Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Getting rid of the glass ceiling and glass walls

Many women report they do not want to be the subject of special treatment or quotas, but what they do need are flexible solutions to manage work and family time commitments. This is also increasingly true for men who want to spend more time with their families. Others point to the pressures of social and cultural norms. Yet, again others call for a closer examination of “corporate culture” in terms of how inclusive it is of women. They also suggest an overhaul of internal processes, procedures and structures of companies as well as accountability to shareholders in relation to recruitment and promotion in order to eliminate subjective and gender-biased appointments and decisions. It is also pointed out that differences in generations play a significant role in addressing gender equality. 
Young men and women alike are often well-prepared and ambitious and have high expectations of work-life balance. There is no doubt that in addition to the sheer force in numerical and qualitative terms of women’s talent entering the labour market there has been an intensification of efforts to tackle the glass ceiling in recent years. An increasing number of studies and surveys are focusing on the business case for more women executives and board members. Monitoring of women’s presence on boards has also been intense in recent years in an increasing number of countries and is often linked to issues of overall corporate governance, under the spotlight especially since the world financial crisis. 
Across the globe, mainstream media and magazines specialized in management, finance and gender issues regularly include columns on women in business and management. Statistics on women in decision-making positions in parliaments and the private sector are periodically compiled and published by various groups.26 Networks of businesswomen and gender-related courses in management institutions and business schools have mushroomed around the world. Companies, governments, international organizations, academic institutions and NGOs have implemented numerous programmes and initiatives to advance women in business and management. Women’s entrepreneurship has attracted a great deal of attention and resources as part of a global effort to advance women’s economic status and the well-being of their families. 

This is particularly the case in many developing countries where the informal economy is the dominant form of economic activity and the existence of formal enterprises is limited. It could be argued that there is a groundswell of action that could be signalling that the world is on the cusp of change and more and more women will be appointed to top positions in the coming years. Others consider that there is still a long way to go in dismantling the glass ceiling. 
What is important for companies of all types and sizes is how they can benefit from the growing talent pool and market that women represent today. And how national employers’ organizations can provide advice and support to their members in this regard. So what are the policies being applied to advance women in business and management? Table 5 below shows the extent to which companies replying to the ILO company survey were implementing 20 different policies. They are ranked according to the greatest number of companies implementing a specific policy. The majority of companies responding to the survey indicated that they have policies for the first 10 policy measures in the above table. The most common policy was that of maternity leave, followed by access to skills training and measures for the recruitment, retention and promotion of women. Maternity leave in many countries is required by law. However, some respondents indicated they provided more than the statutory requirements. Fewer companies provided family friendly measures such as childcare and elder care, career breaks and re-entry programmes. 
While 66 per cent of respondent companies provide access to executive training generally, half of this number provided executive training specifically for women. That companies indicated N/A to many of the 20 policies reflects that the meaning of the policy measure was not understood, that the information was not available or unknown, or that such policies were not applicable given the nature of the company operations or the characteristics of their employee population. In addition to the above policies, a good number of respondents pointed out the problem of transport for women due to the dangers associated with sexual harassment on public transport and the concerns of families and spouses about women travelling, especially in the evening. 
Thus, in the developing regions, companies often provided transport for women and also in some cases women could leave work earlier with company transport if there were law and order disruptions. Some respondents also indicated they implemented other policies such as canteens, nursing rooms for feeding babies or expressing milk and separate toilets for women. A number of respondents mentioned that they follow the global diversity policy of their international parent companies.

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