Even though women constitute 40% of all executives and administrative posts
(up from 24% in 1976), they are still restricted mostly to the middle and lower
positions, and the senior levels of management are almost entirely male domains.
A 1990 study of the top Fortune 500 companies by Mary Ann Von Glinow of the
University of Southern California, showed that "women were only 2.6% of
corporate officers (the vice presidential level up)." Of the Fortune Service
500, only 4.3% of the corporate officers were women - even though women are 6l%
of all service workers.
Even more disturbing is that these numbers have "shown little improvement
in the 25 years that these statistics have been tracked". (University of
Michigan, Korn/Ferry International). What this means is that at the present rate
of increase, it will be 475 years - or not until 2466 before women reach
equality with men in the executive suite.
This scenario is not any better on corporate boards. Only 4.5% of the
Fortune 500 industrial directorships are held by women. On Fortune Service 500
companies, 5.6% of corporate directors are women. The rate of increase is so
slow that parity with men on corporate boards will not be achieved until the
year 2116 - or for 125 years. (The Feminist Majority Foundation News Media
Publishing Inc., 1995)
In 1980, only one woman held the rank of CEO of a Fortune 500 company. This
woman came into the top management by inheriting the company from her father and
husband. In 1985, this executive was joined by a second woman who reached the
top - by founding the company she headed.
Even though the newspapers are reporting that women have come a long way
and are successful in the corporate world, women are banging into a "glass
ceiling" that is "so subtle that it is transparent, yet so strong that it
prevents women from moving up the corporate hierarchy". (Ann Morrison, The
Feminist Majority Foundation and News Media, Inc, 1955) Women can see the high-
level corporate positions but are kept from reaching the top. According to
Morrison (http//www.feminist.org/research/ewb glass.ntml.) and her colleagues,
the glass ceiling is not simply a barrier for an individual, based on the
person/s inability to handle a higher-level job. Rather, the glass ceiling
applies to women as a group who are kept from advancing higher because they are
Just as the overall labour market remains sharply segregated by sex, women
executives are concentrated into certain types of jobs - mostly staff and
support jobs - and these offer little opportunity for getting to the top. The
highest ranking women in most industries are in non-operating areas such as
personnel, public relations. or, sometimes finance specialties that rarely lead
to the most powerful top-management positions. It seems that women are shut out
of jobs in the route that is taken by CEOs and presidents and even when they do
get a line job it will more than likely not be in the significant part of the
business or the type of job that can stamp them as leaders.
It seems to be that the biggest barrier to women in top management levels
is the bunch of boys sitting around a table making all the decisions. In other
words when a decision has to be made concerning who should be promoted to
management, male corporate leaders are inclined to select people as much like
themselves as possible - so there is no astonishment that women are often not
even considered at promotion time. The guys at the top look at their former
colleagues and old school ties. Women executives are often left out of social
activities because they do not fit into the "boys club". Even on a more
traditional level, women report there are "certain kinds of meetings" they do
not get invited to because they are not seen as policy makers.
In a Wall Street Journal//Gallup study 80% of the executive women stated
they believe there were disadvantages to being a woman in the business world.
They stated that men did not take them seriously, they have been mistaken for a
secretary at business meetings, they have been prevented from moving up the
ladder because of male attitudes towards women and they believed they are paid
less than men of equal ability. Many corporate environments tolerate sexual
harassment which intimidates and demoralizes women executives. However, many
women hesitate to speak out, fearing it will jeopardize their careers.
In conclusion, many women have been discouraged from going to the top by a
set of myths suggesting women are not suited for top management and that any
problems are being solved gradually. (E.g. conflicts with family and home
responsibilities, women at the top are frequently single, divorced or have no
children, proving how difficult it is to combine family and career, women
executives cost the corporation more because they must divide their attention
between career and family, women are not as serious about their careers, women
are not suited for top management because they are not aggressive enough and
lack the self confidence required for the top jobs - to mention a few.) These
myths seem work to keep women in their place and to justify the lack of
progress for women. Worse yet, these myths often place blame on women rather
than on sex discrimination.
Men in corporate management tend not to perceive discrimation as a real
problem, thereby making it virtually impossible to implement effective remedies.
White men have ranked problems encountered by women executives as insignificant
compared to how women ranked them. Therefore, without constant pressure from
the outside and strong legal remedies, the very real problems of race and sex
discrimination in the executive suite may never be adequately addressed. Even
though feminists have fought to establish and vigorously enforce guidelines and
laws prohibiting sex discrimination in employment, women feel they are a long
way from equality in the ranks of American business. They feel that further
gains depend on getting more feminists into decision-making positions and
creating new strategies for change.