Corporations endorse gender inequality in the workplace by excluding women from executive positions

In Opinion

5790707754_c30bd5b037_bPerhaps one of the greatest challenges for American women today is the gender pay gap. It inundates all fields of work, disenfranchising women across the entire spectrum of economic status.

The gender pay gap is so pervasive that it is generally assumed as part of business culture; yet the very concept of unequal pay for women and minorities seems to follow the same line of thinking used to create Jim Crow laws over 150 years ago.

The modern world needs leaders who will break the mould of injustice in business culture; these leaders must come from the uppermost tiers of business, as it is their actions that can have the greatest impact.

Unfortunately, it is these top companies that are the worst purveyors of gender inequality in the workplace—particularly at the highest company level, executive boards.

Women made up 46.8 percent of the U.S. labor force in 2013 and 51.4 percent of management, professional and related positions; however, women made up less than 25 percent of board members of Standard & Poor’s 100 companies and Silicon Valley 150 companies, according to a 2014 study conducted by Fenwick & West LLP.

Furthermore, 38 percent of the Silicon Valley 150 companies did not have any women on their board of directors—this comes at a time when the number of new directors has fallen by 27 percent across the majority of top companies since 2005.

With fewer board positions available and an apparent bias toward hiring men in the workplace, it is little surprise that American companies are adding women to executive positions slower than other advanced countries.

This isn’t a case where there is a lack of qualified women, since American women have been earning a greater number of college degrees than men since the 90s, and in 2006 the number of women who earned a doctorate degree surpassed the number earned by men.

With a cornucopia of qualified women available, it raises the question: if a woman is just as qualified as a man to serve on a board, why doesn’t it happen as often?

Such appalling underrepresentation for women may have something to do with an increasingly older board member population.

When examining the member composition of board members of the Standard & Poor’s 500 in 2013, 44 percent of companies had an average board member age of 64—up from 14 percent from a decade ago—and only 14 percent of boards today have an average age less than 59 years old as compared to 39 percent in 2004.

These older board members grew up in a time where women and minorities were often seen as little more than obstacles in the way of the white man’s dominion, and some of these board members may have carried these sentiments throughout their lives.

For modern generations, this way of thinking is as ancient a way of thought as Jim Crow laws. It is time for the men who run these companies to live in the now, instead of the “not now.”

It is time to break up the boy’s club that makes up the one percent and to allow women, as equals, to have a meaningful impact on corporate decisions, thereby helping to enrich the perspectives of their male peers, and doing away with other anachronistic principles.

To those who stand on the wrong side of history: either help, or get out of the way.

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2 commentsOn Corporations endorse gender inequality in the workplace by excluding women from executive positions

  • I feel like there were a few census numbers missing from this. There are 137,400 woman run businesses that make over $1,000,000 or more in a year. The percentage of women-owned businesses has gone from 32.3% in 1997, to 33% in 2002, and 35.9% in 2007. Those numbers tell me that women will be owning more businesses in the years to come. Another interesting number is that 69.5% of women business owners work less than 40 hours a week where for men it is only 49.7%. And then 37.3% of male business owners work more than 40 hours a week, but only 20.3% of women do. The percentage of mothers exiting the work force due to children also is not factored in. You are right about the fact that more women than men are earning doctorate degrees, but you don’t know the number of those women in the workforce. Just because they graduate with a doctorate doesn’t mean they’re going to use it. I’m tired of hearing about this “war on women”. Have you seen how they treat women in the Middle East? Women have the same opportunities as men and from the numbers I saw, they are taking advantage of it. We need to remember that women have not been a major part of the work force for very long. It was not that long ago that most women stayed home to take care of the house and kids. The millions of companies we have today did not shoot up over night. It takes time. I see women doing a lot in the future, but it is going to take some time

  • I’d say that’s an awfully slow increase in the number of women owned businesses. 10 years and its jumped 3 percentage points? I’d say that would have more to do with women earning more degrees than it says about actual practices of female inclusion on executive boards. I’d also like to point out that its rather daft to assume a noticeable percentage of female doctorate holders don’t use their degree – certainly it occurs, but not enough discredit my point. Furthermore, the obstacles women face earning a doctorate (many women enter motherhood while earning a doctorate) makes it all the more impressive that women still outpace men when it comes to earning doctorates.

    While there is no denying that women are becoming more involved in the workplace, its the positions of power that women are absent from – and the data reflects that. In this sense, women do not have “the same opportunities as men”, and I’m sure I could find more examples of a lack of equality for women.

    Fox News frames everything as a War – A war on Christmas, a war on women, a war on republicans blah blah. What is happening to women isn’t a war, its a reflection of anachronistic cultural principles that no longer belong in the modern age. My generation and I grew up in such a culture and still managed to see the folly of its ways, so maybe its time for the purveyors of it to change their ways.

    I understand that it takes time, but you can walk to providence hill or fly there – the only thing stopping us from flying to it are those who are too afraid to get on the plane.

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