Women in Managerial Positions in Europe: Focus on Germany**

By Holst, Elke | Management Revue, April 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Women in Managerial Positions in Europe: Focus on Germany**


Holst, Elke, Management Revue


Prejudices and stereotypical beliefs about the role of women in society often limit their chances of reaching top leadership positions. This paper presents a detailed analysis of the socio-economic structure and the gender pay gap in managerial positions in Germany building on a review from a cross-national perspective of women's progress to high-ranking positions and of initiatives to overcome the "glass ceiling". Suggestions are made for improving the situation of women in order to permit more balanced gender participation in the economy, while also promoting national competitiveness and higher levels of wellbeing for the society.

Key words: Women in Management, "Glass Ceiling", Socio-economic Structure, Horizontal and Vertical Segregation, Gender Pay Gap, Diversity Awareness

1. Introduction - basic conditions

Women in higher-ranking positions' are role models for other women. They show what women can achieve and that it is possible for them to follow their chosen careers. This is an important point because most women in managerial positions are working in traditionally male spheres with male-oriented norms that define what constitutes "leadership qualities". Because they do not necessarily conform to this norm and may possess different leadership skills, women are often confronted with prejudices and are expected to conform to stereotypes. Such attitudes have the potential to seriously limit women's chances to lead. Positive role models, on the other hand, have the potential to change norms and to provide a wider range of leadership styles that benefit employers.

These psychological and cultural aspects are generally not dealt with in traditional labor economics. Neoclassical models explain occupational gender differences mainly by differing preferences for work hours and different occupational interest.2 The limits of this rational choice approach have frequently been discussed in the literature (Cook/Levi 1990). Many critiques have been directed at the "malestream" models (for example in Bergmann 1995, Humphries 1995, Nelson 1996), others emphasize the influence of the individual human actors and their beliefs (Ferber/Nelson 1993). Further, Michèle Pujol (1992, 1995) pointed out that the founding fathers of the neoclassical paradigm had strong patriarchal beliefs about women's and men's roles in society and their different abilities and were extremely concerned about the negative impact of women's employment on their household duties. Measures to increase the earning capacity of women and their opportunities in the labor market (for example by getting a better education) as well as the demand for equal wages for equal work were rejected by Marshall and Pigou, and Edgeworth claimed that equal wages would cause a "depression or débâcle of industry" that would ultimately be ruinous to wealth and family life" (cited by Pujol 1995: 19). "Ironically, the solutions to these 'problems' proposed by the heretofore 'free market' economists relied on draconian interventions into existing labor market conditions" (Pujol 1995: 20). Pujol also reports that Edgeworth demanded complete exclusion of mothers with children under age of three from factories.

This male-oriented slant in economics also attributed gender-specific characteristics like "emotional" to women and "rational" to men. Neither of these attributions are value-neutral: they stand in a hierarchical relation to each other, with "rational" (male) abilities being valued more highly (Nelson 1996; Keller 1985). These artificial dichotomies (emotional versus rational) are reflected in neoclassical rational choice models by relegating emotion to externally determined preferences while including rational "hard" choices as independent variables. As a result, all attributes that cannot be employed in the mathematical models are viewed as individual preferences (and taken as given by the theory). This paradigm constrains the view of human motivation and the explanation of economic behavior significantly. …

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