What’s particularly startling is that women earn the majority of college degrees and take up more than half of the workforce, but there still remains a low number of female CEOs. While there has been an increase in the number of women taking on top executive positions over the past decade, few actually have roles that involve bottom-line decisions.
So the big question is – why aren’t there more women CEOs? The Wall Street Journal conducted a study of executives at top companies to determine exactly that. Vanessa Fuhrmans of the Wall Street Journal expounds upon the results in her article.
Early Professional Trade-Offs
The study found that women tend to be typecast into specific roles early in their career. The most common fields women are brought into include Human Resources, Administration, or Legal. While these are important roles for every company, they rarely lead to a path of eventually being in charge of the company.
Line roles – those which involve high profit and loss decisions – are typically given to male employees who are just starting out professionally, which sets the stage for a path to leadership. The study also indicated that male employees receive advice on how to achieve high-ranking roles significantly more often than women do. Essentially, men are being promoted into important, game-changing positions early in their career at a much higher rate than women at the same professional level, with the support of their superiors.
An age-old problem that still affects women in the workplace is the notion that women lower their professional aspirations due to an intrinsic desire to have a family. As a result, some companies second-guess whether to promote a large number of female employees in high-ranking positions due to the assumption that women don’t want to have a demanding work schedule.
While the data shows that women do face more of a time-crunch in leadership positions than men, it is primarily due to the fact that women tend to be in relationships at a higher rate than men in the same positions. As a result, some companies inevitably foster an environment that cannot support a healthy work-life balance for the majority of high-ranking professional women, resulting in less females rising in the ranks to top-level roles. Companies need to take more action to combat negative attitudes in the workplace and cultivate more high-potential women.
Entrenched Attitudes About Women
Unfortunately, there are still many harmful biases against women that permeate the workplace. And currently, the role of CEO is male-dominated. At some companies, it’s difficult to imagine a woman as CEO simply because it is so uncommon. As a result, highly-qualified, extremely capable female employees are often overlooked for CEO positions.
More women need to be put into the pipeline that leads to high-status positions, such as CEO. And this can only happen when companies make a dedicated effort to squashing the unconscious biases that exist in every professional environment.
* * *You can read more about Where Are All the Women CEOs at the Wall Street Journal.