A Marketing Perspective on Women in Management: An Exploratory Study

By Foster, Mary K.; Orser, Barbara J. | Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration, December 1994 | Go to article overview

A Marketing Perspective on Women in Management: An Exploratory Study


Foster, Mary K., Orser, Barbara J., Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration


In Canada, women have been entering the work force in unprecedented numbers. Females account for 94 percent of the employment growth between 1981 and 1986, and more than 74 percent of women aged 25 to 44 years work outside the home (Labour Force Activity, 1986, cited in Rowney & Cahoon, 1990). Despite this influx of females, only 23 percent of managerial positions in Canada are held by women, which is similar to numbers reported for the U.S. (24%) and the U.K. (19%). Women appear to find it easier to obtain leadership positions at the lower ranges of the hierarchy than at the higher levels. In a sample of 423 organizations, 30 percent of first-line supervisors are female, whereas only 17 percent of middle managers and 8 percent of executives are women (Rowney & Cahoon, 1990).

Situation Analysis

Attitudinal obstacles, structural barriers, labour for discrimination, and the feminist viewpoint have been offered as theoretical explanations for the problem identified as women's lack of representation in the management ranks of corporations.

Attitudinal obstacles are the focus of the internal' or "person-centred" view, which postulates that the socialization of women and men contributes to the development of traits and behaviours not conducive to promoting women into management positions (Adler & Izraeli, 1988; Beutell, 1984; Harrigan, 1977; Hennig & Jardim, 1977; Riger & Galligan, 1980). A variant of this view is that career opportunities for women can be influenced by colleagues' and subordinates' perception that possessing "male" characteristics is associated with being a "successful" manager (Brenner, Tomiewics, & Schein, 1989; Orser et al., 1994; Schein, 1973, 1975).

The structural barrier" view suggests that "external" factors limit career opportunities for women. This perspective emphasizes the determining influence of the position of the person in the organization on the development of particular traits and behaviour (Adler & Izraeli, 1988; Gutek & Larwood, 1987; Kanter, 1977).

Those supporting the "labour force discrimination" explanation assume that employers, customers and employees have discriminatory tastes when women or minorities are economic substitutes for white men in the work place (Becker, 1963). Programs like employment equity are the legislative responses to this societal bias.

A "combination" or "feminist" perspective is described by Dexter (1985), Fagenson (1990), and Gregory (1990). It focuses on the synergism between the individual characteristics and structural factors (e.g., number of women in the organization at various levels) as the explanation for the "glass ceiling" that women encounter.

What previous research has done is to define clearly and distinctly how social psychological, and structural factors have contributed to the lack of advancement of women in management. While solutions have been offered, they tend to reflect the theoretical rationale with which they begin. This paper suggests that solutions will be more acceptable if they start from the perspective of the corporation and offer benefits that the target audience values.

Alternatives

One perspective on motivating corporations to promote women into management is to present the "political correctness" argument. To date, most of the debate surrounding political correctness has taken place in the popular press. "Political correctness" is a disparaging term coined by the right wing to label proponents of hiring quotas and censorship of overtly sexist and racist professors (Abramowicz, 1991). Those who see this movement in a more positive light argue that programs like employment equity are required to overcome the inherent biases in the current system. For the disempowered (women, minorities, the disabled), the unregulated marketplace acts as an impediment to their freedom to reach their potential (Abramowicz, 1991).

The detractors of "political correctness" argue that the presence of women in the workforce is not the result of preferred hiring programs, but rather supply and demand. …

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