Opinion: Where are the Women Managers ?

Lisa Veiber, business student at Southampton, gives her view of women in the managerial world.
Lisa Veiber, business student at Southampton, gives her view of women in the managerial world.

Last September, Deloitte announced that the gender pay gap will not close definitively before 2069. In the UK, there was still a 17.48% wage difference in 2014 (OECD). However, a recent study from Resolution Foundation showed that women in their twenties only face a 5% salary inequality. While it is a positive advancement, this gap will only deepen throughout their career, as they will face heavy barriers to progress in their job, hardly ever reaching managerial positions.


In 2013, the Office of National Statistics published that only 33.5% of women are working in managerial positions in the European Union. Eastern countries such as Latvia showed the highest number of female managers, almost 45%, whereas the UK scored just below 35%. Yet, according to the World Economic Forum, more than half of new university graduates are women, being still a minority in STEM subjects. This means that those graduates acquired substantially similar skills and academic knowledge than their male counterparts. Therefore, there should be no apparent reason for the low percentage of women managers.


Nevertheless, the roots of the issue lie in women’s self-censorship. This January, a US-based study found that six-year-old girls associated brilliance as a male trait. The researchers worry that this association affects women’s career choices as brilliance is often referred to as the main driver of professional success. Moreover, it reflected not only the girls’ own perception to their achievement, but their teacher’s perception of their abilities as well. Thus, women will be more likely to withhold themselves in their career as they believe their employer do not think them capable of undertaking positions that require more responsibilities.


Maternity and familial pressure can also be a source of boundaries in women’s professional sphere. While some legitimately decides to prioritize their personal life after their thirties, most of the employers’ concerns are based on societal stereotypes, developed by the lack of cheap childcare and paternity leave, the latter only being slowly introduced in Europe. Indeed, in the UK only one to two weeks of paternity leave are paid compared to the 52-week leave offered to women, even though only 39% of those weeks are paid.


Unfortunately, this explains the lack of opportunity for women to gain sufficient work experience that could prioritize them for managerial positions. The example of expatriation illustrates this clearly. Since the professional world is increasingly connected, expatriation has become a major feature of companies, to create and maintain a competitive advantage for business. Those have a growing need for managers experienced in international business with the increasing importance of worldwide business activities. However, only 20% of the expatriates are women (GMAC Global Relocation Services, 2009), disadvantaging them in the competition for managerial positions.


Business leaders need imperatively to encourage their female staff in taking advantage of professional opportunities and progress in their career, while allowing men to be more involved in the familial sphere, so as to change the pre-constructed scheme in which women are raised.


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