Increase in Female Professionals in Top Management- Reality or Myth

Posted in Human Resources Articles, Total Reads: 940 , Published on 05 February 2016

The increase in the number of female professionals at Top Management has really been an important topic in the world of business. The dearth of the fairer gender at the top echelons of organizations isn’t a matter of stagger anymore. This ubiquitous problem has been a constant subject of debate for years, with no definite answer yet. The roots of this problem are so penetrated into the mix of organizations, just hacking the leaves of existing societal norms won’t effectuate any change. A turnaround would take place by reorienting mindsets and modifying organizational setups. There is no single reason for women shortfall at senior level positions but solutions can be strategized by analyzing those prevalent issues only.

One issue which hurts the most and even harder to rinse is the apparent and outright discrimination. The discrimination may not just be in the form of overt hostility but patronizing attitude and preference for men over women in the organizational structure. Compelling evidence are the numerous studies which show the significantly higher compensation received by male corporates than female ones. When a woman joins an organization predominantly with a male-driven culture, her values and perspectives may face a predicament whether to adapt or get smothered in the new environment. Is that the answer – women corporates transforming their thought process and approach more like their male counter-parts?

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The most obvious challenge for female corporates is the greater struggle for work-life balance. While they are at the peak of their careers in their 30s, they normally have an added responsibility of childcare. Thus they have an obvious detachment from work, which results in a halt in career growth. After this period, some lose interest in their work sue to shifted priorities and some lose the Midas touch which kept them going. Few who return to work take time to re-establish their feet and move on again with same vigor, ultimately go on to add value proposition like never before.

Another study that is shocking to comprehend is the conservative nature of women corporates towards investment opportunities. They are more risk-reluctant when it comes to high gain, quick fire investment strategies but are more inclined towards long term investments which have less volatile returns. This may be figured as a deep-dyed result of the intricate stature-saving approach of female corporates to keep in terms of the male dominated market structure.

One way or the other, it comes down to one dimension – equality and optimistic attitude to bring it on. Countries have started finding measures to enact and policies to implement to take this issue seriously. European countries have a strict quota system with Germany targeting around 30% females in corporate boards by 2016. Countries like UK and Japan probing on to bring more female executives on board by setting target goals by uniform corporate policies throughout the country.

The equity measures can be best initiated in the vertical of remuneration outcomes throughout the organization by first identifying and rectifying areas where women have fallen behind, and anomalies and systemic differences in fixed and variable remuneration including those that arise from systemic gender differences in performance ratings, a female’s apparent lack of direct experience for a new role, despite having won the role over a more experienced male due to her other more pertinent attributes and competencies for the role, the undervaluing of some roles, in particular ‘feminized’ roles, lack of visibility or transparency about what will be rewarded and differences in the relational access of women to male decision-makers.

Yes, policies are guidelines for decision making – routine, repetitive and recurrent in nature. When these guidelines are practiced in modified terms of better women representation, people would get used to it out of compulsion, which would have its own repercussions. Some would eye this with a conviction for change, some with patronizing attitude and some with even more hostility. Thinking, policy changes would change the scenario for good, is just a mirage, scratching the surface of this all-pervasive issue.

For increasing the number of women at top management levels, we have to think beyond policies into more concrete layers of an organization – its structure and culture. A successful organizational structure isn’t a recherché these days, going with the prescriptive and normative approaches organizations follow. But a successful structure with equal female representation calls for a circuitous planning regime. This kind of structure requires empowering women at every level by involving them in decision making processes. For assessing every task allocated at every level, potential conversion attitude should be rated in equivalent to exhibited performance. For example – if a female corporate is a good performer, still not better than other male corporates, but has the relevant work attitude and leadership strand of DNA, then transforming her into a leadership role would lead to a more settled structure. This kind of plan can be executed by priority-garrisoned-competency based interviewing. This kind of interview gives few competencies like leadership and team player attitude primacy and other competencies flexibility.

But there is a fine line between equality and favoritism. The organizations shouldn’t recruit and promote female corporates just because they are female. Rather than increasing women, priority must be to increase competent women at top management positions.

The ruling theme though comes crashing down in the form of a distorted organizational structure. The strands of legacy passed on through generations by norms, practices and values are hard to metamorphosize with a single stroke of policy change. The culture which treats female corporates the way it does, would take twice the time to extricate the existing one and re-establish a new one. That’s where the most possible advantage boasts in the form of startups. These potential future MNCs have the distinct authority of hiring the people with broader sense of comprehension and apprehension of the issue and starting an organizational culture feasible for career growth of female corporates. Judging by the meteoric rise in the number and quality of startups and few years from now, when these startups would constitute a substantial share of global market, they may recast the scenario of this flawed setup.

This article has been authored by Abhisek Sarangi & Abhisek Nanda from XIMB


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