Why are there so few women in c-level positions?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer magazine.
From entry level through middle management, women are hired and promoted at rates similar to their male counterparts, according to a report from the Network of Executive Women (NEW). But female first-level and mid-level managers leave their jobs at nearly double the rate of men in those positions. Women exit their higher-level manager, executive and c-suite roles four times as often as men.
Under-representation of women at the c-level continues despite multiple studies showing that companies with the most gender diversity consistently outperform their less-diverse counterparts.
The top reason for the high manager turnover, according to the report, is a sense of isolation.
“When the other 15 people in the room are men and they don’t see anyone like themselves, women feel like they don’t belong,” said NEW president and CEO Sarah Alter.
Interviews with female owners and executives also show they battle unconscious biases every day.
“Sexism is alive and well and so much more insidious than any of us realize,” said Serafina Palandech, president and co-founder of Hip Chick Farms. “But more common than obvious sexual harassment is being dismissed, ignored or not taken seriously because I’m a woman.”
Women say they’ve had to work harder to prove themselves and find other ways to build rapport with largely male counterparts.
Marcelle Smalley, national sales director for Kemps, for example, doesn’t play golf, and she certainly never took a customer to a strip club. (Yeah, it still happens.) “But I happen to have a passion for sports so that’s often a way to connect,” she said.
A key to keeping good women on the job is to pair them with someone, preferably another woman, who can help guide their careers.
Offering flexible schedules and the ability to work from home can also support
work-life balance. Women also need to be honest with themselves about what is and isn’t possible, such as realizing they need a job with less travel to meet family obligations. Ms. Alter refers to times like those as “chokepoints” and says the industry needs to find better ways to retain women when an imbalance between work and family has them heading for the exits.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What’s driving the significantly higher turnover rates among female versus male managers? What more can retailers and vendors do to increase the proportion of women in leadership roles? What are the biggest barriers to overcome?