Gender & Management
This article examines the impact of gender in the workplace. The impact of gender on the composition of the management team is analyzed and current trends of women in management are reviewed. Changes in the workplace over the last three decades as the number of women in the workplace has increased are explained including the emergence of the family-friendly workplace. The types of benefits offered by family-friendly companies are reviewed. Employment statistics on women in the workplace, the occupations in which women work, and the salary differentials between women and men are presented.
Keywords: Baby Boomers; Family Friendly Workplace; Generation-X Women; Labor Shortage; Women at Work; Work-family Conflict; Workforce; Working Woman
Gender presents at least two primary challenges to organization managers. One is the impact of gender on management staffing and the composition of the management team. This has most often been discussed in terms of women moving into management positions which has been, and still is in parts of the world, positions traditionally held by men. The second area of impact is in human resource management, which has changed how management deals with a mixed gender non-management workforce who is now often split rather evenly between men and women.
Women in Management
As the society and the economy changes many companies have had to reexamine their workforce composition and their hiring practices. One shift that has been significant is that more companies have become interested in recruiting and promoting women into senior management positions. This provides women the opportunity to work their way to the executive levels of many corporations. Women are succeeding in a wide variety of positions and industries traditionally considered inappropriate for women. They are also beginning to succeed in areas that have historically been male-dominated including manufacturing, engineering, and financial services.
Companies are seeking women for senior management roles for several reasons. One of the most significant reasons is that women represent a very large untapped pool of talent. This is especially true for senior level positions. Companies that desire to strengthen management teams want to remain competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace. They recognize that by including women in the upper echelons of management can add new sources of talent and expand the perspectives of the management force.
The expanded perspective of the management team is achieved because of inherent differences between men and women. Many organizations believe that women bring alternative perspectives to the table. The ultimate goal of course, is to gain and sustain a competitive advantage for the company. As the management team becomes more diverse the customers and clients of the company tend to view the diversity as positive. It should also be noted that women do account for over 80% of all consumer spending in the United States. Women now routinely buy cars and invest in stocks. They also make the majority of the family buying decisions. This being the case, the input of women at the executive level of a company becomes more valuable as well.
When women are on the management team, it signals to current and potential employees that the organization is changing with the times and is embracing gender diversity. Furthermore, the presence of women on the management team can expand the perceptions of the market place and helps to ensure that existing as well as new business opportunities are not overlooked. This is logical in that women constitute a large and rapidly growing consumer base. Organizations with a relatively high percentage of women executives have come to understand and capitalize on gender differences in leadership style and management behavior. These companies are also considered more likely to address actual and perceived inequalities in the workplace and have accomplished that in part by not leaving gender diversity to chance ("Gender and organizational performance," 2002).
Overcoming Obstacles to Female Advancement
Even though the composition of the management work force is changing there still are some issues that impede the progress of women. One major obstacle for women working at senior executive levels is how to overcome the inherent difficulties of balancing career and family. Many things in society have changed, but it is clear that women remain the primary caregivers in most societies and probably will continue that role. It is also likely that women who become senior managers will also be raising a family and may even be caring for their aging parents.
Many companies recognize the dual social role of women and there have been many programs implemented to accommodate their needs such as flextime schedules and generous maternity leave packages. Women know, however, that utilizing many of these opportunities can stifle or even derail a career. To improve their return on investment for making these opportunities available, many companies have limited their generosity only to women who have proven track records of success within the company. There is also a pattern in recruiting executive women from outside which shows recruiters and managers alike do not actively consider female candidates that are likely to make use of these programs.
Many corporate CEOs are white, male, and 60 years of age. Some of these men still find it difficult to picture women like their wives and daughters in senior-level positions. There could be many reasons for this, even including a lack of confidence in their wives and daughters. In some industries, competition is heavy and business is not always neat and clean. The aging CEO may feel that women cannot play aggressively enough to win the market. Thus, many older CEOs let the bias of their personal experiences guide the recruiting process. Many of these CEOs had mothers who stayed at home, and many still have wives who stay at home and attend to family and social matters.
Another not so subtle discrimination in the executive corps is that male executives may exclude women managers from informal activities outside the office. These activities tend to strengthen business relationships. Season tickets to sporting events, for example, may not be offered to female vice presidents. This discrimination results in women losing important opportunities to build relationships outside the structure of the office environment (Landon, 1996).
At lower management levels, women are typically placed in non-strategic sectors, in personnel and administrative positions, rather than in professional and line management jobs leading to the top. Thus, women are cut off from networks (both formal and informal) essential for advancement within enterprises. Unfortunately in some large companies and organizations women in high-level managerial positions such as human resources and administration are often considered less vital to the organization. This may be because managers tend to work long hours in order to gain recognition and even gain promotions ("Women in management," 1998).
Forces that may be underlying explanations of women's inequality in the workplace are the result of structural barriers, stereotypical assumptions, individual choice, and work-family conflict. These issues are broad, power-implicated, ideological forces (Gazso, 2004). The "think manager-think male" attitude still dominates many organizations. Research shows that managerial and executive-level positions are still male sex-typed. Many executives perceive that women do not fit in these positions as well as men. Thus one conclusion that the research supports is that women are considered to be less effective managers than men (Bergeron, Block & Echtenkamp, 2006).
Programs for Advancement
Many governments, enterprises, and organizations, through policy as well as practice, have committed to programs to advance women. Some of these programs have met with limited success while others may have gained a higher profile. Generally, they are having a positive effect, especially in influencing younger generations of men and women.
The development of detailed training, promotion, and career plans in organizations has been shown to be an impetus for promoting equal opportunities in career progression. This may require specific support through networks, coaching, or mentoring. In addition, these must be continued even during downsizing, decentralization, and delayering. ("Women in management," 1998).
Analyzing the Workforce Participation of Women
The workplace faces several challenges in the new millennium, among them that employers face a fairly serious labor shortage. There will not be enough younger people to fill jobs left vacant by retiring baby boomers. Estimates on the labor shortage in the United States range from three million to ten million workers by 2010.
The demographics of the American workforce have also changed in the last forty years. In 2013 it was reported that 74 percent of American women are in the workforce; these women make up approximately 47 percent of the total labor force. In addition, in 2012 mother accounted for over 70 percent of working women and 40 percent of working wives out-earned their husbands.
The modern working woman generally enters into the workforce after completing her education, and moves in and out of the workforce several times until retirement. About three fourths of women work in administrative support or as executives, administrators, and managers. Women are obtaining the majority of bachelor's degrees and are receiving a high percentage of medical, law, and MBA degrees.
There are about 36 million "Generation X" women in the United States and over 15 million are mothers, according to the 2000 Census Bureau. The Gen-X woman has achieved the greatest one-generation leap in social and gender equality in American history. They were the first to enter the legal, medical, and business professions in large numbers...
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