Why Aren’t More Women in Top Leadership Positions in Business?

women-in-top-leadership-positions-in-business

 

Despite the fact that women are in the majority in most western world countries in general and account for at least 50% of graduates from business degrees and MBA programs these days, it seems to be having very little impact on how many women occupy the top leadership positions in the business world. Although the numbers vary from country to country, in the US women are estimated to occupy only 17% of so-called “C-suite” positions and even then, these tend to be in the more junior C-suite roles, with CEO, Chancellor, Managing Partner, Agency Head and other top jobs being even more male dominated. This is also true in the fortune 500 companies in the US, where less than 5% of senior executives are women. So why is this still the case, with little apparent change for years it seems? For the most part, it is because of male “misperceptions” about women that continue to prevail and inhibit female progress. So what are the misconceptions that seem to prevail the most?

Misconception 1–Great progress has been made and it’s only a matter of time before equality in the C-suite or wider executive ranks is reached. In reality, while some strides were made in the period between 1970-1990’s there has been only incremental progress in the last 10-15 years and far greater numbers of woman middle management roles still hit the well-known glass ceiling at promotion meetings.

Misconception 2–The newer and younger generation of men is more sympathetic to women being promoted to senior executive ranks. In reality, there is no evidence for this view at all. The many arguments that would have been mounted 25 years ago (such as women are not tough, committed, focused and reliable enough amongst others) still abound in many studies of the majority of younger men who are in a position to potentially promote women. 

Misconception 3–Family/home responsibilities keep women from breaking through the glass ceiling to the C-suite. In reality, this is overwhelmingly an unsubstantiated statement made by men. When asked, less than 5% of female managers say that family and home responsibilities are a major reason and less than 10% admit to turning down a transfer in order to “stay home”. In addition, there has been an explosion in external help with home management and childcare in the last two decades. 

Misconception 4–Women executives who have children cost an organization more. In reality, research suggests that males in managerial roles take just as much time off as women when it comes to a child over the long term and therefore there is no evidence for greater costs being incurred. In addition, women now return to work much more quickly than they did a decade ago and will employ help when direct parental involvement is not possible. 

Misconception 5–Having more female executives means less opportunities for marriage and a greater chance of divorce. In reality, this is true for both male and female senior executives (meaning that there are more single and divorced people in these ranks for both sexes than the wider adult population at large). It is true however that a single/divorced woman is seen to be much less “secure” than a single/divorced man in senior managerial roles in multiple research studies. This is unfairly discriminating against women. 

Misconception 6–Women aren’t assertive/aggressive enough and lack the self-confidence required to be a “top decision-maker”.  In reality, these stereotypical views maintained by males (starting out mainly in the 1960’s as a response to feminism) have no foundation in any facts borne out by research. In addition, in modern management thinking, the more collaborative and inclusive management styles which are often stronger in women are much more valued. It is also the case that in studies of senior executives, the traits most in evidence or even most attributed to success in the job are the same for both men and women. 

Misconception 7–We have a total meritocracy today – both men and women can make it all the way to the top if they have what it takes and work hard for it. In reality, such a claim tends to be made by those who dominate the current order trying to communicate that a fair system is in place when much of the evidence points in a different direction. In practice, males executives still look to “groom” mainly male successors and women are only chosen to make up numbers or to demonstrate that they are in the running for job jobs when in fact the males are chosen much more often for senior roles.

Misconception 8–Many women who get to senior executive positions act like men and are poor role models to other women. In reality, the vast majority of senior women, as few of them as there are, are seen to be excellent role models for other women. In companies where women make it to CEO for example, it is considerably easier to hire women and many more of them will push for promotion.

Sadly then, all of the above misconceptions are still alive and active in the workplace and help to prevent more women from reaching the higher echelons of management. Other than to positively discriminate in favor of women (always a tough thing to do in a real meritocracy that women very much want too), it seems therefore that change in this area comes down to more men in positions of power becoming more enlightened. In other words, senor male executives need to “own up” to having the above views as deliberate or unchallenged misconceptions (even if it is only to some extent) and start to level the playing field. Will this happen more in the next decade? I suspect only if a few visible men at the top are prepared to lead from the front on this issue. – By Dr Jon Warner

 

What millennials do and don’t want from their employers

Busting workplace myths about the youngest—and soon-to-be biggest—generation

Baby Boomers and Millennials

This is the year the millennial generation—ages 18 to 34—will surpass the baby-boom generation in size. It has already done so in cultural and social significance. We boomers grew accustomed to the notion, forged over decades, that we drove the zeitgeist of our times. No more. Millennials rule.

That’s certainly true in the workplace (see our coverage of the 100 Best Companies to Work For). Any discussion of talent quickly devolves into a dissection of the millennial mind. Managers struggle with preconceptions. Must millennials change jobs every two years? Do they require constant reinforcement, after a childhood of “everybody’s a winner”? Do they need a “chill” workplace? Free food? Foosball?

Many of the popular notions are pure myth. Some busted ones:

Millennials want to change jobs frequently.

Wrong. A study by my former colleagues at the Pew Research Center shows that millennials actually value job security more highly than boomers do. But they won’t stay at a job they don’t like. Some 50% of millennials say having a “job you enjoy” is “extremely important” to them, compared with just 38% of boomers.

Money doesn’t matter.

Maybe. The Pew study found that millennials put “a high-paying job” near the bottom of their list of work priorities—but so do other generations, in roughly equal numbers. Count me a skeptic on all counts. What people say when surveyed over the phone and how they act when an offer is on the table are different things.

Every Millennial wants to be an entrepreneur.

They may all want to be Mark Zuckerberg, but it’s not happening. A recent Wall Street Journal analysis of Federal Reserve data shows the share of people under age 30 who own private businesses has hit a 24-year low—just 3.6%, down from 10.6% in 1989.

Still, there is no doubt that this generation is different. It is the most diverse in American history—43% nonwhite—and more confident about the nation’s future than older generations. That’s a reverse from the 1970s, when young boomers were considerably less optimistic than their elders. Millennials also are slower to get married than earlier generations and less likely to belong to a political party—which may make their employer, by default, the most important institutional affiliation in their lives.

The biggest difference is not who they are, but how they live. They are the ones most comfortable with the new human appendage—the smartphone—that lets them stay connected to a vast network of friends and provides instant access to information, both good and bad. They are quickest to adapt to the ways in which the mobile Internet is changing the fundamental logistics of their lives, and the first to demand the workplace do the same.

So pay attention. The millennials aren’t spoiled products of a coddled past. They are harbingers of our connected future. – by Alan Murray, editor of Fortune Magazine.

 

 

 

THIS YEAR, Millennials will overtake Baby Boomers

This year, the “Millennial” generation is projected to surpass the outsized Baby Generation PopulationBoom generation as the nation’s largest living generation, according to the population projections released by the U.S. Census Bureau last month. Millennials (whom we define as between ages 18 to 34 in 2015) are projected to number 75.3 million, surpassing the projected 74.9 million Boomers (ages 51 to 69). The Gen X population (ages 35 to 50 in 2015) is projected to outnumber the Boomers by 2028.

The Millennial generation continues to grow as young immigrants expand their ranks. Boomers – a generation defined by the boom in U.S. births following World War II — are older and shrinking in size as the number of deaths exceed the number of older immigrants arriving in the country.

FT_generations-definedGenerations are analytical constructs and it takes time for popular and expert consensus to develop as to the precise boundaries demarcating one generation from another. The Pew Research Center has established that the oldest “Millennial” was born in 1981. The Center continues to assess demographic, attitudinal and other evidence on habits and culture that will help to establish when the youngest “Millennial” was born or even when a new generation begins. To distill the implications of the census numbers for generational heft, this analysis assumes that the youngest “Millennial” was born in 1997.

Here’s a look at some generational projections:

Millennials

  • The Census Bureau projects that the Millennial population was 74.8 million in 2014. By 2015 Millennials will increase in size to 75.3 million and become the biggest group.
  • With immigration adding more numbers to its group than any other, the Millennial population is projected to peak in 2036 at 81.1 million. Thereafter the oldest Millennial will be at least 56 years of age and mortality is projected to outweigh net immigration. By 2050 there will be a projected 79.2 million Millennials.

size of each generation Millennial Baby Boomer Gen XGeneration X

  • For a few more years, Gen Xers are projected to remain the “middle child” of generations – caught between two larger generations of the Millennials and the Boomers. They are smaller than Millennials because the generational span of Gen X (16 years) is shorter than the Millennials (17 years). Also, the Gen Xers were born during a period when Americans were having fewer children than later decades. When Gen Xers were born, births averaged around 3.4 million per year, compared with the 3.9 million annual rate during the 1980s and 1990s when Millennials were born.
  • Though the oldest Gen Xer is now 50, the Gen X population will still grow for a few more years. The Gen X population is projected to outnumber the Boomers in 2028 when there will be 64.6 million Gen Xers and 63.7 million Boomers. The Census Bureau projects that the Gen X population will peak at 65.8 million in 2018.

Baby Boomers

  • Baby Boomers have always had an outsized presence compared with other generations. They were the largest generation and peaked at 78.8 million in 1999.
  • There were a projected 75.4 million Boomers in 2014. By mid-century, the Boomer population will dwindle to 16.6 million.

– Richard Fry is a senior researcher focusing on economics and education at Pew Research Center.