Women comprise only 10% of senior managers in Ireland. They earn, on average, 12.6% less than men. Research indicates that female talent is underestimated & underutilised due to stereotyping. Often women opt out because the responsibility of caring for children & aged parents still resides primarily with them & it is just too difficult to juggle work & family in a work environment designed for the male breadwinner model. Eagly & Carli speak of the labyrinth which women must negotiate to progress, when men just have to push a door on a linear path. Research continues to show that, due to unconscious bias, women need to perform significantly better than their male counterparts to be seen as equally competent. Women & men behave & communicate differently – for example: Women underestimate how good they are; Women don’t ask & they don’t publicise their achievements & aspirations; For men, there is a positive correlation between success & likeability, for women, the opposite tends to hold true.
Why it matters / merits investment
Society is missing out on the opportunity that gender diversity at all levels of management offers. Numerous studies indicate a positive relationship between the number of women at senior management/board level & organisational performance. Inclusion of women brings a fresh perspective – eg: when women were given a significant role in new product development at Campbell Soup, they developed a $200 million product, practically overnight – given that 80% of consumer decisions are now made by women, involving women makes sense. Women demonstrate more transformational leadership, & this is connected with greater effectiveness.
Feeling underutilised & underestimated reduces motivation & performance. Retention of valuable female employees is a problem. One study estimates that 37% of women opt out – perhaps they wouldn’t if they had the option of more flexible working arrangements without loss of opportunity. An EC Study reported that 58% of companies with Diversity Programmes said they led to higher productivity due to improved motivation & efficiency & 62% said they led to attraction & retention of more highly talented people.
Gender Balance programmes should benefit everyone. At a major consulting firm, the only women who got to be partners were the ones without families. Women shouldn’t have to make these sacrifices in order to enjoy the same career success as men. Men suffer from the stereotype that they should be breadwinners & are, in general, much more defined by what they do for a career than women – it’s still much more difficult for them to step off the career ladder if they so choose or to elect to work part-time.
Studies estimate that matching female to male employment rates in developed countries would increase GDP by 5% & reduce the predicted shortfall of workers in Europe in 2040 from 24m to 3m.
Finally, given that 60% of graduates in developed countries are now women, it is an extraordinary waste of talent to operate with one arm tied behind our backs.