Women executives.

Essay by ucef December 2005

download word file, 4 pages 5.0

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.