Girl Boss? More Like Woman Executive: Women in Senior Corporate Positions

June 12, 2017
By Dhanishtaa BRONZE, Fredericton, New Brunswick
Dhanishtaa BRONZE, Fredericton, New Brunswick
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

In today’s rapidly progressing society, we like to think that we are very close to attaining women’s equality. Our society prides itself in offering equal opportunities in all fields of work for both men and women. This said, the average corporate boardroom in Canada is still 79.6 percent male (Women on Corporate Boards Globally). Women in Canada and around the world are still struggling to achieve executive, board and especially, C-suite positions. There is a dire need for more women in senior positions because they are extremely under represented, even though they benefit their corporations and serve as role models for future generations.

Currently, there is a significant gap of representation of women in senior corporate positions. Even if the common argument of the importance of qualifications over gender is applied, the numbers still don’t add up; in 2016, women made up nearly 40 percent of MBA graduates (Male/Female Ratio of MBA Students in Canada) and are catching up to men in all fields and levels of post-secondary education. But a recent study by Peterson Institute for International Economics, examining data from over 22,000 firms and 91 countries, proves that despite the rising number of qualified and capable women, the number of women in high positions is at a halt or even a possible decrease. The study shows that 60 percent of companies had no women on their boards, more than half had no female executives and 95 percent did not have female CEOs (Noland and Moran). Positions for women in the C-suite are almost unattainable for most professional women in the corporate world, as only 4 percent of Fortune 500 Companies have a female CEO (Why Do So Few Women Hold Positions of Power?).

The root cause of the lack of women in leading positions is due to barriers that are often overlooked. Research done by McKinsey Co and LeanIn affirms that, “Women face greater barriers to advancement and a steeper path to senior leadership.” Additionally, the study acknowledges the frequently evoked explanation that women aren’t committed to their careers and drop out of the workforce to have a family, by stating its irrelevance; the study found that women are in fact, less likely to leave a company than men. It went even further by finding that mothers are 15 percent more likely to be interested in senior positions than others (Hunt et al.). Another barrier is the double standard between men and women. According to Pew Research Center, women are consistently forced to go above and beyond to prove and defend their competence, which leads to a concerning conjecture— women still aren’t believed to be as capable as men. Evidently, it's not a lack of interest, talent or commitment, but deeply rooted biases and other obstacles that are blocking women from succeeding to higher positions in their careers.

Ironically, increasing the number of women in executive positions isn’t simply the politically correct thing to do, but also demonstrates insightful business sense. An amplifying amount of studies reveal a significant correlation between greater gender diversity in corporate leadership and a company’s profitability (Women and Leadership).  The University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business’ research shows that female board members are superior at preserving shareholder value, and for every woman director, the cost of a company’s successful acquisition decreases by 15.4 percent. Co-author of the study and Sauder finance professor, Kai Li, states, “Our findings show that prudence exhibited by woman directors in negotiating mergers and acquisitions has had a substantial positive effect on maintaining firm value."(Women Directors Better at Mergers and Acquisitions). Moreover, another study shows that companies with top percentile rates for gender diversity have a 15 percent more chance of having financial returns higher than their national industry average (Archer). In simpler terms, greater gender parity in executive positions results in greater gains for the companies.

More women in senior and influential positions will not only serve as role models for future generations but will also help pave the way for other women hitting the glass ceiling on the way to success in their careers. For instance, in India, quotas to increase female politicians have been in place since 1993. In areas with long-standing women politicians, teenage girls and their parents, held higher aspirations and expectations for the girls' education and careers. Researchers think that seeing women in leading positions initiated a role model effect that persuaded local families that women are as capable as men of leading, which increased their ambitions. In a broader context, this research applies to the role model effect more female executives will have on future generations. Simultaneously, this example provides a compelling argument for implementing female quotas on corporate boards (World With A View). The Government of Canada has been debating administering a quota of this kind, as only 2 percent of 215 of the largest Canadian companies have targets for women in executive positions (Anand and Kotecha). Women in senior corporate positions, inspire other women and girls to achieve success in their own careers; however, implementing a national female quota on corporate boards is one of the only ways to achieve corporate gender equity.

The need for women in senior positions in corporations is extreme because they are continually failing to be represented, corporations benefit greatly because of women, and they serve as excellent role models for future generations. Presently, there is an unfair lack of women in executive positions because of the biases and barriers they face in the corporate world. In addition to this being the right thing to do, companies that hire more women reap favorable results; female executives are proven valuable assets to companies. Lastly, more women in positions of power also have a significant impact on young women, by inspiring them to be leaders from a young age. Unfortunately, one of the only ways to guarantee corporate gender parity is to implement a female quota on corporate boards and executive positions. Soon, perchance, a woman in a position of power won’t be considered inspirational, threatening, or an outlier, but simply normal.

The author's comments:

The lack of women in senior corporate positions is an extremely underrated, yet vital issue concerning the advancement of the business world and our society. As young woman with aspirations to possibly be in such a position, I found my findings disheartening yet so interesting. I hope readers learn as much from this article as I did when writing it.

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