Women in Management

Article excerpt

Women have only recently begun to join the ranks of managers in large numbers. The emergence of women into the work force has precipitated many discussions. This paper discusses some of the major issues surrounding women in management and proposes some organizational and individual responses to better utilize the diversity of skills and talents available within the work force.

In 1970, only 15 percent of all managers were women. By 1989 this figure had risen to more than 40 percent.[1] By 1995, women made up about 63 percent of the total work force.[2] However, only six percent of women are classified as middle level managers.[3] Currently, only three of every one hundred top jobs in the largest U.S. companies are held by women, which is about the same number as a decade ago.[4] Of the Fortune 50 companies, only 1.3% of corporate officers are women while 1.7% are women within the Fortune 500 companies. Among 200 of America's largest companies, women hold less than a quarter of the executive jobs and less than five percent of the vice-presidents are women.[5] Some experts indicate that equality in top management positions between the genders will not balance out for another 20 to 30 years.[6]

Glass Ceiling

A Labor Department study indicated that the "glass ceiling" keeps many women from moving up in management and leadership positions.[7] The "glass ceiling" is the subtle barrier of negative attitudes and prejudices that prevents women and minorities from moving beyond a certain level in the corporate hierarchy.[8] One third of working women work in clerical positions and another quarter work in the fields of health care, education, domestic service, and food services.[9] Even in these traditionally feminine professions women do not occupy key positions in relation to their numbers. For example, in schools women teach and men organize, plan, direct, and control. In social agencies women are typically middle managers supervising direct service workers, while men plan programs, prepare budgets, etc. Even when women have earned the highest degree in their profession, which indicates that they are especially competent, they tend to occupy the lower positions. In short, American women occupy only 16% of the managerial positions and only 4% of the high level managerial/administrative positions in modern organizations.[10]

A major obstacle for women who aspire to achieve a managerial position is the presence of constraints imposed upon them by society, the family, and women themselves. Some researchers refer to some of these constraints as myths, preconceived ideas, or unsupported notions. For example, females are often thought of as being dependent, passive, fragile, nonaggressive, noncompetitive, inner-oriented, empathetic, sensitive, subjective, intuitive, and supportive.[11,12,13] While some attitudes are progressively turning to favor women, others remain as true obstacles to women. Table 1 outlines just a few of the myths applied to women in the business world.

Many of the stated attitudes are still prevalent within the corporate arena, and women must be prepared to counteract the attitudes as they deal with their employers. Women need to go into their jobs knowing that there will be some barriers; however, they also need to know some women have broken the barriers and that they have the capability to do so also.

Review of the Literature

"Although the number of women in the work force has increased from 3,680,000 to 5,382,000 between 1975 and 1985, an increase of 46.3%, the advancement of women in management has not kept pace."[14] While the number of working women has increased dramatically in recent years, there are a number of different views that have been asserted to explain why women are not seen in large numbers in executive positions.

The first of these is referred to as the person-centered view. This view puts the blame of limited corporate progression of women on factors that are internal to the female gender. …