Spotlight: Gender Bias/Parity

We are living in amazing times with extraordinary opportunities…and yet women continue to be underrepresented in politics and business across the globe. Unquestionably, there is a lack of women in high-level leadership positions as key decision makers across all industries.  We now know that women are critical to driving inclusive economic growth; that companies that have women on their boards outperform companies that don’t, and that many women are about making a positive contribution to society and the world at large…. Still, women continue to be held back from contributing their full potential to the world… In the US alone

  • Women control 70% of consumer spending- in US  $ 20 B

And Yet

  • 41 women will lead Fortune 500 companies. That’s just 8.2 percent, but an improvement from the 33 companies in 2019 and 24 in 2018. 
  • However, 1/3 of fortune 500 women CEOs resigned last year
  •  75% of Fortune 50 companies report no women as top earners
  • 20% of board directors of the world’s largest retail and consumer product companies are women
  • Globally only 17.3 % of directorships are held by women.
  • 3 women are top earners in Fortune 50 companies
  • Britain- just 6 Female CEOs of Britain’s largest businesses
  • Thailand has the highest number of female CEOS 30%
  • With Peoples Republic of China 19% following

I believe the problem is 3-fold:

1. Sociological: The perception of women from a male defined paradigm. Many women are still passed over by their male colleagues in boardrooms, at economic world summits, and underrepresented on panels and in corporate meetings. Their voices are not heard, their visions not taken seriously or coopted by their male colleagues with no credit given to them.

2.  Psychological: Even in the 21st century, women are still trapped in a man’s world. The statistics above reflect this. The internalization of a culture that does not value the gifts and differences of women psychologically impacts many women.

Women in high positions are still caught in proving their worth, competence and credibility. Instead of striving for excellence, they are still needing to prove they are just as good and capable as their male colleagues.  Instead of being creative, emergent and different, women are still doubting themselves and their own worth, which keeps them driven and achieving but unfulfilled. Women still feel invisible. They feel their voices are not heard and their visions are not taken seriously. In many respects, women have internalized their own glass ceiling. Women continue to have an ambivalent relationship to power and achievement.

Many women, in order to be relevant, deny their own authenticity, which costs them greatly in their health, relationships, self- esteem and empowerment. Those few women who have found their way to the top have done so at a great cost. Plagued by the fear of being irrelevant, they have become obsessed with becoming successful in a male-dominated, male-defined paradigm that is ultimately not sustainable for themselves or our world.

3. Cultural: There is not just a glass ceiling at the top but an invisible wall that sidelines women from the kinds of roles that have been traditional steppingstones to the CEO position.  In a recent study of more than 2600 senior executives, (assessed by Leadership Advisory firm- C Roles)- found that women were just as likely as men to possess the mix of skills and charisma that predicted a future chief executive. So, talent and skill are not really the issue, nor is education with there now being more women with graduate degrees than men. Numbers are not the issue either since at least half the workforce now is made up of women.  So, the question remains what is it?

In a recent Wall Street Journal study of executives at the top companies, (Female CEOS remain rare”) the biggest publicly traded firms by market value, show that men on the way up overwhelmingly get the management jobs in which a company’s profits and losses hang in the balance. It is important to add that Wall street has never had a female CEO and most banks do not either. The invisible wall is that women are rarely given positions which send executives onto the CEO track. Many of the jobs that women are head of, though important functions and roles, do not have profit generating responsibilities which is the track they need to be on to become CEOS. It is the so-called line rolls with profit and loss, or P&L responsibilities, such as heading a division unit or brand, which are what send executives on the CEO track, and these are rarely given to women. And so, women are rarely on a path to running a company. This is not for lack of intelligence talent or skill.

“A 2018 IMF study identified the benefits of female leadership of banks worldwide, at least at the board level.    The same relationship exists between bank stability and the presence of women on banking regulatory boards. “We find that the observed higher stability is most likely due to the beneficial effects of greater diversity of views on boards,” So, women are being given seats at the table but are still not players as long as they’re not on the P&L track.  There is no consistent pipeline being built for women to progress to CEO positions. This needs to change.

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