Monday, January 15, 2007

Ladies, how hard is it to climb to the top? -Very! (#3)

Climbing the corporate ladder is rather difficult to do. It takes great problem solving abilities, leadership qualities, and interpersonal skills. While both men and women are capable of possessing these qualities, there continues to be these false stereotypes, fueling the idea that women are incapable of successfully working in high power positions. According to some, women are more likely to drop their careers to start a family. They are complacent and do not dream as big as men. They are less assertive and far too compassionate. They are extremely sensitive and are more likely to burst into tears during a boardroom meeting. Through the years, women have been wrongfully typecast as emotional, inept damsels, who couldn’t possibly run a big scary company all on their own. These misconceptions and ideas about women’s capabilities simply reinforce the “glass ceiling”, making it harder for them to succeed in the cut throat business world.

Although the female presence in the business world is much more felt than it was in the past, the percentage of women holding top management positions remains dismal. According to an online article titled Gender Stereotypes Block Female Advancements, women made up less than two percent of U.S Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 CEOs in 2005. This percentage is quite disturbing and unjustifiable. There is definitely not a shortage of competent, educated, ambitious business women in the world. On the contrary, you will find that the women of today are more educated and determined than ever before. Throughout the past couple of decades, studies have found that more women have been attending four year universities and have been receiving MBAs. According to the Center of Educational Statistics, out of 17,795 MBA degrees that were awarded in the United States in 1965, a mere 609 went to women. 30 years later, in 1996, 93,982 total MBAs were awarded, and 35,297 of those were earned by women. This number has grown and will undoubtedly continue to grow as time passes.

Although women are willing and able to take on executive positions, many of them realize that there is limited upward mobility in their jobs. Because their jobs restrain them from growth, many women decide to create their own businesses. But even after becoming entrepreneurs, women are unable to dis-attach themselves from those pesky stereotypes, and must continue to overcome the countless obstacles that are placed in their paths. What are some of these obstacles?According to an article titled Turning Disadvantages into Advantages, women have great trouble accessing capital. They also “lack networks of information, assistance and mentors”. Some female entrepreneurs have lost contracts with business men, simply because of their gender. Other women say that their clients are often times surprised to find out that they are in charge, not their husbands.

In addition to the stereotypes and hurdles that women face, they must also endure some tough double standards. In a New York Times article titled How Carly Lost Her Gender Groove readers learn about Carly Fiorina, the ex C.E.O of Hewlett- Packard. Despite Carly's executive position, she continued to fall victim to those relentless double standards. According to Carly, she was labeled “vindictive” when she fired someone, but when a male colleague did the same, he was viewed as “decisive”. And while Carly sacrificed her time and energy to be the best business women she could be, she received very little respected and was called, “too ambitious”, “too soft”, “too hard”, and was deemed a “bitch” and a “bimbo”. Now, would a male CEO be described as too ambitious or too hard? Probably not. He would most likely be praised and patted on the back for a job well done.

As you can see, there are numerous obstacles, stereotypes, and inequities that business women must endure everyday. The overall purpose of this blog is not to discourage aspiring business women, but to inform them. Often times information is the best way to bring about some change, and things definitely need to change.

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