With HP’s Carly Fiorina in the fray, the odds of America finally picking a woman for its President have just gone up. There is already a strong contender for the post in Hillary Clinton, voted the most admired woman in the world in 17 of the last 18 years. Forty-five valiant American women have risked their lives by going into outer space, but only 29 women have ever been nominated for the presidency – and all were unsuccessful. Will the final glass ceiling soon be broken, in the very last bastion of coveted careers that has been held only by men for all time? Only time can tell. If nothing else, it is to be hoped that it would encourage more women to seek political power, an arena which most of them have skirted over the years.
We need women in politics. Women in politics impact the levels of fairness shown by legislation dealing with women’s issues. A government with a sparse representation of women may not take a fair approach to issues specific to women or respond to them as well as the women themselves could. As a developed country, the United States has failed to figure in any of the top positions and is seen to have fallen seven spots between 2011 and 2013 in the Global Gender Gap Index maintained by the World Economic Forum; clearly demarcating economic participation and political empowerment as its areas of weakness.
We also need women in many other professions, though research shows that women prefer not to venture into certain professions. They are also frequently denied access to leadership positions, in a clear demonstration of the gender inequality rampant in American workplaces. For one Hillary Clinton, who is paid $300,000 per appearance, we have millions of women at the lower end of the compensation spectrum. Only 14.6 percent have reached executive positions, and constitute only 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. Let us take a look at the table below, representing the participation of women (or the lack of it) and consider the possibility that some of these occupations are deliberately kept out of the reach of women employees It is interesting to note that BLS puts the number of women in managerial positions at 51.6%, surpassing the number of men by a slight 3.2%; but these must be low-level supervisory positions which fail to translate to a superiority when we look at the top managerial positions of Fortune 500 companies.
In many workplaces, women struggle to earn equality, acceptance and respect for their contributions. Despite legislation that protects against retributions over their commitment to family welfare and childbearing, subtle forms of discrimination come into play as unspoken biases regarding women’s reliability and career commitment come into play. Many a time, even the immediate family helps to create a sense of inadequacy in women – as in the case of my son’s teacher. In this school, a single teacher is expected to teach all subjects to the same group for five years or more, as they move up to the next grade. She sought my help to handle the mathematics lessons for the tiny tots when her husband refused to refresh her skills, saying she would be a hopeless failure and asked her to not even try it. Fortunately, in reality, I found an excellent pupil in her and my son is still into college-level mathematics.
While women may voluntarily avoid some of the occupations detailed above, it is necessary to consider if there are any industries which keep women away, or ensure that their presence is limited to the lower echelons of the workplace. The common practices of these industries, which create a culture of exclusion, include:
These tactics help women to decide early on to take a backseat or to seek less demanding careers. The depletion of talented members of the workforce is not the only damage that results from a woman’s decision to walk away. By encouraging these women to delude themselves that their rejection of a more challenging role – and the prestige and authority that go with them – was entirely voluntary, the cultural obstacles that limit women’s contribution to the business community are perpetuated.
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