by CIO Staff

Glass Ceiling Persists

Jul 28, 20052 mins

This week’s Economist has a special report on the status of women in management. The statistics are not admirable. While making up 45.6 percent of the workforce, women account for less than 8 percent of top management, and female managers make an average of 72 percent what their male counterparts make.

Given those figures, the majority of people likely to read this post are male, so. . . should you care about that inequity on any level but high-minded principle? The Economist suggests yes. To wit:

Companies no longer see the promotion of women solely as a moral issue of equal opportunity and equal pay. They have been persuaded of the business case for diversity. It has long been known that mixed groups are better at problem solving than like-minded ones. But the benefits of diversity are greater than this. Research by Catalyst, an American organization that aims to expand “opportunities for women and business”, found a strong correlation between the number of women in top executive positions and financial performance among Fortune 500 companies between 1996 and 2000.

The problem seems cyclical, without a good entry point for solution. The article cites three main explanations for why so few women reach “C-level”:

  1. Exclusion from informal networks.
  2. Stereotyping of women’s capacity for leadership
  3. Lack of role models

And there are other factors, such as “the flattening of organizations … as layers of management have been stripped out,” making for fewer opportunities for people to re-enter the workforce at higher levels, in combination with women being more likely than men to take family leave to care for young children or aging parents.

The Economist summarizes: Change “won’t just happen.” It needs specific intervention within companies—intervention that is led from the top and includes:

  • Opportunities for flexible working.
  • Mentoring.
  • Getting more women on the subcommittees of boards (which do the hiring of execs).

Good luck.