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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Female CEOs break glass ceiling, try not to get cut


Only five percent of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are women, due to persistent sexism in the corporate sphere. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

The women that have been able to shatter the glass ceiling are now faced with a balancing act in order to keep themselves from falling over the edge of the cliff.

Research by the University of Exeter defines “the glass cliff” as the “phenomenon where individuals belonging to particular groups are likely to be found in leadership positions associated with a greater risk of failure and criticism.”

It is a sad reality of workplaces around the world, where only five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

Women should not only acquire such a small percentage in powerful positions of the corporate ladder. Gender diversity can increase performance within a company, but many people — including women — still do not view females as capable of being a CEO or in upper management.

According to The New York Times, while it is possible for women to crack the glass ceiling, “they still account for a small fraction of chief executives at public companies, and at least a quarter of them confront activist investors.”

Activist investors generally target companies with poor performance, but also challenge women, as they are deemed “softer targets.” Recent research has proven there is a gender bias among activist investors.

Academics at the University of Utah and Washington University in St. Louis conducted a 2012 study in which they showed a prospectus for an initial public offering to a group of 222 M.B.A. students, 45 of whom were women. The study found that women were viewed as being less capable than their male counterparts, despite having identical qualifications.

Women are seen as less capable to “take risks” and “solve problems” compared to males in the work environment. In reality, any person can gain the ability to manage and direct if they have the intellectual capacity to do so.

According to a Pew Research Center survey on women and leadership, “most Americans find women identical to men on key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, yet about half believe men will continue to hold more top executive positions in business in the future.”

Women studies professor Maira Alvarez said she believes gender should not be a factor, and that “any individual can do any job if they have the capabilities and education to perform those responsibilities.”

“Changing the environment in the corporate world, giving credit to the individual for what they do and creating a sense of community in the environment creates a space where everyone can take responsibility within the company,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said she has experienced gender stereotypes firsthand as a female educator since “most students tend to question the authority of a female professor compared to a male professor.”

In a study led by New York University psychologist Madeline Heilman, participants evaluated the performance of a male or female employee who chose whether to stay late to help colleagues prepare for an important meeting.

“For staying late and helping, a man was rated 14 percent more favorably than a woman. When both declined, a woman was rated 12 percent lower than a man,” the study showed.

The root of these issues goes back to culture and education at home and within the educational systems. The corporate world has always dominated by white males, and the information young generations are receiving from the media and popular culture affect the possibility of future equality in the corporate world.

Women must not fall into perpetuation of male power. Working as a community, creating awareness and taking an interest in these issues is a small step towards altering these stereotypes.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said the most important change starts with a shift in mindset.

“If we want to care for others, we also need to take care of ourselves,” Sandberg said.

The pipeline for female leaders is expanding. Women have made significant gains in educational attainment in recent decades, thus positioning themselves better not only for career success, but also for leadership positions.

No matter what gender, race or background, every individual has the capacity to hold top positions in the corporate ladder. Young generations have to act now to break the social roles and societal stereotypes in order for equality in the workforce to prosper.

Opinion columnist Rebekah Barquero is a print journalism sophomore and may be reached at [email protected].

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