Gender Equality in Business: How Far off are we?
One of the biggest issues in the world of business is gender equality. Women have been an important part of the workforce for decades now but they still are not treated as equals in the workforce. Clearly we have come a long way from the early days of working women but the question has to be asked, just how far have we come? Finding an answer is of course going to be a challenge since it is a contentious issue but there are certain things that we can say for sure.
The question of gender equality in business is going to depend in large part where you live. Some countries have made much greater progress than others but for the purposes of this discussion we will stick to talking about the issue in the United States. Even here location is a factor, there are some cities, generally the larger ones, where women now earn more than men on average. The number of locations where this is the case remains quite small but it is clearly a sign that things are changing regarding equality in the work place.
The other sign that things are starting to change when it comes to gender equality is that the number women attending college now exceeds the number of men doing so by quite a substantial margin. This will almost certainly mean that the number of women holding professional positions in the workplace will have to increase as there will be far more female college graduates than men. We are already starting to see this in some locations as evidenced by the areas where women are earning more than men.
While there are definitely signs that are encouraging when it comes to women in business there is also clearly a long way to go. While there are more women moving into professional positions they are very underrepresented in upper management. This is the glass ceiling that is often talked about and finding ways for women to break through can be a challenge. The problem is that most senior managers are men who have a tendency to promote other men to the senior jobs. This is mainly because of the perception that they have that women are not cut out for these types of jobs. Changing this perception has to be one of the priorities in achieving gender equality.
The other challenge is that despite the evidence that in a few cities women earn more than men, they rarely do for the same job. In the vast majority of cases men earn more than women do for the same job. Again this comes down to perception; there is a belief in certain quarters that men are more productive than women which tends to result in them getting higher pay. This is another of the misconceptions that needs to be addressed if women are ever going to achieve equality.
While women are closing the gap in the workplace one area where they still lag far behind is the number of women who own their own business. This is one of the biggest problems that women face in achieving equality is that as long as men own most of the businesses women will never be able to reach the top of most of them. The biggest reason that so few women own their own business is that they have a hard time getting funding to start one. It is much easier for a man to go to a bank and get a loan or to walk into a room of potential investors and get a deal than it is for a woman.
Due to the fact that it is so hard for women to get the financing to start their own business and also due to the fact that it is pretty clear that if women are ever going to achieve equality they need to own their own businesses the government has started programs to help them. This is largely in the form of grants for women with good business ideas. This has helped to encourage women to start their own companies but there is still a long way to go. The funding that these grants provide are nowhere near enough on their own. That means that attitudes about women running a business need to change.
One of the other reasons that you don't see a lot of women running their own business is the lack of encouragement that they get to do so. Very few women are encouraged to go into business for themselves and those that do will usually find that there are few women that they can use as mentors or role models. Starting a business without help from somebody more experienced than you is almost impossible and with the small number of women who are actually running their own business it is hard for female entrepreneurs to find a woman who can help them.
When it comes to gender equality in business and the question of how far off are we the answer is that progress has been made and the gap has definitely closed but it is still there. There is a good chance that progress will continue to be made as the women who are graduating from college today and entering the business world have a much better chance of reaching the top than their predecessors did. As more women move into senior positions it will lead to even more women doing the same as the people responsible for choosing the senior managers will be women. This should bring us about close to gender equality as we are likely to get. The chances that we will reach full equality are pretty low but we should be able to get closer than we are now.