Women in the Corporate World

Women play a significant role in the corporate world, despite its native resistance to this gender. Females, by and large, are working in every field with men and are making valuable contributions towards the overall success of organizations, over all major industry spheres. However, we still find a greater proportion of men representing the corporate world in important positions as compare to females, even though they are equally competent in accomplishing challenges.Women in the Corporate World
Even in this situation, women are doing well for themselves by attaining managerial positions in organizations and they are progressing well in their career ladder.
Besides this, they are getting more into business ownership. According to statistics, “Between 1997 and 2004, the estimated growth rate in the number of women-owned firms was nearly twice that of all firms (17% vs. 9%), employment expanded at twice the rate of all firms (24% vs. 12%), and estimated revenues kept pace with all firms (39% vs. 34%)”

Center for Women’s Business Research, 2005

However, there are certain factors that hamper their growth within the organization. Firstly, work life balance which impacts their advancement and secondly, gender bias. Everyone wants to work in an environment where their contributions are respected and they are provided with equal opportunities to excel further in their respective careers. But generally, females are provided with lesser opportunities to grow and they usually encounter issues of gender bias on a regular basis.
How do you perceive women’s presence and contributions in the corporate world? What can they do to further improve their performance? Furthermore how can issues like gender bias be addressed?


  • Any contribution that will lead the organization towards growth are welcome and appreciable. Gender has nothing to do with corporate working culture.
    For improving also, there is no separate recipe for woman. Work hard, think positive, keep both of short and long term plan in mind, work in a team.
    Gender biasness is not a generic characteritic for all organizations. But, it’s a side effect of our social structure both in terms of mentality and safety. That’s why extensive travel-based or late-sitting oriented positions may not be suitable for women. Similarly, in reception and/or secretarial posts are reserved preferably for women. No solution in near future.

  • Salima:
    I, too have never been discriminated against because I was a female and I did achieve a lot in the corporate world
    Actually in some cases it did help me that I was a female, my salary was comparable and sometimes higher than other males as I was always multi-lingual
    I think women are programmed to think that way that they are inferior or lower than the men, it is true in some cases they get paid a bit less than a man but if the woman is strong enough and knows what she is doing she wontaccept it and the company will see the loss if she leaves and will get her what she asks for, it is all about self confidence
    And to the post that says that women aren’t suitable for travel jobs and are good for secretarial jobs I have news for them
    I worked for Intermational airlines in the Marketing and Salea deparment and was always traveling and had great success I know other women that are in the same position and very successful as well, and I know makes that are great personal assistants so to discriminate jobs based on gender is just not acceptable anymore and again it really depends on teh women to demand what is right and fair for them and mostly to be highly qualified
    My 2 cents
    Sahar Andrade

  • I am writing this in the Indian context which is what i am aware of. And by some strange co incidence there is a magazine lying in front of me featuring Chanda Kochar on the cover who lists in the 20 most powerful women in the world even ahead of Hillary Clinton. Chanda Kochar heads India’s biggest financial monolith ICICI Bank. When people like Chanda Kochar and Lalita Gupte before her make it to the dizzying corporate heights one wonders whether the whole issue of Gender Bias should even exist!!!
    And yet we talk about it because it remains real. Women are present in larger numbers than ever before in the corporate structure and are also being represented in larger number at leadership positions. there is also growing of acceptance of women by other women and a greater willingness to work together and collaborate easily which was not the case over a decade plus ago when we started working in the corporate fold.
    The acceptance on women’s contribution and recognition of their effort is far more equitable in MNCs than Family Owned Businesses which continue to be old boys clubs.
    I think the moot question is do women fell included and supported in the work place. let me elaborate this a little. I have found that till the time women can work “like men” they get the recognition and the place under the sun that they truly deserve. But women have another role, the one of nurturing children, creating a secure, supportive and comfortable home environment. These are roles that the social structure have built into her psyche. and the trouble starts when these two seemingly different worlds begin to overlap. this is where the organisations Inclusion Policies get tested. Because the work place works to men’s rules who have significantly lesser expectations to contend with.
    So when a man works and becomes successful perhaps all he needs is a supporting wife, but when a woman works and is successful she needs a larger entourage supporting her. There are many aspects that may be outsourced and yet the role of a parent and home maker does begin to clash with the successful business person at some points. add to that the social structures of work place, that demand certain degree of socialising at work and after work hours to create supportive networks and all of us who have worked in corporates know the power of these informal networks.
    How can one impact these informal structures, lopsided definition of drive and commitment, because these are things that impact her identity at the work. A truly inclusive work place will allow for these differences to remain and yet not let work and reward suffer. Recognition and reward mechanisms need to include these differences.
    The fact is that while women start off at par or sometimes outperforming male colleagues there is a definite slowing of career in the mid 30s with growing responsibilities that demand attention at home. A laggard social support structure and breaking down of family structures are additional issues to contend with.
    As of now there is every success guaranteed as long as we can continue to play by the rules set out by a largely male centric management. try and do something different and you will have to redefine your idea of success in the corporate structure.

  • I feel that women have a very positive role to play in corporate life .I feel that there are both merits and demerits and one should not consider sex to hampher any growth in the organisation and now a days it is mattering lesser and lesser.

  • Hey Salima,
    I have never came across the “you a woman” experience. On the other hand I have experienced smoother transactions due to it, which otherwise would have been hell out. I have had a life with lots of travel and people from different cultures have passed my path. There are many women who worked with me who have achieved a lot more.
    But Yes, I have seen the shortfalls, where women trying to manage home and office get burnt-out due to fatigue, mental and physical. We have a society which is still for some strange reason is masochistic to an extend. But as mentioned , we do have Chanda Kochar, Kiran Bedi, Lalita Gupte,Hillary Clinton, Indira Gandhi, Gayatri Devi and many more have passed though. Believe its all in will power?
    And then there are women like this too – http://www.indiatogether.org/2003/jan/wom-solarengr.htm .
    * http://www.indiatogether.org/2003/jan/wom-solarengr.htm

  • I spent most of my early career in the corporate world and never noticed any gender bias there. But gender bias did not seem to be a problem. Perhaps in the boardroom it still is. But at the entry and mid levels, things seem to be leveling out. We are, as a group, proving ourselves to be competent, intelligent hard workers. We are also entering and graduating college at higher rates than men, at least in the U.S., which should also help to continue to even out gender inequality in the workplace.
    I did leave the corporate world to work in a small business several years ago while switching career fields. That was my first run-in with gender bias. My boss, the owner of the company, never slapped me on my rear as in some scene from Mad Men. But his latent misogyny was quite clear through the condescending and dismissive tone he reserved only for the women in the office, including his wife. Most of them put up with it, one even encouraged it by flirting (an act that allowed her to set her own schedule – great for her work/life balance, bad for office morale). Normally I’m a “work your way up by proving yourself” type of employee. But after a year and a half of feeling more demorlized than I’d ever felt in my life, I finally quit that job, knowing it was impossible to ever impress that man as long as I had womens clothing.
    The corporate world is policing itself, but the smaller companies offer no recourse if you have a bad boss. If there is no HR department, there is no one to whom to complain if you are being harassed, especially if that harassment is subtle.
    As for issues of work/life balance, how is that really a corporations fault and why should that be different for a woman than a man? To be fair, I am speaking as a woman with no children and no burning desire to create children. But I usually resent being asked to work late because so and so has to leave early for a soccar game or a sick 3 year old. I don’t feel any better about it if so and so is a female co worker. Women (and men) who make sacrifices for their children should be willing to accept that sometimes those sacrifices come at the expense of their ability to climb the corporate ladder. I don’t feel that I am a traitor to my gender by saying so. There is, in some organizations and individuals, a bias toward all women, whether they have kids or not, because of the women who expect special treatment just because they are mothers. This is unfair to those of us who are not mothers and even more unfair to those who are mothers but who do not expect special treatment because of it. Special treatment creates bias against, not only in men but in women as well. This is an unpopular statement, but it is true. Also, there are still women (and alarmingly, some of them are young – as though girls are still being raised this way) who act as though they are soooooo small and weak and helpless around men. There are still men who eat this up. We see it in junior high and we don’t stop seeing it until we die. We shouldn’t see it at work, but we do. It’s a manipulative means of getting our way by making a guy feel as though he’s in charge when he’s really not. They don’t understand this, so they think they’re powerful and we’re weak. It’s a vicious circle and exactly the behavior I was describing in that first small company I worked at, with the woman who appeared only to work five or six hours a day. Or any number of girls I knew in high school.
    As for the bias itself? We can continue to work hard, if we must, absolutely must, work altered hours because of outside commitments, we need to make sure that our quality of work does not suffer and that we are not inconveniencing our coworkers. We need to behave as professional women, not like girls. We need to not get hung up on the fact that we are women and that men are men and just do our jobs, confidently.

  • Women’s presence and contributions in the corporate world is different at each company.
    To improve their performance, women should seek the right companies. Study each one before applying. Ask questions. Find out how many women and how many men work there and in what capacity.
    To address gender bias, examine your own practices and beliefs. Do you treat the men and women around you the same way? Who do you expect to close a sale? To serve coffee? To take out the trash?

  • This is still a great question, Salima, and you asked it thoughtfully. I think that women who answer this question would divide into those with and without children. The research shows that women without children advance up the ladder at approximately the same rate as men. The reality is, however, the most women will have children and that most women work. While everyone likes to think that they will be equal partners with their spouse (if they have one) in managing kids and homes after the baby arrives, that is rarely the reality. Studies show that women still do more housework and childcare, even if they work. They also take more time off after having babies (even in companies that have parental leave policies that include men) and are more likely to slow down their careers by working part time. Thus, even though work/life balance issues should affect everyone equally, the reality is that they do not.The question then become: can organizations address this issue or should it be left to individual families to muddle through? There are worthy arguments on both sides. My own view is that there’s much to be gained by organizations taking a look at how they can support families in general, including trying to discover what support their workers need to be both good workers and good parents. Since most people do eventually have children, helping them succeed in that role will benefit the organization in the long run by increasing employee loyalty, motivation and energy. My advice to young women is to be speak up pleasantly and persistently to combat both gender discrimination, if they encounter it, as well as work family issues. Never be afraid to skillfully ask for what you want. it never hurts to ask and you just might get it.
    * http://workplacesthatwork.com

  • The only thing to do about gender bias is to move to a company where there’s less of it. Some companies have a really entrenched old boys network (still!) and usually those companies are in denial about it. Also, those companies are sometimes not doing so well (karma 🙂 ) Also, that may be one reason women are starting their own businesses more–they want more control over their destinies.

  • Dear Salima,
    I will suggest to read a book called “Naked in the boardroom” written by a woman CEO. Dam good book for any manager with more than 100 tips for women to achieve leadership role.
    Let me allow disagreeing with your experience that % wise woman is not allowed or provide less opportunity to grow. If I am looking back, i can see only women is getting chance to grow. Those days are over, now both has same opportunity but still i feel women has more opportunity to grow in so many area where preference will be given to women. I will request please don’t differentiate…work together and grow together without feeling any such difference. If you come across such difference doesn’t mean whole world is like that……come out of well and see the world…you will feel fresh. But you need to keep your EGO at home…otherwise whole world will be same with the eyes of EGO!
    Hope this will help you.
    Best Regards
    Learner & Helper
    Ravi Sharma

  • One thing to consider is the number of years that have passed since the “glass ceiling” for women was at least partially removed. (I am speaking from the western point of view here.) Has it been long enough for substantial numbers of women to 1) have gotten the education they needed, and 2) have climbed the coprorate ladder?
    I am now in my fifties, the time of life when an executive (male or female) is at the height of their experience, influence, and power. However when I (a male) got my first job in the business world in the early seventies, women were still relegated to the steno pool and the keypunch room. The “professions” for woman were still limited to teaching and nursing.
    This really didn’t change much until about 1980. So, in effect, it can be said that, among us baby-boomers, men got a ten year head start. So now that boomers are at the age when we’re taking over the board rooms, with that ten year head start, one would expect to see more men there than women. And that’s exactly what we see.
    It will be different with Gen-X. Men and women got an equal start. Bottom line to my argument: it’s just a matter of time.

  • As an older person and one who has worked 40 plus years in pipeline construction, operations, and maintenance, I did not have much experience with women in those type jobs until the late 1980s. The women who applied first for those jobs had a very difficult time, due to the nature of the work and the men who did not want them there.
    It became evident to me, after a couple of years, that we benefited from having women working in operations. But the women who succeeded did all the required tasks as well as or better than men. After ten more years, some women became managers. And their contributions made the company or companies better.
    I think anyone’s performance can be improved when that person earns a reputation for hard work, teamwork, honesty, and integrity. Gender bias is best addressed at the local team level. In my experience, claims and counter claims of gender bias that get Human Resources or other departments involved usually harm the cause of all members of a gender who work for a company. It is sometimes necessary to file charges, but people working out their differences is the best approach.

  • It is a try to address all 3 questions of Salima about women contribution, performance improvement and how to address this issue.
    Here we can put another question; what is required to perform a Job irrespective of gender?
    1. Knowledge
    2. Skills
    3. Intelligence
    4. Motivation
    5. Can add more to it…..
    If women have all these requirements of doing a job and giving results, it leaves no room for gender bias.
    Do companies still keeping gender preferences in Job Descriptions?

  • In my experience, women’s presence and contributions may vary from industry to industry. For example, in retail women moved into powerful positions way before they have in the financial services industry.
    Overall, women and men communicate differently and process information differently. As long as the outcome is the same, which generally it is when the individual is successful, that’s really what matters.
    Gender issues can be addressed by focusing on the job and results versus falling into the victimization trap.

  • Around the world, women live longer than men.
    I heard from one of professor said that there will be a lot of women in this world.
    As a result, i think that women should take leadership role in this corporate world.
    I like to see more women presence and contributions in the corporate world because women have the ability to run the companies.
    Now a day, most of women are educated compared to my grand-mother. Women are smarter than men in some cases.
    I think that it depends on what parts of the women take position in this corporate world.
    It comes from my work experiences; my store manager [women] knows how to run the restaurant. She knew how to control inventory, employees work schedules, and forecasts of company sales.
    I think that my boss has her. He saves a lot of money because of her.
    I do not have problems of women take position in this corporate world because most of women are independent and know how to run this new complex business world without help from men.
    I saw a lot of new CEO in big corporation; they are women. I am really admiring them. I know that a lot of women are sacrificing their life to reach top of this corporate world position of the CEO.
    I mean sacrificing their life means; they work a very long hour. Sometimes, they forget to eat or pick up their children from school.
    Now a day, dad becomes stays home mom; mom becomes head of the house in some families.
    The gender bias should be addressed anywhere in this world especially in this corporate world because everyone in this corporate world contributes equal amount of work.
    Therefore, women and men should have same rights.

  • I am amazed by how many women do not acknowledge bias in the work place. And worse take it as a point of pride that they’ve never been a victim of it…but of course that just can’t be true.
    Something must be going on, or how else do you explain why women still make .80 cents on the dollar for similar work? How else do you explain that 40 years after the last big feminist movement there are still only 7 women leading Fortune 500 companies? Of course there is bias.
    The workforce today is pretty much 50/50 men and women. Lots of women never have babies, but should 6 weeks off for a baby end your career? Of course not. Do we really believe that that many women do not contribute at the same level as men?
    Is it a plot or mean or intentional to keep women down. No. Perfectly well meaning people have a a traditional view of “professional” that tilts male and has nothing to do with performance. I can tell you have have had many discussions about this in the companies I’ve worked for with the leadership. Sometimes they get it, some times they are so defensive they can’t see it.
    But gender (and other) bias will never end if we pretend that it’s not there….even if we ourselves have been very successful. (And I have, so I’m not bitter….just paying attention).
    Lynne, I’d be curious to know what research you have that women who don’t have babies move up the corporate ladder at the same rate as men. Again, looking at the demographics in leadership, it’s hard for me to believe it.
    And in the asking the question in the opposite way, is there any proof that men who have been away from the work place due to injury or illness or choice move on at the same rate as women?
    I would so love to be wrong about this, so I would love to know where that info came from.

  • I have spent the past 20 years working to eliminate bias and to open doors for all, regardless of gender, race, religion, age, ethnicity, national origin and disability. Things have improved but there is still a great deal more that has to be done. The business world is losing out on the work that many talented people can perform if given the chance.
    I am putting together a program at the Nassau County Bar Association on October 21st on the issue of how Title VII has created opportunities for women, how things are today and what has to be done to improve in the future. In preparing for the program, we have considered many of the issues that you raise.
    Women are often their own worst enemy. I remember working for the Equal Rights Amendment when I was in college. I was trying to get people to sign petitions. One woman said that she wasn’t ready to sign just yet. I asked her if she would be ready after she washed her hair. There are times when a woman gets into a senior position but closes the door in the face of other woman. Comments about dress, looks, weight are more common with women than men. This hinders the movement.
    The reality for many talented women is that they become torn between careers and motherhood. Performance is hampered by child care issues. In the legal field, for instance, billable hours are often problematic. Some solutions are virtual offices, flex schedules, job share, among other ideas. Another solution is to make childcare a gender blind responsibility. If it is a much a responsibility for fathers then the bias is eliminated.
    Gender bias, like the other forms of discrimination are addressed by placing women in important positions and letting them flourish. Men will eventually get the idea that women can do all of these jobs at least as well as men. Further, women must be more supportive of other women.
    If anybody wants to continue this dialogue please get in touch with me. I am extremely interested in feedback prior to the October program. I am also open to new ideas.
    David Gabor
    (516) 248-2525

  • M. Joyce McMenamin

    I have never acknowledged gender based bias in the corporate world and it’s never come back to bite me.
    Women who feel they are ‘different’ or ‘less than’ and men who feel the same way about women are foreign to me. Truly.
    I believe many women have been programmed to think they are victims and some men buy into that paradigm as well.
    My advice would be to dismiss those who would be biased and honestly build relationships that have organizational and professional value.
    It works.
    I’d like to add:
    People communicate differently based on a myriad of reasons.
    Gender is merely one.
    Learn how “individuals” communicate and recognize that communication, across all barriers, is the key to understanding.

  • John Schaefer

    In his marvelous book “A Whole New Mind” Daniel Pink shares his view that we are moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, where Right-Brainers will rule. This ties in directly to youf concerns about the place for women in business and management. These female residents of Venus are far more naturally right brain focused than their Martian male counterparts, so will naturally rise in the Conceptual Age.
    Reaching people from the right brain, emotional side; primarily Love and Respect, is the best way to get them to bring higher productivity, performance and profit. Since women have a natural affinity toward right brain interaction, I predict that we will see more female manager excel in the future.
    Men tend to respond to the ideas of incentives, the “what have you done for us lately” approach to employee motivation. While this is not bad in itself, if you have not adequately demonstrated that you truly care about people as human beings first, incentives can easily be seen as manipulative tools that are more beneficial to the company than the employee.. Women are much better at showing true, emotional appreciation, so will naturally gravitate towards leadership roles in the future.
    John Schaefer – http://www.VocationalShrink.com

  • Martin Thomas

    A bit of a side point but…does no one find it odd that many countries, including some that are widely believed to be ‘backward’ or non-progressive in their attitude to women’s equality, have elected or appointed female heads of state and yet the US often perceived to be a leader here simply hasn’t? Liberia, Pakistan, India, Iceland, Latvia , Sri Lanka, UK and more…

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