“Aw Stacy, sure you can be an investment banker…but do you really think you can be number 1?”  This comedy skit on YouTube depicting three little girls playing a board game has realistic scenarios and outcomes for women in the workforce.  What a rude awakening for three little girls with big aspirations and dreams for their future.  In an idealistic world, gender equality is a reality between men and women.  But even the World Wide Web seems to disagree with that statement.  My friend’s mother is currently Chief Financial Officer in her company.  From what I could gather, she was the only female on an executive board of seven men.  While I had a keen intuition that my friend’s mother was experiencing gender inequality in her daily work routine, I decided to also search for images of Chief Financial Officers on Google to test and prove this assumption.  Although I expected to immediately find images of men in my search, the results were overwhelming in number.  I had to scroll down the page before I found to my satisfaction a female image of an African American CFO.  She had recently been promoted to CFO in 2014 for the Coca-Cola Company and leads the company’s womens leadership council (unfortunately I could not paste a screenshot of this search).  However if you look at the featured image, you can see a picture of a group of chief financial officers.  It is quite noticeable that there is only one woman in that photo.  What’s even more interesting to note is that this photo was taken at an annual University CFO conference in New Zealand.  According to a gender pay gap study conducted in 2000, most of the gender pay gap (between 40 and 80 percent) could be ‘explained’ by differences in four variables: differences in occupation and industry of employment, differences in the amount of work experience between women and men, and women’s qualifications relative to men.  However there could have also been clear influences from societal expectations of women, including traditional gender roles where women are primary care-givers in their families (Dixon, 16).

As researcher Joan Acker notes in her study, Gender and race affect assumptions about skill, responsibility, and a fair wage for jobs and workers, helping to produce wage differences (Acker 11).  The criteria for competence in a high-level executive position can be severely impacted by race and gender.  The result is that gender is constructed in situations at the workplace where perhaps white males are considered more competent and more suited to a job than others (Acker, 11).  Male-dominated settings in the workplace can negatively affect women who find themselves as the minority.  My friend’s mother has faced, what Kanter’s theory of tokenism describes, unique interactional pressures including higher visibility and contrast (Budig, 4).  Because she represents a small group of individuals, she would be considered a token in her workplace.  Kanter claimed his theory of tokenism applied to all individuals, regardless of their gender or race.  But a later study, comparing the experience of token male nurses and token female doctors in a hospital, revealed the male nurses were assimilated into stereotypical but advantageous masculine roles including leadership positions (Budig, 4).

Although some countries are behind the curve on implementing newer policies that could positively affect gender inequality, Norway seems to be setting a new standard for other societies to follow.  According to the latest glass ceiling index on the economist, Norway has the best possible opportunities for women seeking an executive position on company boards.  In 2003, the Norwegian government passed a law that requires companies to have at least 40% of company board members to be women.  Failure to reach that quota of 40% would lead to the company being delisted (http://theconversation.com/lessons-from-norway-in-getting-women-onto-corporate-boards-38338).  Drastic but contemporary policies such as Norway’s could be the key to making every little girl’s dream come true in the workplace.

 

References:

Acker, J. “Inequality Regimes: Gender, Class, and Race in Organizations.” Gender & Society 20.4 (2006): 441-64.

 

Budig, Michelle J. “Male Advantage and the Gender Composition of Jobs: Who Rides the Glass Escalator?” Social Problems 49.2 (2002): 258-77.

 

“Coca-Cola’s Board Elects Kathy N. Waller as CFO and EVP.” The Coca-Cola Company. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 June 2016.

 

Comedycentral. “The Glass Ceiling: A Game for Girls.” YouTube. YouTube, 2016. Web. 26 June 2016.

 

Dixon, Sylvia. “Work Experience and the Gender Earnings Gap.” New Zealand Economic Papers 35.2 (2001): 152-74.

 

“Lessons from Norway in Getting Women onto Corporate Boards.” The Conversation. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 June 2016.

 

“The Glass-ceiling Index.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 2015. Web. 26 June 2016.

 

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