Cultural diversity is a
prominent focus in today’s society. Now
more than ever, people identify
themselves with a plethora of gender, racial, religious, or cultural
groups. The benefits of diversity are
derived from the education, understanding, and collaboration of people from
different facets of life. The medley of
distinct opinions and point of views are an attractive attribute that has grown
to be valued in the corporate world. For
example, gender diversity “can enhance board independence by encouraging
healthy debate among diverse perspectives and reducing the social similarities
among homogeneous groups that can lead to groupthink and premature consensus”
(Larcker, Tayan). Nevertheless, most
executive committees and board of directors are made up of few female and
ethnic minorities. The contention of
balancing the gender scale in CEO and director positions has been a long
initiative. The are a multitude of valid
reasons why women should be represented in positions of power in corporations
yet there are just as many barriers that women and society must overcome before
arriving at this milestone.
For a period of time in the
early 2000s, some progress was made towards placing women in executive
positions, however momentum has since halted.
Many attribute to the lack of women at executive levels to the scarce amount that are actually qualified to be in such
positions. Gender aside, everyone has
equal opportunity for professional growth but many individuals simply have no
interest in pursuing executive positions.
Professional growth takes time, experience, and devout commitment. Men are seemingly able to obtain
qualifications needed for CEO and board positions, more so than women, because
men do not have to take a break from professional development to bear children. For a woman, the labors of having a child can
have perspective altering effects on their career development. When women start to contemplate having a
child, they consciously or subsciously begin to plan their life around that
event. Women who are in such a stage may
not pursue promotions or long term work goals that can be hindered by pregnancy
and childbirth. Men, to an extent, have
more freedom to pursue career development because their bodies are not
physically impaired by childbearing.
Hardships do not stop at child birth but they continue to raising a
child. Society has appropriated the
responsibility of child care primarily towards women which only prolongs their
ability to go back and fully devote themselves to career growth. Women have the hard decision of pursuing
professional success or personal fulfilment from building a family. Due to nature, women must face sacrifices and
hardships that men just do not have to.
A number of groups do not
see the gender imbalance in executive positions as a byproduct from the
hardships of childbearing or lack of qualified women. Instead, others are inclined to believe the
asymmetry is caused by institutionalized discrimination and society’s outlook
on CEO characteristics. Charisma,
success, and likeability are all essential qualities of a CEO and they are
often correlated to men rather than women.
This is not to say that women are incapable of such qualities but this
is reflective of social perception. A
double standard exists when “women who are perceived as displaying masculine
leadership traits are seen as violating expected norms of behavior, while at
the same time, women who are perceived as displaying feminine traits are judged
as less competent than male counterparts” (Larcker, Miles, Tayan). This unjust outlook is held by many men who
tend to be in influential positions of power.
It is unfortunate there still exists a class of people that have
traditional attitudes that disallow women and ethnic minorities opportunities
in the workplace. This narrow view from
the top prevents women from moving up in the workforce.
To make progress towards
diversity in the boardroom many have proposed a quota to be met by
corporations. The implementation of a
quota would require corporations to fill their board of directors with a
certain percentage of female members.
The main argument opposing the quota is again there are not enough
qualified women to satisfy requirements.
Many believe that if corporations are to comply with gender quotas it
may force unqualified individuals onto the board and jeopardize its
effectiveness. A quota promotes
diversification among board members which is beneficial to a corporation. The composition of a supervisory board is not
limited to industry or operational specific experience. There are countless female professionals with
expertise that span across industries that can be selected to serve on a board. This would certainly place women in executive
positions at a quicker pace and grant them the exposure needed to potentially
be appointed as CEOs. Bringing about
gender balance onto a board can only be beneficial to the success of
corporations and it also sets a precedence that executive positions can value
from other minority groups.