Women in powerful corporate positions are getting harder to come by, according to a New York Times report.
The number of female chief executives has dropped by 25 percent this year, the Times reports. It’s a number already abysmally small. Just 32 women held chief executive positions at the nation’s largest companies last year; with the announcement of Campbell’s Soup executive Denise Morrison’s retirement on Friday, that number dropped to 24.
The decline is prompting a closer look into deeper reasons than personal choices once blamed for the gap. Experts say biases against women in power, working mothers and traditional construct of what makes a “leader” are working to prevent the growth of women in leadership roles. While women in business may start at the same rate of pay and position as their male peers, studies show that fewer women move up with each level of seniority. Women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted to manager than men, studies show. Only 22 percent of women are senior vice presidents, the Times reports.
“Men and women are all going into high-powered jobs,” said Robin Ely, a professor at Harvard Business School and chairwoman of its gender initiative. “The question is what happens to them down the road, and that’s a messy story. People say they’re opting out, they want work-life balance, but we know from a lot of research that it’s not as simple as that. They’re not given opportunities.”
While women are more likely to use workplace policies such as parental leave to meet family obligations. However, men also have family obligations but handle them differently, such as leaving early or asking a co-worker to cover duties without telling anyone they’re doing it. The upshot is that “women’s careers are stunted but men’s are not.”
It’s a cultural mindset, according to the article. Women who display leadership qualities are often viewed negatively. When they ask for raises or promotions they tend to be seen as “bossy or aggressive” while men are more likely to receive such without asking.
“It’s all about the culture of organizations and the broader cultural attitudes toward women, and the difficulty all of us have, research would suggest, really respecting a woman in a position of authority,” Ely said.