Women in Business
By Erin Rebello
Though it’s 2020 and we have made great strides in terms of gender equality, it’s safe to say that there is still much room for improvement, especially in business-related fields. To this day, women in business have complained about the painful double standards which plague the industry, regarding everything from dress code to pay raises. As sad as it is to say, women still face a great deal of mistreatment in the field of business, sometimes, relinquished to the role of a mere coffee maid while their male counterparts face nothing of the sort. To these women it can feel like there’s an immovable barrier preventing their progress- a plexiglass ceiling, so to say.
In 2018, only 24 out of the 500 companies on the Fortune 500 list were led by female Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). That’s only 4.8%. Statistically speaking, 2 times as many Fortune 500 CEOs were left-handed than females. The outrageous disparity between men and women in the business field highlights the blatant sexism that is deeply rooted in all of us. From a young age, young boys are taught to be leaders and risk-takers, while young girls are pushed towards more “feminine” positions. The media plays a huge role in this, portraying men as successful bosses and women as their attentive secretaries (Mad Men, anyone?)
It is also especially difficult for women with families to advance their careers. Women are expected to take on more family duties than their husbands, and usually take maternity leave and sick days for their children, meaning they have less time for work. The harmful stereotypes that “men are natural leaders” and that “women should stay home and take care of the kids” can be a part of what fuels these unfathomable ratios.
Another barrier that prevents women from excelling in the business industry is workplace harassment. The era of #Metoo has helped bring the stories of businesswomen into the light, and it has become strikingly clear that this is a major issue. Even then, taking into consideration the reality of office politics and biased HR systems, it can be difficult for women to report issues or get help.
So how can we change the narrative to improve the presence of women in business? First of all, we need to disband the harmful stereotypes that restrict women. It’s crucial that we dispel the notion that women are meant to take on a supporting role and instead teach them that they are leaders. We also need to showcase the current female business leaders and give young girls powerful women in business to look up to. This would result in more women studying business at a university level, and thus more women working in the business field.
Companies need to improve their workplaces and procedures to ensure that female workers feel safe and welcome. Businesses should also be more accommodating to women with families by supporting them with free childcare or more sick days, instead of punishing them for being parents. By updating codes of conduct and ensuring that proper disciplinary action is taken when necessary, the environment of a company can drastically improve for working women.
In conclusion, although there are significant barriers that prevent women from pursuing careers in business, by challenging stereotypes, reducing workplace harassment, and being more accommodating towards women with children, women can surpass expectations and shatter the Plexiglass ceiling.