It has been generally observed that workplace attitudes on gender have continued to influence decisions and direct actions in organizations. These attitudes have tended to be directed more at women than men. The result has been a hindrance in the effective participation of women in decision-making at the workplace. Most men, and sadly women, have had the opinion that women lack the ability to function in management positions that require strategic decision making within the organization. They are said to lack the ability to decide on their feet, as somebody would put it.
Research findings unfortunately seem to point at the existence of this sad scenario in most organizations. A research carried out by Wood (2008) provides a lot of insightful information on the effect of gender stereotyping of women at the work place. Out of a total of 30 respondents selected for this study, there were 19 men and 11 women, who happened to be in various management positions in their organizations. It is interesting to note the gender stereotyping began right from the sampling. One wonders why the researchers decided to use 19 male and 11 female managers and not 15 male and 15 female managers.
A good number of the female managers in the US felt it would take over 10 years for women to achieve equal representation with men in terms of job placement. A number of male respondents from the US shared a similar view and supported his position by submitting that in the organisation where he works, there are very few women, and even then most of them take long durations in lower positions. Some female respondents were of the opinion that it would take more than a decade for women to realize 50% representation in senior management positions. A female respondent was of the opinion that 50% representation might not be realized.
She however opined that this was not because women lacked the ability to perform in these high positions, but because they were not simply interested in taking up such positions. This position is tandem with the respondents who were asked if they aspired to be promoted. Whereas 68% of the men said they aspired for promotion, only 55% of the women were willing to be promoted. It is however unclear whether their lack of aspiration is due to lack of skills, knowledge and abilities. Whereas 58% of the men said that they had successfully achieved promotion, only 27% of the women shared this position.
It is however debatable whether their failure to secure promotion was based on their lack of interest, lack of ability or because of their smaller number in organizations. It would appear that children hinder women from aspiring for management positions because one respondent said that women who wish to get these positions put off bearing children. Some respondents said that senior management positions are not open to everybody, but to a small clique of old boys who operate like a closed shop. Breaking into this network requires people with unique abilities, and not many women have the stamina to push through.
The few who have been able constitute the small percentage. Some managers were of the view that achieving 40/60 percent representation for women and men respectively in more than 10 years could be more realistic than 50/50 percent representation. They argue that it takes time to develop somebody to management level, which not many women are willing to wait for patiently. Even when they reach the top, some of them opt out and might not be replaced by other women, but by men. It was also felt by some respondents that management positions require performers, which not many women might be.
They feel that 50% representation at any time might be quite ambitious, but 10% would be realistic. Cumulatively, out of the female respondents, 1 felt that it would take 5 – 10 years to have 50% female representation, 2 said it would take more than 10 years while 4 said it would take 10 years or more. Only one female respondent said women will never achieve 50% representation. 1 said it would take another 5-10 years, while two said it would take more than 10 years from that time. 1 out of the 19 male respondents said it would take between 5-10 years to achieve 5% female representation, while 1 said it would take more than 10 years.
6 said it would take another 10 years or more. 5 male respondents said women will never achieve 50% representation, while one said it would take them more than ten years to achieve a paltry 10% representation. The results from this research could have major implications in the actual working environment as far as female aspirations for higher managerial positions are concerned. The first implication which is more theoretical in nature is that women are being negatively influenced as far as their career advancement is concerned.
When the results make it abundantly clear that chances of achieving a 50% female representation on the workplace are slim, most of the female employees will get demotivated and will find no reason to aspire for high managerial positions. Such a decision is likely to keep them at the lower level of then organization hence inhibiting their career advancement. Making top management positions appear like a private members’ club which requires connections before joining could easily scare away women from venturing.
Not many women are able to weave their way through male dominated networks. The few who are able are possibly the ones who share such positions with men. Some women would like to be mothers as well as career women. Making it appear as if advancing in one’s career can only take place at the expense of family life is enough deterrent to a woman’s career advancement. The practical implication of the research findings is that organizations might fail to sufficiently utilize the skills, knowledge and talents possessed by women.
It is known that women have some unique abilities which could be harnessed and utilized in the organization. Scaring them away from management positions where important decision making is done denies the organization opportunity to benefit from their input. Apart from being scared by the attitude of men, fellow women also play a role. References Wood, Glence. 2008. Gender Stereotypical Attitudes Past, Present and Future Influences on Women’s Career Advancement. Equal Opportunities International, Vol. 27 No. 7, pp. 613-628