Women in Leading Positions

Topics: Stereotype, Discrimination, Gender Pages: 11 (4109 words) Published: October 14, 2008
1. Introduction
"The day will come when men will recognize women as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race." (http://www.leadershipforwomen.com.au/quotes.htm, 12.11.2007) This quote by Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), a pioneer of the American women’s movement, clarifies the situation of women, not only in leading positions. Even by this day men tend to outweigh women in most leading positions in science, politics and the corporate world. Obviously there is a significant problem for women to climb the professional ladder. But what are the reasons for this and are there any chances to counteract this development? To minimize the complexity I am going to exemplify this problem along managers, university professors and politicians in Germany. First, I am going to illustrate the status quo and clarify this status on the basis of wages. Afterwards I will give some explanations for this problem. I am fully aware of the existence of several more possible explanations, but because of the results of various studies and surveys I will concentrate on some social and structural explanations. At the end I will suggest some methods of resolution. Before writing this essay I examined the situation by conducting a web-based survey, in which I interviewed 32 women and 31 men between the ages of 19 and 27 who are currently studying or doing an apprenticeship. In this survey one of my questions was whether they thought plans to start a family or stereotypes of society could have an influence on their career. Furthermore if they thought women were less capable of assuming position of leadership than men are due to a lack of typical manager-characteristics like authority/assertiveness, toughness and remoteness. Surprisingly 75% of women and 84% of men claim not to be influenced by society’s stereotypical thinking. In contrast to that 88% of the female and 74% of the male interviewees think plans to start a family definitely has a significant influence on their career. When it came to the question of whether women are less competent in positions of leadership all the interviewees responded in complete agreement that this is not the case. Only one women and one man were of the opinion, that men are better leaders than women. The Accenture-Study produced the opposite results: As I will explain later on, Accenture arrives at the conclusion that society, or rather its stereotypical thinking, is the strongest hindrance to women pursuing successful careers. (compare 3.1.3) I will explain this contrast at the end of my essay.

On the contrary there is an obvious trend towards a higher percentage of women in leading positions in all sectors. The following paper exemplifies the reasons for this development.

2. Status Quo
2.1. In the Corporate World
The underrepresentation of women in leading positions was confirmed by a study conducted by the Department of Occupational Research of the Federal Employment Office (Institut für Arbeits- und Berufsforschung der Bundesagentur für Arbeit) in 2004. This paragraph uses this study as a reference point. The study differentiates between the private and the public sectors, in part between East- and Westgermany and occupational branches. About 45 % of all employees in the private sector are women, but only 25% of women of top management positions are occupied by women. This problem is less significant in the public sector, presumably due to the different methods of promotion in the two sectors. Of a total of 66% of female employees and 41% of women in leading positions nearly half of the top-management positions are fulfilled by women. It is worth noting that with an increase in the company’s size and hierarchy both in the private and public sectors, the percentage of women in leading positions decreases from 26 % in small to just...
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