Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Where Are All The Women? (#2)

A couple of months ago, I decided to subscribe to Fortune magazine. There was no particular reason really, I simply thought it would be good to learn a little more about business. In all honesty, I had never read or even looked through a Fortune magazine before. Although the magazine was completely new to me, I already had an idea about what type of people, images, and content I would find inside. I was almost certain I would find articles dealing with successful male and female business leaders, working together, side by side, as equals. That may sound naive and even silly, but it was truly what I expected. After looking through issue number one, I found that my perceptions about women in business had been incorrect. In the world of Fortune magazine, women appeared to be non- existent.

The first issue I received had a picture portfolio titled, Portraits of Power. The 31 individuals included in the portfolio are, according to Fortune, “. . . the leaders who personify the promise- and peril- of the business world. . .”. Who are these magnificent leaders? Allow me to name a few: Steve Jobs- CEO of Apple Computers, Lakshmi Mittal- CEO of Arcelor Mittal, Alden McDonald- CEO of Liberty Bank & Trust, Eric Shmidt- CEO of Google, Mark Hurd- CEO of Hewlett Packard, etc. As I finished observing the portfolio, I went back, and examined it once more. I didn’t go back to admire the impressive photographs of the prestigious leaders. No, I went back to count the number of women that were included in the spread. Out of the 31 individuals who were photographed, only four were women. My first thought was, “Where are all the women?” The dismal amount of women found in Fortune’s “power” photos, and in the entire magazine for that matter, didn’t shock or surprise me. It simply bothered me. A month later, issue number two came in. I found the same thing- lots of men, few women. Thirty days later, issue number three was delivered. Surprise! Even more men and even fewer women. Once again I asked myself, “Where are all the women?”

Here's the question: Is Fortune magazine male biased, or are they simply depicting the state of the business world as it is today?

Before I started researching this topic, I honestly believed that times had changed. After all, I had seen so many articles proclaiming, “Women have shattered the Glass Ceiling!”, "Women Gain Respect in Board Rooms" and “You’ve come a long Way Baby!” But these proclamations can be a bit deceiving. Despite what the headlines may read, women continue to hold no more than 5 percent of executive positions. How long will it take for this percentage to go up significantly?

There are several myths about women in business. One myth, according to the Feminist Majority Website, goes as follows:

Now that women are a third of business school graduates and a significant proportion of middle management, it is just a matter of time before we reach equality in the board rooms and in the executive suites of the corporate world.

This “myth” is exactly what I believed. The unfortunate reality is that competence, intelligence, credentials, and even years of experience is not enough to guarantee women upward mobility in the business world. Two studies found that women with MBAs were actually exposed to fewer job opportunities than men. As a business student, and future graduate student, this information is disturbing and discouraging.

For those who believe that the above myth is actually a fact, and women will indeed reach equality in no time, consider the following:

As long ago as 1968, 15% of all managers were women. Assuming it takes 15 to 25 years for a manager to become a senior executive, women today should comprise at least 15% of those at the top. But women make up only 3. 1% of senior executives at Fortune 500 companies, and at the Fortune Service 500 only 4.3% of executives are women. At the current rates of increase, it will be 475 years - or until the year 2466 - before women reach equality in executive suites.

475 years? I don’t have that kind of time.

1 comment:

executive women said...

It's really disappointing to hear that Fortune doesn't showcase executive women. You might like to know, however, that women make up the majority of new business models, and there are more women graduating with business degrees than men at the moment.