Gender Equality

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It can be shocking in this day and age to read statements by women distancing themselves from the feminist movement or denying the existence of gender inequality, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Despite the fact that the participation of women in the workforce has increased significantly over the past few decades and the percentage of women in executive roles has grown steadily, women hold only a quarter of senior roles and analysts predict that parity will not be achieved for decades. To this day, notes women’s organisation, Catalyst, “Senior managers often apply gender stereotypes to leadership: women ‘take care’, men ‘take charge’.”

Shooting Oneself in the Foot
Research carried out on over 22,000 publicly traded companies in 91 countries has shown that companies that have more women in leadership positions are more profitable. The study, carried out between the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, and EY (formerly Ernst & Young) made other interesting findings:
– Over 50 per cent of companies do not have females in executive positions.
– Over 60 per cent do not have female members of the board.
– Less than five per cent have a female CEO.

The study showed that companies need to step up their game if they are to succeed; upping the number of women in leadership positions from zero to 30 per cent results in a 15 per cent increase in profits. Researchers also noted that increasing mandated paternity leave (rather than mandated maternity leave) could help women achieve and sustain high level positions.

Adam S. Posen, President of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, noted that “the emphasis should be on increasing diversity in corporate management broadly… the research demonstrates that while increasing the number of women directors and CEOs is important, growing the percentage of female leaders in the C-suite would likely benefit the bottom line even more.”

How Can Greater Equality be Achieved?
Researchers at Stanford University note that “Stereotypes about what men and women are capable of and how they should behave cause people to evaluate the genders differently, especially when the criteria for evaluation are ambiguous.

This bias puts women at a disadvantage in workplaces, where they get hired and promoted at lower rates than men.” Women usually have to ‘prove themselves’ more, and highly competent women tend to be seen as less likeable, ‘too strong’, or ‘pushy’ – words which are often used to identify men.

A New Way to Deal with Gender Inequality in the Workforce
In a frequently cited paper called Gender & Society, Shelley Correll, director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research and Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Stanford Graduate School of Business, notes that there is no easy solution to the problem.

Words Marisa Cutillas

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