Posted by: eileenandrory | March 3, 2010

Women in business

I’ve recently read a paragraph in my “managing in organisations” text book it talked about ethical issues in management. One of the issues raised was the number of women in senior management or rather the lack of women in senior management.

Now EJ could probably discuss this with more insight than me considering her background but I feel that it is no longer an issue in this country.

I say this because one of the questions the article asks is: name the female CEO’s that you know of, and my answer is that out of the 5 that I can name <without surfing the net> 3 of them are women. They are:

1) Vijaya Vaidyanath – CEO Waitakere City Council

2) Jane Henley – CEO NZ Green Building Council <she’s just been promoted to the World Green Building Council>

3) Diane Turner – CEO Whakatane City Council

4) Steven Tindal – CEO The Warehouse

5) Rob Fyfe – CEO Air NZ

And that is all I can name, without doing a bit of research, i’m sure that I know more but for whatever reason they are have not stuck in my mind.

And let us not forget the illustrious Helen Clark.

<the next day>

In my break between writing this blog <I generally write it over a couple of days> I read an article from Good magazine <October/November 2009> apparently Rachel Brown is the CEO of the Sustainable Business Network, so that makes 4 out of 6!!!!

<later that evening>

This blog WAS going to talk about how there is no bias in the workplace anymore, but the list above <and a little prompting from EJ> suggests that executive women tend to manage organisations with “heart” <that came from EJ> what do I mean about heart?

Well, social responsibility over profit is the most obvious definition, or organisations that are more than their products.

So I guess that leads me onto management styles… using gross generalisation to sum the market can we say that men tend to be:

1) ruthless

2) profit and results orientated

3) less collaborative <more take charge>

Where as women tend to be:

1) communcative

2) relationship driven

3) collaborative

Yes I know, I DID say they were gross generalisations, but how else do you explain my mini survey above? Why are the men in charge of highly profitable enterprises whereas the women are in charge of socially responsible organisations?

Anita Roddick I forgot her. The late Anita was the CEO and creator of the body shop, which has/had a large ‘social consciousness’ <that’s 5 out of 7>

I forgot to mention that I think the Local Government Act requires an increase in women for top roles, or at least it recommends it.

Maybe the problem does not lie in that there aren’t enough top women executives – but more that there aren’t enough organisations with “heart / social responsibility”  <or they are not serious about it> for women to rise to the top of?

Lastly, if there is an imbalance, then is it okay to legislate to correct the balance? Or would that be a form of sexism?

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Responses

  1. I’ve seen unconscious gender bias in place on so many occasions that I see this as a much more important issue to tackle than glass ceilings. Why in talent and succession planning meetings do people leaders still discuss a woman’s marital status and whether she has kids (or is likely to have them) as an indication of her flight risk? (yes, it really does happen.) Why are men usually described by their people leaders in these discussions in terms of their competency attributes (the sorts of projects and work he’s undertaken of past), whereas a woman is described to those not familiar with her in terms of her physical attributes (what she looks like). Why do we still assume that leadership roles cannot be performed on flexible terms (when all the technology has long existed for work to be performed and monitored remotely and on flexible terms)? These are all examples of unconscious bias that I’ve seen in play time and time again. They perpetuate the stereotype that leaders are male, that their life revolves around their work and that the old way is the only way. We need to bring examples of bias and stereotypes out into the open and give women the confidence of knowing they’re not alone in experiencing these issues – this will give women the confidence and energy to keep pushing on when they’re faced with such obstacles.

    • I agree. At my level in our organisation I don’t believe there is a bias I am lucky enough to work in a local council, our CEO is a woman, and so is my boss. I agree we need to talk about it, but is the problem as widespread as it was 10 years ago? All of the management papers i’ve ever done highlight the issue so I believe that it will sort itself out eventually.

      Similarly there is a distinct lack of black men in senior positions, and this needs to be addressed.

      I would like to tackle the root cause of the problem, but I don’t know what it is. The male leaders we are talking about would be the first to tell you that they are not biased yet the problem continues. I know why it is that women are seen as a ‘flight risk’ because of maternity leave etc, but an organised company could easily allow for that and even benefit from the experience. I know that women bring a different style to the workplace maybe it’s just going to take a little longer for the corporate world to realise it?


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