Increasing the Proportion of Women in the Senior Positions Essay Example

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Increasing the Proportion of Women in the Senior Positions

Increasing the Proportion of Women in the Senior Positions

Globally, the proportion of women in senior positions remains low despite the long years of equal opportunity. After years of striving for equality and diversity, women still are few in the executive levels in organisations (McFarlane, 2006). Gender diversity and policy supporting the concept of increasing the number of women in the management levels is essential not only to women but also to the organisation. It assists in increasing availability of skilled workforce, enhance productivity and result to stronger employee engagement. Women makeup approximately 47 per cent of the total labour force, but they are under-represented especially in the management level (McFarlane, 2006). Companies understand that with efficient management of gender diversity, reduced absenteeism and workers turnover are achieved. In addition, absence of women in the senior position can often discourage other women as they act as role models. Organisations that support female employees in the senior positions will gain a competitive advantage with regard to retaining their employees (Jeffrey, 2010). Therefore, organisations should come up with policies that support women in the senior positions.

For instance, Canadian Pacific Railway Company is faced with various challenges in attracting diverse employees. Canadian Pacific Railway is an organisation that operates a fright and transcontinental railway and offer logistics and supply chain expertise (European Commission, 2005). It is a safety-sensitive business and is considered male operating environment and therefore in many years it has not attracted women. Therefore, the company should focus on recruiting and retaining women through gender diversity and equity policies. Policies supporting gender diversity in the management position are very important since equal representation of men and women in senior level allow quality outcomes by ensuring the perspectives and issues involving men and women are represented equally in decision making (Sinclair, 2007). This paper will analyse the issue of increasing proportion of women in the management positions. It will also highlight ways of carrying out effective implementation of the policy.

Evidence shows that companies that have inclusive work environment that support female employees in management positions are more innovative and profitable (Sinclair, 2007). For instance, a 2004 Catalyst study established that organisations with large number of women in the senior positions had 35 per cent higher returns on equity compared to those with few women (Kathryn, 2010). There are a number of factors that contribute to lower proportion of women in the senior positions. To start with, educational choices may be a factor. It has been seen that men are more likely to take up technical disciplines such as mathematics, engineering, computer science etc. than women. In addition, men often start their careers and work in operational roles that tend to propel them fast into the senior positions. Therefore, in order to increase the number of women in the management positions, it is important for women to be encouraged at an early stage to take up technical discipline (Sinclair, 2007). Another reason for the lower number of women in the management position is personal choice. Women often face pressure to balance job and family life (Sinclair, 2007). For this, they may not go after jobs that require them to travel or risk that are associated with management positions.

Some women lack confident in their abilities to deliver good job in the management position (Pew Research Center, 2008). On the other hand, men are often willing take part in roles that are risky and challenging especially in the management level. Some women only apply for jobs that they feel confident they fit well for the job. Also, in work environments where management is male –dominated, it is more comfortable and easy for men to be hired or promoted (Kathryn, 2010). Even in today’s society where discrimination is no longer a problem, a good number of workplaces tend to retain an inhospitable culture that tends to limit the advancement of women. It may include gender stereotypes and outright harassment. For instance, Canadian Pacific Railway is a male dominated workplace (European Commission, 2005). Traditional railway culture is a fundamental barrier to female retention and advancement in the company. Such environment lack senior management role models, mentoring and networking opportunities for women. Canadian Pacific Railway can implement gender diverse policy by instituting diversity and equity awareness training for senior staff. Such training should focus on addressing diversity, business case and corporate value of fairness. This would attract and retain female talent in the organisation. Such action plans should be implemented in the departmental business plans.

In addition, the company can offer a number of formal and informal mentoring for women in the workplace. Women outside senior management can help managers understand the issues facing women in order to be able to relate well with women in the management and appreciate them. Gender diverse policy may be in form of flexible work arrangement where companies allow flexible working hours for both women and men (Thomas and Graham, 2005). Development programs where women develop knowledge and skills and address their weaknesses when competing in a male-dominated workplace is a good policy that would contribute to the increase number of women in management. Also, recruitment through technical trade does not reach women. Instead, recruitment should be done through channels that can reach women (Thomas and Graham, 2005). The development of gender diverse policies is important in increasing the number of women in the management positions. These policies encourage family friendly work culture that favours women. For instance, such policies supports national paid maternity leave that responds to the needs of women and therefore tend to result to more women in the management position (Chesterman, Ross-smith and Peters, 2005).

However, some international researches critic such policies stating that they favour women at the expense of other working counterparts (Chesterman, Ross-smith and Peters, 2005). The proportion of women in senior positions is fundamental indicator of equality (Carison and Whitten, 2006). Data still points out that there is underrepresentation of women at management levels. Research suggests that legislative regulations and policies that commit companies to diversity have not led to women’s advancement in leadership. A good number of human resource literatures highlights that gender discrimination is deeply embedded in organisational culture and is virtually indiscernible. These components of organisational culture have limit women’s promotional opportunities and their number in management levels. Policies that change the culture of organisations should be set up in order to increase the proportion of women in senior positions (Carison and Whitten, 2006).

Legislations have reduced the obstacles that face women in work environments which have increased the representation of women in the senior levels (Chesterman, Ross-smith and Peters, 2005). Further improvements may be implemented in order to gradually breakdown the stereotypes imposed on women in various work environments. This is done primarily to encourage gender equality incorporating women into the leadership and senior positions in work environments and also in businesses. Therefore, a company can implement some of the solutions to these kinds of problem hence integrating women into the senior positions within the company (Pew Research Center, 2008). They are as follows; a company first needs to recognize the conditions within the company. This can be made possible by coming up with constant monitoring of every human resource matters and issues within the company from a gender perspective which gives way to setting of targets where growth of every employee, whether woman or man, can be measured (Thomas and Graham, 2005).

Also, a company can ensure that policies are set to ensure that a proper and good work-life balance is maintained within the company (Thomas and Graham, 2005). These policies should allow every employee within the company to actively contribute in their family life without foregoing their career development. Moreover, a company should have initiatives that aim at providing special type of support which is required to encourage and develop career, and they should focus on providing the support to women (Pew Research Center, 2008). These initiatives should include development of network as well as coaching and mentoring and formal network programs. This encourages women to gain confidence to actively participate in the senior positions.

In addition, a company can come up with various training courses aimed at developing women’s careers hence preparing them for future leadership. These training courses provide women with hands-on-experience aimed at preparing them for leadership positions (Thomas and Graham, 2005). These training programs include talent management and stretch assignments. Stretch assignments encourage women to take lead on important projects within the company. They help them handle overseas projects as well as take lead of critical business projects preparing them for future leadership (Thomas and Graham, 2005). The workforce will remain unchanged until the proportion of women is increased as a result to cultural change. This will be possible if leadership take on diversity challenge by confronting the available traditional narrow interpretation of diversity. In addition, it requires policies that test and bring to the forefront the hidden and unconscious assumptions about women’s ability to take up senior business environments (Pew Research Center, 2008).


Carlson, D. S., Kacmar, K. M. & Whitten, D 2006, ‘What Men Think They Know About Executive Women’, Harvard Business Review.Vol. 84 Issue 9, September: 28.

Chesterman, C., Ross-Smith, A. & Peters, M. (2005) ‘The Gendered Impact on Organisations of a Critical Mass of Women in Senior Management.’ Policy and Society, vol. 24, no. 4, p. 69-91.

European Commission 2005, The Business Case for Diversity: Good Practices in the Workplace,Brussels, European Commission.

May, Kathryn April, 2010, “Female Executives in Public Service on the Rise.” Ottawa Citizen.

McFarlane, J 2006, Sustaining growth and a strategic focus on people and diversity, Speech to the AICD EOWA Census Launch, Sydney: 31 August.

Pew Research Center August 25, 2008, “Men or Women: Who’s the Better Leader”?.

Pfeffer, Jeffrey 2010, “Women and the Uneasy Embrace of Power,” Harvard Business Review (August4).

Sinclair, A 2007, Leadership for the Disillusioned: Moving beyond myths and heroes to leading that liberates, Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.

Thomas, P. & Graham, J 2005, A Woman’s Place Is In The Boardroom, New York, Palgrave MacMillan.