified and talented women ensures that all managerial jobs will be filled with strong individuals. These benefits are particularly important given the acknowledged shortage of effective managerial talent, the failure of at least half the current managerial incumbents in performing their jobs successfully, the self-acknowledged failures of organizations to develop managerial talent, and the current “war for talent”. It makes no sense to ignore the talents of half the population.
Women are becoming an increasing economic force in terms of their purchasing influence and power. Silverstein and Sayre (2009) indicate that women control $20 trillion in consumer spending and this figure is expected to increase. In addition, women earn about $11 trillion in total yearly income and this figure will also rise. Women make the major purchasing decisions in several areas (e.g. home furnishings, vacations, automobiles). Women represent the largest market opportunity in the world .

Tarr-Whelan (2009) suggests that having 30% of these leadership positions filled by qualified women represents a “tipping point” that puts the influence on business issues and off gender. What do women bring to the table? She identifies five benefits organizations realize from having more women in senior jobs: higher profits, more risk awareness, less hypercompetitive, and a greater ability to survive financial downturns; policies that contribute to individual and societal health

Women participation and company performance
Does having a higher percentage of managerial and executive jobs held by women matter? There is some evidence that having more women on boards of directors and in senior management jobs may be associated with better organisational performance but the reasons for this are open to debate. A study recently conducted in France showed that companies having 38% or more women in executive jobs had their stock fall less in 2008 than companies with a smaller percentage of women executives. A Norwegian study showed that having more women on corporate boards was associated with high levels of organisational innovation because women added new perspectives to board deliberations and women took great pains to be prepared for their board deliberations.

Huang and Kisgen (2009) found that companies having female Chief financial Officers (CFOs) fared better over the past few years than companies having male CFOs. Companies with female CFOs made fewer acquisitions, and acquisitions made by female CFOs made returns about 2% higher than those made by male CFO firms.


Efforts must be made along at least two inter-related tracks simultaneously if greater progress is to be realized. One track involves a continuation of efforts to support the education and advancement of women into professional and managerial jobs. Having more women in decision making roles will change the character of these decisions, more organisational decisions will take women’s needs into account and improve not only their lot in life but organisational and societal performance as well. There is emerging evidence that enacting country legislation to equalise/improve the proportions of women serving on corporate boards of directors or at higher level managerial jobs does work, though not as well as expected (see the experiences of Norway and Spain). More organizations need to be convinced that supporting and developing the talents of their female employees makes good business sense. Women’s associations need to continue their pioneering efforts The second track is to tackle the pervasive negative attitudes, behaviours and experiences that women face world-wide .Efforts need to be made at the societal (macro) level before significant progress will be seen at the levels of individual women (micro). Political and business leaders need to speak up for the human rights of women in many countries around the world through umbrella groups such as the UN, ILO, G20 and G7 associations. .

Coordinated By : Sugandh Singh
Virat Bahri           

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