Monday, April 22, 2013

Women at work

How women can advance at the workplace is one of the recurrent themes in discussions on gender equality and management. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, weighed into this debate with  a book that advised women to "lean in"- be more vocal and demanding at the workplace. The Economist reviews a clutch of three books that shed more light on this subject.

One point the review highlights is the differences in how men and women respond to situations at the workplace:

Women ask more questions, gather more people’s opinions and seek collaboration with co-workers more frequently than men. Men view these preferences as signs of weakness, and women, in turn, grow annoyed by how competitively men work, and how quickly and unilaterally they arrive at conclusions.

But this doesn't explain why women do not rise as much in the corporate world as men do. To put it all down to gender discrimination is a lazy explanation. Women opting out to look after children or opting for a certain career path in order to balance work and family are part of the explanation; it could also be that not enough women opt for professional degrees (such as engineering) that are required for rapid progression.

What we can say with a measure of confidence is that firms lose our when they do not have adequate gender diversity at various levels. And it may well be that to achieve a certain diversity along the line, you need to begin at the very top: representation for women on boards. European countries that have mandated minimum seats for women on boards seem to have got it right. The improvement in the lot of particular groups just does not happen in society unless there is a measure of affirmative action.

1 comment:

Sujatha said...

not enough women opt for professional degrees (such as engineering) that are required for rapid progression.
I do not agree with this.
The last generation has seen a lot of girls going in for engineering degree, but this has not empowered them sufficiently. The responsibility of family and children still looms large.
Girls of present generation are opting for traditional humanities subjects and are more focused on contributing to the society and workplace.