A Guest Post by Amy Klimek
The number of women executives in the business world is very low. According to Forbes magazine, less than 3 percent of Fortune 500 companies in the United States have female chief executives. Around the world, the average is even lower with women executives making up less than 2 percent of executives in major corporations. The concept of a glass ceiling is a reality that can prevent women from being considered for positions they are more than qualified to hold. There are women who do become successful executives in the corporate world. To make this happen, there are some things a female executive must understand.
There are certain areas of the corporate world where women do well. A Wall Street survey revealed that women held the highest executive positions in certain areas of a company. Public relations, personnel, as well as finance, are places where women can advance along with males in their career path. These are positions where women have a chance to prove their leadership skills are equal to those of men. It is much too common for women to reach a certain level and be prevented from being made a CEO or president of a company.
A Gallup survey of women executive asked them what they felt was the most difficult obstacle to success in their business careers. Less than 4 percent listed family responsibilities. Approximately 50 percent stated men having issues with their gender. Men would challenge their authority, career advancement would be faster for men and some male executive refused to take women seriously. The survey group Korn/Ferry International asked executive women what they felt was their biggest struggle to overcome in the workplace and over 39 percent responded “just being a woman.”
Not Understanding Women
It is a scientific fact that men and women are different. Their approach to making decisions, communicating, leadership style can be very different from how a man handles the same business situation. There seems to be a lack of understanding of how women’s brains are hard-wired as well as culturally influenced. Women are better and consensus-building, comprehending emotional cues, taking risks and connecting with other people. Many companies view the priorities held by some women executives as wrong. Their management style can easily clash with a company that has dominant male management.
An executive recruiter stated the largest hurdle to getting more women in top management positions was men sitting together in a room and making every important decision for a company. They believe that when deciding to promote someone into management, male executives will usually select people who are much like themselves. In many cases, women are not even a consideration for such a promotion. It’s not uncommon for women to not be included in the most important meetings since they are not considered part of the policy making process. A study revealed that when men and women are at the same executive level it was still the men who were given more freedom to hire or fire staff. At the same level, men were still trusted with more control over a company’s assets.
According to a survey conducted by Working Women magazine of women who were executives at Fortune 500 companies, sexual harassment remains widespread. The survey stated that over 89 percent of large companies received sexual harassment complaints by their female executives. As a result, over a third of the corporations were subject to lawsuits by female victims. Out of those being sued, 25 percent had been sued for sexual harassment more than once. According to the study, less than 21 percent of offenders were terminated for their behavior. Most offenders are only reprimanded and able to continue with their career.
It’s a fact of life that in today’s world women are still doing most of the domestic and child care work for their family. This will occur even when they are married to a spouse who is also working full-time. Women do not view having a family in the same way as men. Some companies are flexible while others make it difficult for a woman to maintain her status as an executive as well as be a good parent and caregiver. When there is a work-life conflict men seem to be able to choose work without hesitation. Women often struggle with guilt if there is such a conflict. In a study conducted by Harvard Business school, the results show that both male and female executive seem to view conflicts between work and family as an issue for women to handle.
Together, We Make Our World
When presented with the opportunity, it is clearly evident that women flourish in the world of business. They have proven themselves capable of becoming experts in their field and are more than qualified to becoming C-Suite executives within the company. The first step in breaking the glass ceiling is promoting gender equality in the workplace and hiring more top level female executives. As for family issues, it is important that family responsibilities are divided equally between both men and women. Therefore, to transition from what was once “a man’s world” into “our world,” female executives must remain vocal and strong-willed, while business men must move forward with an open mind.
Amy Klimek is an experienced HR recruiter and VP of Human Resources for ZipRecruiter, a company that simplifies the hiring process for small to medium size businesses. Prior to that Amy has held similar roles at Rent.com, eBay and US Interactive.
For Amy, corporate culture isn’t about dogs and free lunches, it’s about empowering employees and creating an enriching environment for people to excel.