Theoretical Explanation Of Gender Imbalance In Management Commerce Essay

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The most prevalent thought when management and gender issues are mentioned is that developed countries and geopolitical blocs such as the US, the United Kingdom and Europe have progressed beyond this problem. Nevertheless, a critical look at the problem reveals that gender equality and representation in management have not been satisfactorily achieved. This is because, while both sexes are represented in the public, corporate and entrepreneurial lives of a country such as Britain, the managerial sector remains predominantly under male control. Further analysis reveals that this inequality is spurred on by a patriarchal society and forces of socialisation and acculturation. However, the gains that stem from gender equality remain pervasive and unparalleled by a single-sex form of management, the drawbacks of the same notwithstanding.

Introduction

That the world is critical and reflective in thinking is a matter that is underscored by the many theories which try to explain gender relations. Many theoretical standpoints and postulations abound on gender relations, analysing the dynamics of male-female relationships within society. As opposed to 19th century developments, which mainly delved into gender parity at a domestic level, the 1950s ushered in a new era, which was characterised by the quest to have gender equality entrenched even in the corporate sector. This is the case with the UK, the US, the West and the rest of the developed world (Maleta, 2011, 75). The importance of theoretical standpoints that explain gender relations is that they help inculcate understanding on the history, nature and dynamics of gender relations, with the main goal being, directly or indirectly, to provide a panacea for the problem of gender imbalance in the workplace, or any other sphere of human society. Likewise, according to Moore (2012, 620), the need to examine the issue of gender and corporate life is underscored by the fact that despite women having been involved in the corporate life of developed countries, a female presence is still inadequately represented at a managerial level.

Theoretical Explanation of Gender Imbalance in Management

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One of the most influential theories on gender is that of Julia Kristeva. Kristeva's theory is applicable to the field of semiotics, and, in explaining gender disparity and relations at the managerial level of corporate life, has a topical theme of abjection. Particularly, Kristeva structures subjectivity on abjection of the mother, arguing that a society functions similarly to an individual rejecting or excluding the mother as a way of carving out an identity. Kristeva maintains that just as individuals do, patriarchal cultures exclude the feminine to either come into being, or consolidate their position (Cousineau and Roth, 2012, 430).

Beyer (2011, 307) contends that the implication of Kristeva's postulation is that the inability to perpetuate gender parity in organisational management is not so much due to characteristics inherent in women, but rather to unequal sexist relations, structures and policies, which have been entrenched by a male-dominated society. This discourse will thus look into the issue of gender and management, in light of Kristeva's theories.

Indicators of Gender Inequalities

A critical examination of the corporate, entrepreneurial and public sectors shows an inordinate concentration of men in management. One of the indicators of the gender gap in the British business sector is the stunted rise in the number of women in executive positions. According to a report that was released in 2010 by The Independent, of 329 business executive directors, only 20 were women. To further underscore this gender imbalance in UK boardrooms, the former trade minister Lord Davies disclosed that only 12% of FTSE 100 company executives were female. The situation seemed to have been rendered grimmer by the revelation that several women held multiple positions, meaning that the number of women executive directors could only be less than the mentioned 12%. This information is important because it shows that out of 1,100 directors, only 132 were female.

The statistics further indicate that no more than five of the FTSE 100 companies have female representation at a board level. These companies include Pearson Publishing; Imperial Tobacco; the mining conglomerate Anglo American; the fashion house Burberry; and the Alliance Trust. To corroborate Kristeva's argument that gender disparity at the corporate level is only underpinned by a male-dominated society and not an inherent deficiency on the part of women, the chairwoman of the Financial Reporting Council, Baroness Hogg observed that the presence of female executive talent is very ubiquitous in the British entrepreneurial sector, though female representation is unevenly distributed. Baroness Hogg noted that female representation in management is only visible in areas and sectors where women really matter, such as the retail and the fashion industry (Cousineau and Roth, 2012, 432). Along similar lines, the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that it could take seven decades for the directorship of the United Kingdom to be evenly balanced between the genders.

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According to Goodley (2012, 1), another factor that women have had to endure discrimination in directorships is an income distribution gap. The higher one ascends in organisational leadership and hierarchy, the higher the remuneration is bound to be. A survey undertaken by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) showed that over the course of their working lives, female executives earned £400,000 less than their male counterparts. This is despite both genders having the same academic qualifications and sharing in the same career. Annually, the average female executive earns £10,060 less than her male counterpart, as well as receiving fewer perks (Gesinde and Akujobi, 2011, 4049; and Gherardi, 1995, 45).

Although junior female executives earn marginally more than their male counterparts, upper adjustments of salaries as one ascends the organisational hierarchy remain harder to come by for women. The same gender inequality in management is underscored by the difference in vulnerability to a loss of managerial jobs between the sexes. The labour turnover data produced by the CMI shows that 4.3% of women executives were declared redundant within a year (August 2011 to August 2012). In contrast, only 3.2% of the male executives lost their jobs within the same period (Goodley, 2012, 1).

Indeed, evidence of the bleak situation above is emphasised by information, provided by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2012. WEF observed that, in the United Kingdom, only 3% of the top British companies are managed by women.

The crux of the matter is that all the measures that have been ratified to bring about gender balance in the corporate sector have not been able to rein in gender imbalance. For instance, this inequality still persists 42 years after the ratification of the Equal Pay Act (Fonjong, 2008, 462; and McGuinness, 2009, 72).

Measures Implemented to Ensure Gender Balance

Alvesson and Billing (1997, 75) observe that there are tenable measures that can be implemented to inject equal gender participation into the veins of management. One of the most salient of these measures includes the ratification of all the provisions made by the Ministry of Labour to enforce mandatory equal pay audits. Likewise, the government should strive to make amendments on the monitoring structure by incorporating annual gender pay audits. The amendments should extend a step further to criminalise gender-based payment disparities. This move will help the government eliminate pay differentials that are based on gender. The measure will go a long way in entrenching equal gender representation in management, given that little voluntary progress is being made by leaders in the corporate sector. The exaction of mandatory equal pay audits will help entrench equality in the distribution of salaries across the board. At the same time, the enforcement and upholding of equal pay will motivate women to aggressively seek to participate in organisational management (Wan, Wan and Al-Taee, 2012, 25).

It will also be important that the government, through the Department of Work and Pensions, sets targets to achieve the 40% gender requirement rule for either of the sexes. This requirement should be concentrated on managerial and executive positions of leadership, since the general representation of women in the corporate, civil and private sectors is already adequate.

Oshagbemi (2008, 1897) and Gupta and Turban (2012, 141) maintain that it may also be helpful if the government increased funding for facilitating gender education programmes in businesses, the entertainment sector and schools. The same educational programmes would further the promotion of values that Women's Empowerment Principles seek to perpetuate. This effort may further be supplemented by making it mandatory for organisations to sign the Women's Empowerment Principles CEO Support Statement. As part of adherence to this provision, all CEOs should table a report on annual progress made to key stakeholders, on matters, touching upon the incorporation of female input as part of organisational management.

Grisoni and Beeby (2007, 200) posit that it is also incumbent upon organisations to complement the efforts of the government by integrating gender equality and fairer human resources management (HRM) practices into organisational culture. This could, for instance, have an organisation launching workshop drives and training programmes to help its staff overcome bias and other hindrances that impede the tenure of female managers at the workplace.

Conversely, an organisation may consider the establishment of scorecards at levels of leadership, to help promote flexibility in practices pertaining to management. Responsible organisations may also team up with the government to carry out campaigns that promote public engagement with, and awareness of, gender equity and the benefits that gender equity brings in dispensing social well-being and economic prosperity and stability (BoÄŸda and Åžendil, 2012, 217).

Benefits of Adequate Gender Representation

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According to Broadbridge and Simpson (2011, 275), the benefits of equal gender representation cannot be overstated, given that they are far-reaching. One of the benefits that come with gender balance in management is the plurality of views. As women work alongside men, decisions become more comprehensive and accommodative. This means that organisational decisions would benefit from both pragmatism and humanness. This is because women are more humane and easily observe values such as compassion, effective and successful flow of communication (or information), and philanthropy. Conversely, men are more likely to consider the practicability and merits that may be accrued from the implementation of certain organisational policies. The import of this is that when organisational management is inclusive of both sexes, that organisation is likely to uphold tenable policy frameworks and performance targets (because of men's input), while benefiting from positive communication culture, corporate social responsibility and fairer and more democratic HRM culture and practices (because of women's input ) (Rose and Mackey-Kallis, 2012, 600).

It is against the backdrop of the foregoing that a study of Fortune 500 Firms conducted by Pepperdine University revealed strong links between wider profit margins and an adequate number of female executives. Pepperdine University carried out a study on 215 Fortune 500 firms in 2011 and produced results, which show that gender balance in management has a significant link to high profitability. The study showed that 25 firms, which were randomly selected from the 215 Fortune 500 firms, not only had the most consistent histories of promoting female employees to senior-most positions, but the same were always 18%-69% more profitable than the other Fortune 500 firms competing in the same market (Arnott, 2010, 1).

At the same time, it is clear that an organisation, which practices gender fairness in management, is likely to have a good corporate or public image. This is especially the case since the UK, the US, Europe and a greater part of the globe have become democratic, and some of the key facets of democracy are the principles meritocracy and all-inclusion (collective participation). A meritocracy demands that people are employed or extended values, based on their qualifications (merits) and not gender or acquaintance. For an organisation to have only male managers, executive directors and CEOs, and defend its lopsidedness against female representation by citing merit, is to inadvertently or deliberately insinuate that women cannot attain the same qualifications as men.

Similarly, an organisation that fails to incorporate female input in management cannot lay claim to being democratic, given that a truly democratic organisation is one that is inclusive of both sexes. Conversely, a society, in which organisations do not incorporate female input in management, is a society that is less liberated and less appreciative of the role, played by women. Such a society only underscores the standpoint that Kristeva advances, which is that highly patriarchal societies suppress the role and dominance that women should exert in the society. Likewise, such a society is less likely to be held as a corporate model to other states, for Kristeva's postulation intimates that such a society is less appreciative of its motherhood (the womenfolk), given that it deems the womenfolk as unworthy to lead, when it confines women's representation to the periphery.

It is also true that having both genders represented in management helps promote equality in the society. This is because the elevation of women into the society gives a strong incentive to economic empowerment. Gender balanced societies in turn have a lot to enjoy from internal cohesion and social security (Miller, 2012, 19; and Kelemen and Rumens, 2008, 66).

The factoring of gender in management efforts is also lauded by marketing strategists such as Ross-Smith and Huppatz as a form of marketing strategy (2010, 550). This idea stems from the consideration of the fact that organisations, which respect gender balance, are considered more accommodative and more committed to egalitarianism and meritocracy. This therefore earns a good public image and ultimately, increased marketability.

According to Visagie and Linde (2010, 400) and Kulich, Ryan and Haslam (2007, 589), the relationship between gender and management in marketing is also seen in the fact that gender balance in management is considered a form of non-traditional arrangement and labour to help meet employees' shifting aspirations and needs. This value is indispensable, given that Europe and the rest of the developed world are rapidly changing industrial bases that have very competitive markets.

Again, equal gender representation in management is a serious matter, concerning fundamental human rights and freedom. At the same time, employers, who maintain gender equality in apportioning management portfolios, are bound to enjoy access to a larger and more diverse workforce. Employees, who experience equality, also benefit from greater and superior access to higher wages, training and generally improved productivity.

O'Connor (2010, 17) points out that the profit, stemming from a globalised economy is more fairly distributed in societies, which enforce equality and offer broader public support for the furtherance of socioeconomic development. These societies are likely to support greater social stability.

Drawbacks of Integrating Equal Gender Representation

Honesty in thought demands the consideration of both pros and cons when discussing any concept or practice such as equal and fair representation of women in management. For one, there are concerns that with the advent of women participating in disciplined forces, such as the army, women are likely to jeopardise their own security and personhood. This is because, generally, men are said to have a third greater physical strength than that of women. This may not bid well for the women, since at times even office personnel such as the first-level clerk in a personnel office may be required to attend to needs on the battlefield. Again, evidence is emerging that violent sex (rape or sodomy) is increasingly being used in military combat as a weapon against enemy combatants. This may also undercut the wellbeing of women in the military (Storvik, 2012, 160).

Kusterer (2008, 550), LeAnn and Davis (2012, 620) divulge that some companies see the introduction of women in management as likely to expose the organisation to performance gaps. This concern is always advanced in light of life's natural courses such as pregnancy, family and marital commitments. Because of this, some organisations cite maternity leave as one of the factors that strengthen the relationship between female management and a performance gap. There are also other organisations, which cite the flexibility of men and their emotional pragmatism as the source of their preference for male to female management.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that these supposed drawbacks are not inherently attributable to the occupation of women in management. Instead, these pitfalls stem from the way the individuals have been socialised. The only exception may be the disciplined forces (Burton and Parker, 2010, 13).

Recommendations

In respect to the gains that characterise the observation of gender in organisational management, it is important that various measures are put in place to safeguard gender balance in management. First, there is a need to universalise this effort by creating global or transnational agencies, committed to promoting gender balance. In areas where these agencies already exist, it is important that the performance of local organisations is synchronised with the standards that these organisations seek to uphold. Likewise, the functions of local caucuses, which clamour for gender parity in management, should be integrated with the operations of global agencies for greater input and output. For instance, integrating the efforts of CMI into those of the International Labour Organization's 'Promotion of Gender Equality in the World of Work' project will go a long way in informing the world (or even only Britain) about the gains that are being made locally and globally, as far as promoting gender balance is concerned.

As self-determinate entities, organisations should also create their own initiatives in the struggle to ensure fair representation across both sexes. The case of the Dutch bank ABN AMRO exemplifies some corporate entities' commitment to gender balance in management. In 1996, ABN AMRO devised the 'M/F' policy as a way of revamping its organisational structure and increasing the presence of women in managerial posts. ABN AMRO aimed to help women reconcile their work burden and family life, as a way of including women in its equality plan. The M/F programme was meant to propel women more quickly into higher-level portfolios through the stimulation and observation of fair and balanced staff competition. ABN AMRO proceeded to become a subsidiary of Opportunity in Business to help access information, useful in improving women's inflow into managerial positions (Mirza, Moazzam and Jabeen, 2011, 260).

Between 1995 and 1998 ABN AMRO also introduced the New Life Balance programme as part of a collective agreement. It is at this juncture that a 36-hour week was introduced, to help women balance family and work. This arrangement meant that employees could attend work for four 9-hour days, in lieu of the traditional five 8-hour days per week. Starting from 2000, the bank's collective agreement allowed employees to set their own working schedules and to apply for financial support towards expenditure ranging from out-of-school care and nannies, to day-care.

Conclusion

The evidence presented suggests that there is no excuse that can be advanced to explain away the failure to adopt gender balance and equality in organisational management. The need to adopt gender balance is both ethically and constitutionally binding. Regarding the latter, it is a criminal offence to bar an individual from ascending to an office simply because of gender bias. Likewise, it is imperative that corporate leaders and women readily acknowledge the possibility of women serving in such positions while not foregoing any of their domestic responsibilities. Indeed, the proposed gender education and campaigns, which are to be held in favour of female empowerment, should remind everyone of Brenda C. Barnes - one of the most renowned corporate leaders who have managed to maintain a close-knit relationship with their matrimonial home and family.