According to Marilyn J. Davidson and Ronald J. Burke, in their excellent book, Women in Management Worldwide: Progress and Prospects they contest that Women continue to enter the workplace in increasing numbers in all developed countries.
An increasing number of economies have become industrialized, the service sector has grown opening up positions for women, and growth in public and not-for profit sectors have created new opportunities for women. Further, attitudes towards working women, particularly women with children, as well as political and legal initiatives, have supported this trend. However, the pace of advancement for women mangers and professions continues to be slow and uneven in different countries and cultures.
In many cases, these women have invested in preparation for careers by undertaking higher education, with the proportion of women in university now equal to or greater than that of men. Women tend to enter the workplace at levels similar to men, with similar credentials and expectations, but their career paths quickly begin to diverge.
It should also be noted there are indications that the worldwide economic recession may be facilitating an increasing number of women’s employment into part-time jobs in some countries (for example, UK and USA), it may also be having a more determined impact on full-time female employment. In the UK for example, is six-to-one, with women suffering a greater loss of full-time jobs compared to men.
Why should organizations be interested in developing and using the talents of women?
Schwartz, back in 1992 offered several reasons why supporting the aspirations of talented women makes sound business sense. Organizations that do this get the best people for leadership positions, providing senior-level male executives experience in working with successful women. Supporting capable women signals to women employees, and both male and female clients and customers, that women will be treated similarly to men, and role models for junior women managers will be available. Finally, supporting qualified and talented women ensures that all managerial jobs will be filled with strong individuals.
These benefits are particularly important given the acknowledged shortage of effective managerial talent (Burke and Cooper), the failure of at least half the current managerial incumbents in performing their jobs successfully (Hogan and Hogan), the self-acknowledged failures of organizations to develop managerial talent (Fulmer and Conger), and the current “war for talent” (Michaels, Handfield-Jones and Axelrod).
It makes no sense to ignore the talents of half the population.
Shriver based on the fact that half the US workforce is now female, used the phrase “female nation” to highlight the fact that this body of employed women is going to bring about changes to men, women, families, organizations and society as a whole. More working women now have children. An increasing number of women are earning more salary than their husbands/ partners do. These facts are changing the nature of families, and the roles that men and women play. Children want both their mothers and fathers to come home from work less tired and less stressed. More men are now shouldering home and family responsibilities. Dual earner families need to negotiate who is responsible for what and flexibly respond to changes as they arise.
Both women and men are increasingly desirous of workplace flexibility and lower workloads and job demands.
In addition, it is clear that women are becoming an increasing economic force in terms of their purchasing influence and power.
Silverstein and Sayre indicate that women make the major purchasing decisions in several areas (for example, home furnishings, vacations, automobiles).
Yet women get little help at home (Jones, Burke and Westman) and are too often ignored by manufacturers and service providers. Tapping into these women represents a unique organizational competitive advantage, more likely to be realized if more women influence organizational decision making.
Tarr-Whelan makes a strong case for increasing the numbers of women in senior executive and key decision-making roles in organizations.
The key point is using the talents of half the population that previously have been ignored.
She suggests that having 30 percent of these leadership positions filled by qualified women represents a “tipping point” that puts the influence on business issues and off gender. Konrad, Kramer and Erkut also suggest that having three or more women on a corporate board of directors serves as a similar critical mass or tipping point.