Friday, October 15, 2010

Women in Corporate Leadership


There is no doubt that the balance between men and women in corporate leadership positions is not at all balanced. “While women make up about 49% of the world’s population, in no country do they represent nearly half of the corporate managers” (Moran, Harris, Moran, 2007, p. 161).

This is not to say that women haven’t made great strides in the last several decades towards corporate diversity. “Over the last 50 years, an increasing number of professional women have entered and remain in the global workforce” (Moran, et. al, 2007, p. 160).

Why is this? According to Sharma and Skeeton (2010),

Changes in the family structure, such as single-parent families and divorce have created situations where women often become the sole source of the family’s income (Cascio, 2010). Research has also suggested that the upward trend in the divorce rate may be related to the increase in women’s earning ability (Becker, Landes, & Michael, 1977; Sander, 1985). Women who make an adequate wage have less need to remain married. Other changes, such as the declining birthrate, contraception, and abortion have also contributed to this increased participation of women in today’s workforce by decreasing the number of years that they now devote to raising children (Ferber & McMahon, 1979; Sprague, 1988).

Summary of Article

So what does today’s top 100 corporate firms look like? According to Sharma and Skeeton (2010), there is still a “lack of gender diversity among the top 100 US corporations” (p. 12). Sharma and Skeeton’s (2010) study revealed that women,

…are grossly underrepresented at the top levels of management among the top 100 firms. Given that women comprise only 13% of the top management, and 57 firms have none or one female officers, there is reason for concern.

So why are women still so underrepresented? According to Moran, Harris, and Moran (2007), “women are still responsible for the ‘softer’ aspects of work.

Sharma and Skeeton (2010) expand on the idea of “why” women are responsible for the “softer” aspects of work.

One factor that is purportedly holding women back are pervasive stereotypes such as women: (a) do not want the top job, (b) are too emotional or soft to lead, (c) cannot or will not work long or unusual hours, (d) do not want to travel, (e) do not want to relocate, (f) do not want to work, (g) cannot make tough decisions, and (h) are less committed to the organization and to their careers (Carr-Ruffino, 2005). Together, these stereotypes have impeded women’s career progress. (Sharma, et. al, 2010, p. 4)

Despite the stereotypes,

Several gender studies have been conducted which challenge these pervasive stereotypes. For example, one such study found that an equal number of men (57%) and women (55%) desire to be CEO, challenging the notion that women do not want the top job (Lublin, 2004). Other studies indicate that women executives outscore their male counterparts on a wide variety of measures including: motivating others, fostering communication, goal-setting, producing high-quality work, mentoring others, listening to others, recognizing trends, and generating new ideas and acting on them (Sharpe, 2000). Other studies looked at the traits in which women excel. Such traits included teamwork and partnering, being more collaborative, seeking less personal recognition, being more stable, being less turf-conscious, and being more motivated by what they can do for the company and less motivated by self-interest (Sharpe, 2000). (Sharma, et. al, 2010, p. 5)


Despite great numbers of women in corporate roles, they are still vastly underrepresented in corporate leadership positions. Research proves that women have many valuable skills to bring into corporate leadership positions, however women will still be met by the challenges of stereotyping. According to Moran, Harris, and Moran (2007),

[t]he key to making concrete changes in organizations is the leadership, who must have a keen interest in recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce while promoting qualified women.


Moran, R., Harris, P., Moran, S. (2007) Managing cultural differences: Global leadership strategies for the 21st Century.Burlinton, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Sharma, R., Skeaton, G. (2010). Ranking the top 100 firms according to gender diversity. Advancing Women in Leadership Journal, 30. Retrieved on October 15, 2010 from

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