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RESEARCH: Women in Management Worldwide: Pulling it All Together | The cup “half full” or “half empty”

Pulling  all together the findings of Marilyn J. Davidson and Ronald J. Burke, excellent research, Women in Management Worldwide: Progress and Prospects, representing 20 countries,  some definite and common aspects emerge.

  • First, women’s participation rates in the workforce have increased in almost all countries, but occupational segregation still exists.
  • Childcare was an important concern for women in almost all countries. Second, women had increased their participation rates in university education, equaling or exceeding that of men in most cases.
  • Third, the proportion of women in management has increased but still remained very low at the higher levels of organizations particularly at board level. There was also considerable variability among countries in the percentage of women in management.
  • Fourth, women increasingly moved  into small business and entrepreneurship in most countries to earn income. Female entrepreneurs tended to develop small businesses and earn less income from them than did men.
  • Fifth, an increasing number of countries developed legislation to support women at work and women in management. Unfortunately it seemed as if these initiatives lacked teeth in many cases. Legislation did have the desired effect of increasing women’s representation in the workforce and working toward creating a more equal workplace experience (for example, Norway and Spain).
  • Sixth, there were only a few countries in which employing organizations developed initiatives to specifically support the development and advancement of women (for example, Canada, UK and US).
  • Seventh, the data indicated some positive developments in several countries (for example, more women in education, higher levels of country support for women in the workplace, changing family roles and responsibilities, improved employment (Jones, Burke and Westman) and labour market conditions), but several aspects seemed to be slow to change (few women in senior management, women paid less than men, bias and discrimination).

Certainly, there were some positive aspects in the 20 countries.

These included:

more women in management and in the professions; more supportive government practices; changing family roles and responsibilities; changes in demographic characteristics offering more opportunities for women; and improved economic and labour market conditions for women.

Nevertheless, there were also several disheartening aspects across the 20 countries.

These included:

a slow pace of change and improvement; women still faced discrimination and gender, ethnic, cultural and religious stereotyping; continuing male domination at senior-management and corporate board levels; and some plateauing in societal and legislative support for women’s advancement.

Undoubtedly, the reality is that of a significantly larger number of women in the workplace. In appreciating the reality and experiences of these women in a wider range of countries, highlighted the huge challenges these women face.
The work and life experiences of women in several countries in the developing world indicated many distressing features (for example, bias, hostility towards women, huge restrictions on women’s choices). Sadly, women worldwide still lack basic rights such as education, freedom from violence, opportunities to pursue what many of us see as taken-for-granted life options, and justice in the workplace and in their societies.

And the question is: the cup is “half full” or “half empty”.

The countries included in this book were among the “best” countries as far as women’s progress was concerned.

But whether one uses the metaphors of a glass ceiling (Barreto, Ryan and Schmitt), concrete walls, sticky floors or a labyrinth (Eagly and Carli), women’s advancement and progress had fallen short of expectations.

More organizations need to be convinced that supporting and developing the talents of their female employees makes good business sense.
Women’s associations need to continue their efforts, to tackle the pervasive negative attitudes, behaviours and experiences that face women worldwide.

Clearly, the evidence presented from the 20 countries represented in this book indicated that while a country’s political, economic and legislative context does appear to have some impact on women’s participation in managerial roles (particularly at senior levels), the greatest influences are more often driven by deeply rooted socio-cultural traditions and values. Efforts need to be made at the societal level – (and through through umbrella groups such as the United Nations (UN), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the G20 and the G7 associations) – before significant progress will be seen at the personal achievement levels.

We hope, in time, that the circumstances in these countries will change to provide a higher quality of life and access to more equality of opportunity among women and girls, to narrow the gender gap.

The world is awakening to a powerful truth: women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.

Kristof and WuDunn

About Dr. Ev D'aMigo; PhD

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