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Media Centre  |  Articles

Women still hit a glass ceiling

Amy Musgrave Group Labour Editor, Business Report, 13 Jan 2015

WOMEN are still being shut out of higher level economic decision-making, according to a International Labour Organisation (ILO) report. However, there has been an increase in the number of women in management positions, especially at senior and middle levels, over the last 20 years.

Deborah France-Massin, the director of the ILO’s Bureau for Employers’ Activities, warned that unless action was taken, it could take between 100 and 200 years to achieve gender parity at the top.


The Women in Business and Management: Gaining Momentum report found that in 80 of the 108 countries the ILO has available data, the proportion of women managers increased.
Jamaica had the highest proportion at 59 percent, while Yemen was the least at 2.1 percent. In Africa, Ghana was the highest and 26th place globally with 39 percent, followed by Botswana at 28th place with 38.6 percent.

South Africa

South Africa was at 54, with 31.3 percent of all women in manager positions.
Although there had been an increase, only 5 percent or less of the chief executives at the world’s largest corporations were women.

The 40-page document revealed that the larger the company, the less likely the head would be a woman. “The glass ceiling that prevents women from reaching top positions in business and management may be showing the cracks, but it is still there. More women than ever before are managers and business owners, but there is still a dearth of women at the top of the corporate ladder.”

All-male company boards were still common, but had decreased in numbers over the last two decades.
Women attain 20 percent or more of board seats in a handful of countries. In South Africa, the portion of women holding boards seats was between 10 percent and 20 percent.
Norway had the highest global proportion of companies (13.3 percent) with a chairwoman, followed by Turkey at 11.1 percent.

“It is critical for more women to reach senior management positions in strategic areas to build a pool of potential candidates for top jobs such as chief executive or company presidents,” France-Massin said. “However, glass walls still exist with the concentration of women in certain types of management functions like HR, communications and administration.”

The report found that women were still being blocked from participating in high-level decisions for various reasons, including gender stereotyping, corporate culture, and a lack of measures to reconcile work and family responsibility.
But the ILO said it was imperative that these hurdles were overcome because it made business sense.

The report cited a number of research documents conducted by academics and analysts that found the more gender-balanced management teams and boards were, the better the performance of a company and its bottom line.

Although some researchers indicated that there might not be a direct casual link, a study by McKinsey found that European-listed companies with more women in their management teams had 17 percent higher stock price growth between 2005 and 2007.