Where are all the women in organisations?
Almost everywhere in the world women make up the majority of graduates, and yet once they enter the workforce they fade away; the higher up the organisational hierarchy you go, the smaller the proportion of women. Why is this? Does it really matter? And can anything be done about it?
These kinds of questions are being raised more frequently than ever before – nowhere more so than in relation to the Board of Directors, where the proportion of women remains stubbornly low (in spite of some improvements over the past decade, particularly in Europe, the fact remains that globally only around 15% of board seats are held by women).
The social and economic cases for increasing participation rates for women have been increasingly well made, and yet women continue to be seriously under-represented across organisations, but particularly so at the most senior levels. Gender diversity provisions in national corporate governance codes have gone some way towards increasing the number of women on boards, and more dramatic changes have taken place in countries which have adopted quotas (Norway was notably the first country to adopt a quota for the proportion of women on boards in 2008, and since then around 18 countries have followed suit).
But there is some criticism that this only represents an increase in the number of female Non-Executive Directors (and it may be the same few women taking positions on multiple boards); there still seems to be very little change in the proportion of women in senior executive roles.
It is against this backdrop that Simon Learmount, Director of the MBA programme, Cambridge Judge School of Business I commissioned this report, to try to gain a better understanding of why the pool of women available to take-up senior executive roles is so meagre.
The particular issue that we wanted to focus upon, as a business school, is why there are relatively low ratios of women applying to graduate business and management programmes, especially the Executive MBA and MBA (which remain the ‘gold standard’ business and management degrees).
Read other reports on gender diversity, leadership and related topics in our Knowledge Bank