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Women in management committees

Published on 15 April 2019

Giving women the same opportunities and wages as men across the world has been a long, harrowing journey. How can we change that?

Giving women the same opportunities and wages as men across the world has been a long, harrowing journey. Unfortunately, the end does not seem to be in sight. During a TED Talk in 2010, Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg mentioned how only 15-16% of top-level corporate positions are occupied by women. This was nine years ago and the statistics have not moved much in the right direction.

According to research by Catalyst, a global non-profit organisation that helps companies create suitable workplaces for women, across the world, the percentage of the latter in senior roles saw a decline in 2018 – from 25% in 2017 it became 24%. Albeit being a marginal decline, this under-representation shows a deeply segregated workforce. The silver lining here is that in 2018, at least 75% of companies across the world had at least one woman in senior management, which is a considerable rise from 66% in 2017. 

If one looks at the European Union alone, 73% of businesses had at least one woman in senior management. After the creation of the Cope-Zimmermann Law in 2011, companies with a certain turnover and number of employees in France were required to ensure 40% of their corporate boards comprised women. As an aftermath, the country saw a three-year high of companies with at least one woman at the senior level at 79%.

A 2017 study named “Gender Inequality Persists in Leadership Positions” by the Global Education Monitoring Report, which is editorially published by the UNESCO, also shows stark differences in the employment ratio. In the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) countries, 16 out of 21 directors and 7 out of 8 heads of agencies are men, as of October 2017.

However, the glass ceiling remains. A recent study by Michel Ferrary, a professor at the University of Geneva who is also affiliated with SKEMA Business School as a researcher, found even that though 32.3% of women are present in the executive population, which is a breeding ground for future leaders, only 13.69% are found in the executive committee. The level of exclusion is such that companies would rather leave France than employ women at the top levels. Some of the businesses Prof. Ferrary mentioned include LafargeHolcim (8.33%), Gemalto (27.27%), Airbus (16.67%), ArcelorMittal (33.33%), and so on. These companies are domiciled in other nations to avoid complying with the Cope-Zimmerman Law.

This inequality is visible in the teaching sector as well. By taking data from Eurostat, the Global Education Monitoring Report mentioned how gender inequality exists in school leadership as well. According to the study, even though 68% of lower secondary teachers are women, only 45% are principals.

Such a drastic lack of women in management committees and leadership positions continues in spite of various studies highlighting the benefits of having an equal workforce. Prof. Ferrary, in his study, mentions how recruiting both genders improves diversity and creativity in companies. It also increases the size of the labour market and ensures the recruitment of the best talent.

The increase in women in leadership positions, especially in schools and colleges, will be a motivation for the female students to aim higher. Educational institutions such as SKEMA Business School, which offers an Executive MBA programme that not only helps participants develop a strategic vision for their careers but also lets them interact with top women executives and faculty, will aid female participants envision a bright future in leadership positions. SKEMA ensures that the participants of its Executive MBA programme, especially women, improve their leadership abilities and are completely prepared to take on committee management careers. The school understands diversity is important to create a perfect creative balance in the workplace, thus ensuring maximum output and better results. Keeping this in mind, SKEMA also provides a scholarship named “female leadership” for the women participants of the programme, of which about 40% are women.

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