It´s almost shocking that in 2014 the world is still faced with gender equality problems and issues on a daily basis. Until not too long ago, many people had the view that women were “too emotional” to be leaders, especially in the business world, however we just have to have a quick look back at history to see that for centuries many of the world’s leaders have been women.
Cleopatra, last Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt (69 -30 B.C)
Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1533 -1603)
Marie Curie, first woman to receive Nobel Prize (1867 -1934)
Coco Chanel, defining fashion designer (1883 -1971)
Rosa Parks, civil rights activist (1913 -2005)
Margaret Thatcher, first and only female Prime minister of Great Britain (1925-2013)
Coming back to the 21st century, it´s safe to say that women have never been in a stronger position to lead, change and shape the business world. We are seeing less traditional “nuclear” families and as a result women are far more economically independent, therefore needing to work. Around the world, in developed countries, the percentage of female university graduates and in the workforce is growing steadily. For example, in the UK, 55% of university graduates are women. In fact, according to the NY Times, parents are spending on average 25% more per year on their daughter’s education than their sons.
Whilst women continue to be less associated with senior leadership roles many companies are changing their ways, some of the biggest companies in the world have female CEOs and a large proportion of their workforces are made up of women. Take IBM for example, the global tech-giant have had a female CEO since 2011, whilst at Ernst & Young 46% of senior managers are women and at Marriott over 55% of total employees are women, with females occupying 58% of all managerial roles.
Now, you may ask how can we expect to see more women working in business when we´re still dealing with an international economic crisis that has caused vast unemployment across the globe. The simple fact is, women have used their initiative and have seen this as an opportunity to in fact start their own businesses. Women across Europe have found an entrepreneurial streak in order to combat the unemployment crisis. A great example is in Spain, where nowadays every one in four people are unemployed (everyone one in two for young people). A record number of 800,000 businesses were set up by females in the past 5 years in Spain and many of these women say that the reason for starting their own company was due to the unemployment crisis. Backing this up even more, according to an article published by Forbes last year, one in five start ups around the world are lead by women.
As mentioned before, one of the reasons there was a great shortage of female leaders in business was due to negative perceptions about emotional stability of women, but in reality the qualities of great leadership are not based on specifically male or female traits, it is about ability not gender.
Now really couldn´t be a better time for women to capitalise on the changing ways of the global economy and society. With many large multinational companies realising the need for women in senior positions, for example Lloyds Bank (A British taxpayer owned bank) this year is aiming to have at least 40% of its senior roles occupied by women, we can start to see a shift in gender equality in the work place.