Although the United States is experiencing a shift in the way women are treated in their workplace, only a small percentage of senior managers are women. That’s a challenge companies need to rectify, says Radoslaw Nowak, J.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of human resource management in NYIT School of Management. “Women still lag far behind men in corporate America,” Nowak writes in an op-ed published by International Business Times. For an explanation of why, Nowak points to biases that affect perceptions of and opportunities offered to female leaders. He urges companies to address “systemic barriers that prevent qualified women from advancing.”
While almost half of new corporate hires are women, only one third of managers are women; among the most senior managers, women are outnumbered four to one. This situation is bad for companies. Policies and prejudices that, intentionally or not, exclude women’s contributions are costing companies money. “Companies that had at least one woman amongst their top management team were worth $42 million more, on average, than companies with all-male leadership,” he says.
Without diverse points of view at senior levels, Nowak says, companies also struggle to incorporate new ideas. On the other hand, companies that create conditions where women are more likely to progress are poised to be innovative. Stereotypes can also create a catch-22 for women looking to lead. According to Nowak, if they're traditionally feminine, they are perceived as weak, but assertive women are judged “less competent.” Other biases favor employees who share interests with their bosses, and women are less likely to be mentored or to receive “opportunities to prove themselves,” such as oversight of big-budget projects.
To avoid male-dominated C-suites and reap the rewards of a more diverse leadership team, Nowak advises that companies should consciously implement better policies. For example, they might cut back on burdensome business trips, provide female leaders with mentors, and ask for employees' input about their careers.
“Identifying the sources of inequality—and making small changes to address them—can give new voices a chance to drive innovation and boost business,” Nowak concludes.
This op-ed is part of an NYIT thought-leadership campaign designed to help generate awareness and build reputation for the university on topics of national relevance. Read more op-eds by NYIT experts.