Discrimination: Women in Business

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Although great strides have been made in the last 20 years in overcoming discrimination against women, there is still a very long way to go and a lot of perceptions to change along the way.

Discrimination in the business world toward women takes on many different forms and although they are all very destructive, some may be more visible than others. The glass ceiling is still an ever present obstacle in today's business environment. In only four sectors of the business world women seem to transcend this barrier. They are in consumer advertising and marketing, the beauty industry, local small businesses, and education (Peiss, 1998). Though this is a good start, it only represents a very small percentage of all business. Speculations exist as to why there are not more women in upper level management of companies, but when this question is looked at in a historical perspective, it is observed that 10 years ago women were having a difficult time just breaking into middle management (MacRae, 2005).

The purpose of this paper is to look at some areas of discrimination toward women in business, some areas of opportunity for women to overcome discrimination, and some ways for women to overcome discrimination and move forward.

STATISTICS OF WOMEN IN BUSINESS

In a recent study it was found that a whopping 66% of the United States workforce was made up of women, with only 21% at the middle management level and a dismal 15% at the senior management level (Veale & Gold, 1998). The women in today's workforce seem to still be going the way of their female predecessors, that is to say, they are concentrated most heavily within the caring or humanities industries (Veale & Gold, 1998). This could be because of the almost inborn caring nature of women or because that is what society at large has deemed to be the most acceptable positions for women in America.

Although the gap between men and women in management careers is closing, the glass ceiling is still very evident in today's business environment. The fact remains that there are still significantly more men in management positions than women (Wentling, 2003). The one exception to this can be seen in the educational arena where elementary school principals tend to be mostly women (Cai & Kleiner, 1999). In fact, the number of women in leadership roles within their career is less than 30%. Some people believe that this issue is linked to the fact that management in and of itself has been traditionally thought of as a male occupation and, thus, is not suitable for a woman as a choice of profession (Cai & Kleiner, 1999).

GENDER BASED STEREOTYPING

Gender based stereotyping is solely based on opinions and perceptions and not on facts. One of the most common stereotypes men put on women is that they are not as good at problem solving as their male counterparts. This is especially unfortunate when the fact is considered that this is one of the main objectives of successful managers (Catalyst, 2005).

A study reveals that stereotypically the difference between women and men is that women take care and men take charge (Catalyst, 2005). However, research shows that when people have preconceived notions about someone, they are more likely to find and remember those fallacies about those people. This is to say that if you believe that everyone from culture Y is a follower and not as decisive as you and your fellow culture Xers, then when you see someone from culture Y demonstrating one of these characteristics, that is what tends to be remembered. Women see this phenomenon more specifically in traditionally male professions such as construction. Although a man will make the same mistake as a woman, the men that she works with will hold her at a higher standard and remember that one instance of a shortcoming (Catalyst, 2005). In fact people will many times consciously reject any new information that goes against their preconceived notions ofthat group. …