women in business

women in business
   In the late 1990s, women are still grossly underrepresented in business. In 1997, only 5 percent of directors and 15 percent of managers were women. Although these figures are low, they represent a significant increase on previous years; but even a limited increase in numbers has to be treated with caution. Research from the Equal Opportunities Commission has shown that new managerial jobs for women are predominantly in new grades which are often inferior in pay and status to the jobs previously occupied by men (Coyle 1995). This is echoed by the fact that women managers and directors continue to be paid substantially less than their male counterparts: in 1995 the average woman director earned £56,446, as against average earnings for all directors of £78,692. Even when women are let into the boardroom, they occupy certain posts which are seen as being more appropriate for women, namely personnel, marketing and company secretary. Change may come in the form of new management styles which are associated with women. Considerable emphasis is being given to so-called female management skills such as teamworking, negotiating, consensus management, the ability to handle several projects at one time, less hierarchical styles and interpersonal skills. Organizations such as the Institute of Management claim that these are the skills which women managers can bring to business, and moreover that these are the skills that are now in demand. There are difficulties, however, with such changes. For example, an emphasis on non-hierarchical management affords less opportunities for career advancement for women. Further, an emphasis on ‘women’s skills’ essentializes all women and may in fact have a damaging effect on those women who do not conform to the stereotype. In addition, when such skills are no longer in vogue, women will again be sidelined.
   However, it is cultural change which is required, and an emphasis on the development of new skills and new ways of working by women and men is an appropriate way to proceed. Such change must be managed and promoted in a way that is inclusive of all women and men, and will result in lasting change.
   Further reading
    Coyle, A. (1995) Women and Organisational Change, Manchester: EOC.
    Marshall, J. (1995) Women Managers Moving On, London: Routledge.
   CLARE McGLYNN

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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