Working in top management presents several issues for women, who face complex careers that include family commitments and cultural attitudes, unlikely to be experienced by men. This issue is further increased for women from minority ethnic backgrounds, who want to work in top management.
The foremost issue for women across all levels of employment is childcare arrangements and costs. Unless women have a significant disposable income, childcare costs can heavily impact on the fiscal gains of their return to work. Arranging flexible and suitable childcare in the best interests of the child can cause complex difficulties for women, including availability to suit their employment needs and feelings of guilt and abandonment of their children.
With a slow cultural change in attitudes both in the workplace and in the family, in most instances, women still bear the burden of family/home responsibilities. Unfortunately, their duties in this area, reflect heavily on the type of employment they can successfully manage. Women regularly have to balance their role and responsibilities in the family and their role and responsibilities as an employee. In some circumstances, women employees with children can be viewed as unstable workers. For employers, flexibility in working arrangements can depend on their workforce, equality to all employees and their type of business.
Due to the complexities of the dual responsibility role and the inflexibility of many organizations, women prefer to be in total control of their jobs, by being self-employed. This has benefits of flexibility and status to women, but also means that there are less of these women in the workforce.
This trend is exampled by recent studies conducted by the Equal Opportunities Commission and The government’s labor force survey, indicating that the number of self-employed women in the U.K. has increased by 18% in five years. (Treanor, J. 2007)
Pay disparity with men still has effects on women; this may be because employers view them as not having a continuous work experience to judge from and from the potential of outside factors affecting their performance.
There are attempts to encourage change in the work environment for women. Companies are appointing heads of diversity and introducing flexible working arrangements. An example is Tesco, who as part of their employee value plan, seek to work with employees to find a suitable work schedule to meet both the individual and companies needs.
In Norway and Sweden, there is governmental legislation that regulates the cross-gender representation on company boards of director’s in private firms. Anecdotal evidence shows that this has had a positive rather than negative effect on those companies. (Smith et al. 2005)
The positive effects of having women in top management positions for companies and communities include:
Some of the potential negative affects on companies who have a more diverse top management and board are:
A company with homogenous management and board will not be able to operate competitively in the global market. The ability to integrate diverse backgrounds into their top management enables them to have a greater internal and external knowledge of the market in which they operate. This knowledge can lead to more holistic decision-making and market decisions.
Companies, who are good global citizens, make a commitment to their internal and external community by effectively embracing management diversity.
Treanor, Jill 2007. Women quit before hitting a glass ceiling; Childcare costs and lack of flexibility blamed for the dramatic decline in some top female executives. The Guardian.
Smith et al. 2005. Do women in top management affect firm performance? A panel study of 2,500 Danish firms. Institute for the Study of Labour, IZA Dp. No. 1708