They’re the bosses who juggle demanding budgets, take control of supplies and are responsible for the management of everyone under their wing.
These are the people your business, indeed every business, needs. They know how to control fifty things at once and are still grounded enough to tell you the price of a pint of milk or loaf of bread. But who are they? And how can they be enticed into the best business boardrooms?
Take a look around any domestic household, not just yours, or those of people you know – but look nationally and even globally and try to figure out who is in charge.
At first glance you might think it’s the male, traditionally the breadwinner – or at least the major earner. But take a closer look, who really is “The Boss”? Yes, that’s right, a woman. Isn’t it mainly the women who control the cash, ensure supplies (food and laundry) are at the ready, and arrange the daily events for everyone?
Women in Management
They’re the uncelebrated and unseen CEOs outside of business, and yet female faces are so rarely seen in boardrooms throughout the planet.
You may see this as stereotyping women but take a look at the business world and you’ll realise that the proportion of women in senior roles has barely changed in a decade.
Figures published in the 2015 International Business Report on Women in Business found Eastern Europe leads the way with Russia and Poland having 39% and 34% respectively of their boardrooms made up of women, and there has been some progress in Europe. However Japan, India and Germany remain at the bottom of the rankings. In 2004, 16% of German boardrooms were made up of women – now that figure stands at a paltry 14%.
Globally 22% of women occupy senior management positions – and yet they are 50% of the workforce…
In these enlightened times why do the career paths for men and women differ? Well, it seems there are several reasons and the 2015 report outlines 12 recommendations to help smooth the path for women into business.
One of them is to stop holding female leaders up to a higher standard. Many of the women interviewed said they wanted to be known simply as business leaders, successful in their own right, not because they happen to be women. They also felt women were more harshly judged on their leadership styles and mistakes than men were by their peers.
Working on ways to end the stigmatisation of men who share the childcare and increasing the ways to boost shared parental leave would help the situation, but continuing the out-dated, often antiquated ways in which businesses are run never will. If you’re serious about having a successful business growth strategy, this needs to change.
Quotas and legislation could boost numbers, but sadly for many the idea of entering senior management just wasn’t an attractive option, and with no role models to guide them they feel unable to do so.
And it seems that there are even gender differences within the very fields where women take on leadership. They are over-represented in education and healthcare sectors, whereas men lead the way within industries such as manufacturing, construction and mining.
The proportion of top technology jobs held by women stands at just 15% in Europe and 20% in North America. Shockingly the number of female computer science undergraduates in the US actually dropped from 28% to 18% between 2000 and 2011. The giant tech companies are aware of this and have brought in all manner of ways for staff to work flexibly.
This gender imbalance means companies are losing out. You see, leaders who use skills such as collaboration, empathy, and flexibility, which are often stereotyped as female traits, are seen to be best placed to help drive future economic growth. When you balance this with the goal focused and risk- taking traits typically attributed to men – you get a more diverse and stronger leadership team, which in turn has a positive impact on the bottom line.
Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, summed it up when she highlighted the benefits of having more women in boardrooms back in 2010:
“If Lehman Brothers had been ‘Lehman Sisters’, today’s economic crisis clearly would look quite different.”