In recent weeks there has been a lot of discussion in the news on how well (or not so well) Corporate America is doing in shattering the glass ceiling. More importantly, some have suggested that there is no glass ceiling (Rachel Wood on the Glass Ceiling Myth), that we would be better off if we just didn’t talk about it (Ariane de Bonvoisin speaking at the Villanova Women in Business Conference), or that women just need to wake up and recognize that the world has changed (David Carter for the Badger Herald).
Others still believe that we must acknowledge the glass ceiling (Professor Sheila Wellington speaking at NYU Stern School of Business).
To be clear, let me define the term ‘glass ceiling’. I am referring to an artificial barrier that prevents qualified women from attaining top corporate jobs.
We start with a level playing field – I am going to go out on a limb and state up front that women are as intelligent as men (yup, I’m declaring that as a fact).
Let’s look at the scorecard:
• Women hold the top job in only 15 Fortune 500 companies (that’s 3%). There are some fantastic success stories of women CEO’s. Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo tops this year’s list of the 50 most powerful women in business. Oprah Winfrey (Harpo), Anne Mulcahy (Xerox), and Andrea Jung (Avon) have made consistent annual appearances on this list, to name just a few. There are also women who have disappeared from the list. Was Carly Fiorina held to a different standard than her male peers when she was ousted from Hewlett-Packard? Did Meg Whitman (eBay) leave Corporate America too soon?
• Men outnumber women 7 to 1 on Fortune’s list of 40 under 40 (years old). This does not bode well for the pipeline to replace the current women CEOs as they retire.
• A number of states have recently taken a look at their local scorecards. A UC Davis Study showed that women hold only 10% of the executive and board seats in the state’s top 400 publicly traded firms. The Chicago Tribune reported that fewer than 15% of the executive officers in that city’s businesses are female. And in Massachusetts, BU Today reported that women represent less than 9% of the executives in the state’s largest 100 firms.
Dare I mention that while some women are achieving positive success in Corporate America, there are also those who are becoming notorious via corporate crime? The women are under-represented here too, but let’s call that a good thing.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge that women can be brutal to their own kind. I have seen too many women near the top who want to be the only woman in the room, sometimes actively working against their female peers.
Now that we’ve looked at the facts…
Is the glass ceiling a figment of our imagination? There is no doubt in my mind that the ‘system’ of Corporate America has not yet adapted sufficiently to be fully inclusive of women.
Are women causing the problem? No, but women are contributing to it, both in attitude and in acceptance.
Should we stop talking about it? Absolutely not! We need to be aware to actively drive change.
Will be do better in the next decade? Let’s make it a point to do so.
Your turn – what do you think?