Does the Gender Gap still Exist in the Workplace?

Since assuming her role as UN ambassador in July 2014, Emma Watson has made a big impact on the international stage. At Davos this year, she launched the new UN Women’s HeForShe website and interviewed 10 male CEOs who have committed to advancing gender equality in their organisations to find out how they plan to do so.

In the series of interviews, which were broadcast, Watson noted that “full female participation in the workforce could boost GDP by $28 trillion within a decade,” calling it the “single biggest stimulus to the economy”.

In line with this, we get KBS views on whether the gender gap still exists in the workplace?

lewis_patricia KBS academic – Dr Patricia Lewis, Reader in Management

‘Yes is the short answer! In a Harvard Business Review article in 1990 called “Ways Women Lead”, Judy Rosener suggested that the ranks of 21st century leadership would be dominated by women as they have the “natural” skill set necessary for future business success. Though this claim was supported at the time by mainstream management writers such as Tom Peters, the business community did not appear to be persuaded given the low numbers of women in leadership positions throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s. However, from 2008, following the financial crisis, the situation appeared to change with much media hype claiming that women were needed in leadership positions as they possessed the traits, skills and capabilities  required to “sort out” the financial mess their male colleagues had made.

Alas, here we are in 2016 and despite the championing of feminine leadership skills,  women still lag behind men in terms of their occupation of senior leadership positions and thus the question of why women haven’t gained more from this juxtapositioning of  “feminine” alongside “leadership” emerges.  While there is recognition of ongoing female disadvantage within organizations connected to the incongruity between the characteristics usually ascribed to women and the characteristics typically ascribed to leaders (Eagly, 2014), the “solution” to this situation is located with individual women.

Books such as Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean-In” are advising women to overcome organizational gender bias by drawing on their own internal, psychological resources so that they can devise personalized, individualized “solutions” to the systemic disadvantages they may face. While such an approach may work for some individual women, it will not address in total the many manifestations of gender disadvantage in organizations and so we are unlikely to see a significant increase in the numbers of women in senior leadership positions in the near future.’

KBS research student – Faleh Albouss, PhD – ‘Perceived Barriers to Female Participation in Kuwait’s Private Sector’
‘The gender gap in the workplace has significantly declined since the 1960s; however, most women studies argue that occupational gender segregation and gender inequality remain as obvious features in industrialised and developing countries alike. Changes in education and family lifestyles facilitated horizontal segregation, leading to an attenuation of women’s options in employment sectors. Vertical employment stratification shows how male workers maintain their traditional advantages by dominating high-status positions, so women have less success moving into non-manual labour. I believe that gender inequality in the workplace still largely exists, and significantly shapes women’s career lives.’

KBS placement student (2015) – Angeliki Papageorgiou, BBA (Hons) Business Administration Angeliki Papageorgiou
‘There have been a lot of improvements to reduce the gender gap and enhance gender equality in the workplace. However, the gender gap still largely exists on a global scale. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2014, 60% of the gender gap for economic participation and opportunity has been closed as compared to 56% in 2006. Still, during my placement year I witnessed, to some extent, a gender gap within my everyday working environment. The percentage of male employees was significantly larger than that of female employees, which could have been due to the male-dominated industry I was working in.’

What do you think? Please share your point of view on this question on our KBS Facebook group.

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