Economist Janice Madden, expert on women’s issues and diversity in the workforce,
took the stage with a rousing note of humor. Projecting an audience’s fear that
an economist would put the crowd to sleep… she joked she didn’t have enough
personality to be an accountant.
Dr. Madden began sharing her findings with a look at Percentages of Women in
Top 5 Executive Positions, pointing out figures that are plateauing at around
six percent. Even US Census Data shows an actual decline in women in Executive
There is no clear reason as to why women have plateaued... but
this is evidence of a glass ceiling. It’s even come down a bit during the last
twelve years, and underrepresentation of women increases as goes up the management
hierarchy. In fact, the progress made by women attaining senior management
positions appears to have stalled since about 2000.
That’s the glass ceiling, now what about glass walls?
Women are in different places than men. The women are 6% in
top 5 jobs of publically traded companies. What are those jobs? General
Counsel, Chief Financial Officer. The underrepresented jobs are President, COO
and CEO. Women executives are more likely to have professional, or nonline jobs
(finance, law), than the executive line positions.
Dr. Madden explored the pay gap. Research showed that women
in top executive positions earned 22% less than men, although their annual
salaries were only 11% less than mens
Much of the gender gap in pay arises from women being in
smaller firms and in different job titles, but there is discrimination at work.
It’s not uncommon for men to dislike women or stereotype them as less
qualified. In fact, when a woman becomes CEO, stocks decrease 3%, while a new
male CEO leads to a decrease of only .5%.
What evidence seems to suggest is that this is a
stereotypical problem. "Implicit bias” points to our unconscious way of classification
and categorization, and discrimination by gender has more to do with
unconscious stereotypes – which will lead us to policies that will make things
Dr. Madden explored some of the choices, and judgment of these
choices, women make that affect their role in the executive suite:
- Women provide more house and family
care than men
- Workplace hostility can be directed
toward time off for parental responsibilities and flexible schedules
- The media has reported extensively,
yet inaccurately, on educated women opting out of demanding jobs for more
There are significant ways women can improve the situation,
particularly through sponsorship. In addition to giving their protégées
exposure to other influential executives, they can make sure their protégées get
challenging assignments, and protect those protégées from damaging contacts.
Among questions raised was the contrast of sponsorship and
mentorship. Sponsorship shows itself as a one-on-one engagement, with people
you often have to find for yourself. Mentorship is important as a way to gain
valuable advice, but it doesn’t get you into the executive suite.