Saturday, April 4, 2015

Barriers to women’s leadership

In nine years of measuring the global gender gap, the world has seen only a small improvement in equality for women in the workplace. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2014, launched today, the gender gap for economic participation and opportunity now stands at 60% worldwide, having closed by 4% from 56% in 2006 when the Forum first started measuring it. Based on this trajectory, with all else remaining equal, it will take 81 years for the world to close this gap completely.

Much has been written about the leadership barriers for women – in popular magazines and in social and financial media columns, as well as in scholarly articles and PhD theses the world over. Common issues include age-old gender stereotypes, whereby men and women are expected to perform different social and economic roles. Family responsibilities and male-dominated corporate culture are two other concerns. These are largely influenced by cultural, religious and social norms thadate back centuries but remain deeply ingrained in all regions, even though theworld of work and society has greatly changed. Historically, this has translated into specific occupations being considered more suitable either for men or forwomen. Traditionally, management, running a business and decision-making in the public arena were viewed as the domains of men. These norms have also informed educational curriculum and recruitment and promotion policies for many decades.
While these are now being addressed to eliminate gender bias, they remain deep in the psyche of a broad spectrum of men and women.

Company respondents to the ILO company survey conducted across developing regions ranked what they considered the most significant barriers in order of priority as shown in Table 3 below.
Consolidated rankings may mask important differences between regions. Nevertheless, all regions except Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) identified the same top 5 or 6 barriers relating to women’s and men’s social and reproductive roles on the one hand and on the other the reflection of these in workplace structures, e.g. corporate culture and women not gaining adequate line management experience to position them for top jobs.
All regions also identified inadequate labour and non-discrimination laws as the least significant barrier. The lack of flexible solutions as a barrier for women was ranked 10 out of 15. However, for much of Asia as well as the Caribbean nation of Jamaica it was ranked 6 and 2 respectively. While most regions identified roles assigned by society to men and women as one of the top barriers, CEE countries only ranked this as 9 out of 15. While CEE companies ranked women having more family responsibilities than men as the top barrier, they ranked men not being encouraged to take leave for family responsibilities as the second highest barrier and in third place the lack of a strategy for the retention of skilled women. In fifth place CEE ranked inherent gender bias in recruitment and promotion.

Global Gender Gap Report 2014,
World Economic Forum

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