Hurdles defined by a long held narrative of how work is to be done, that in its present form requires from the two sexes, an identical approach to how it is carried out. This flawed situation constrains the potential to be gained from gender equality by interpenetrating the natural strengths inherent in the two sexes, and the benefit in the interplay between them. This is happening at a time when the socio-demographic requirements in the German context increasingly require, and are desirous of the inclusion of women in the top management echelon.
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This issue is increasingly elevate to Germany, which is beginning to suffer the effects of an ageing society and declining birth rates. According to Dictates, the official government agency for statistics, the composition of the German population has changed. Whereas in 1990, only 20% were older than 60, in 2010 this number increased to 26%. Furthermore, the birthrate declined from 2. 51 children per woman from its highest point, post-WWW, in 1968, to 1. 39 children per woman in 2010. This demographic effect is all the more interesting in light of the increasing university graduation rates of women in comparison to men.
Already at 54% (Rheostat 2011), this achievement growth in favor of women should provoke in German companies, who need to maintain a competitive workforce in an era of dwindling population, an easy argument as to the benefit of increased female participation. In this context, simply ensuring a sufficient stream of qualified managers for the future is a no-brainier. Perhaps for this reason, already some German companies have taken the initiative in building their representation of women in upper management.
Some examples demonstrate the initial steps in making this a publicly known effort, such as, a voluntary promise by many ADDAX companies (a blue chip stock index of 30 German companies) to raise the participation rates of women in their workforces and management positions. This commitment has been published together with the German Ministry of Family. For example, Deutsche Telecoms has introduced a women’s quota for recruitment and enrolment for key management and development programs.
By the end of 2015, thirty percent of all upper and middle management positions will be filled by women. These are promising signs but still only represent initial steps and not country-wide effort. The hurdles are numerous, and very importantly lie, to some degree, with women. This because of the prevailing nature of the double burden, women must decide between their careers or their natural maternal instinct to raise a family. Present workplace norms, by not differing between the sexes, due to the historical male orientation, are failing women at mid-career.
The opportunities to achieve upper management positions coincide with the generally appropriate time to begin a family, leaving women with a distinct choice between two, many times, incompatible prospects. Thus, as noted by the Economist, few women are found at the peak of their career, like men, married and with a family, but instead single and burdened by desires they can’t dually manage. This issue highlights a significant problem in leveling equality in upper management. The predominant expectation from these positions is that men and women bring to those positions, and the goals demanded from them, identical outcomes.
This ignores the benefits in the difference between men and women. There is a powerful narrative here that associates the past SUccess of men in corporations as the right way. It has worked, thus what is there to change? Here our first and most intangible recommendation comes into play. A new narrative must be created; one that espouses the added value of diversity in the workforce, the fact that women and men bring different perspectives, and that the disparity between these is good. Speaking to this, evidence suggests that companies with female leadership enjoy higher profitability.
Several studies have linked greater gender diversity in senior posts with financial success. European firms with the highest proportion of women in power have seen their stock value climb by 64 percent over two years, compared with an average of 7 percent, according to a 2007 study by the consulting firm McKinney and Company. “Measured as a percent of revenues, profits at Fortune 500 firms that most aggressively promoted women were 34 percent higher than industry medians, a 2001 Peppering University study showed. ” Unfortunately, evidence is weak in the face of long-held beliefs.
This first recommendation therefore, due to its intangibility, requires other more specific steps forward. The narrative will be the final thing to change, and like all change it will require respected champions who, more than just espousing the ideals, act accordingly and take eel action. Therefore, an important recommendation, a real step forward, is commitment from corporate leadership. Progress in achieving gender equality must be monitored by the CEO and executive team. Examples of successful initiatives resulted from top priority status, or the issue becoming part of the strategy of the firm.
Dolomite, with its Retention and Advancement of Women (WIN) program, successfully did just this. “In 1993, women comprised only 7% of partners, but in 2011 there were more than 1,000 women partners, principles and directors, representing 23% of management. ” Dolomite’s success s attributable to the necessary backing WIN received from top management, where five succeeding Coo’s made the initiative a priority. This sort of leadership is paramount in changing the dynamics of an established narrative. The resistance to change of such a narrative should not, however, be ignored.
A firm’s ability to implement a program such as Dolomite’s requires that it convince its male employees that change does not threaten them; a not-too- easily made argument. As we discuss our next recommendations, this theme of male resistance forms the basis for addressing fairly, gender equality. As overcoming the double burden requires flexibility in working hours during a mothers parenting years, a paternal policy approach must also be considered. To not would be to alienate the very fairness that is being attempted, and would breed disenfranchisement among male employees.
This brings us to our third recommendation: maternal and paternal leave with flexible working hours during early parenting years. Though there are costs associated with such time off, the effects of losing a seasoned employee mid-career should be considered, and a breakable analysis done to assess how flexible such a policy can be, while imagining cost competitive. With McKinney research suggesting that there are economic benefits to keeping employees, even on flexible work schedules, this policy makes sense.
Specifically speaking of the examples where equal maternal and paternal leave has been implemented, research shows that regardless of the time given to men, they take a far smaller percentage than women do of their maternal leave. The German Ministry of Family states that in 2011 men, that took paternal leave, spent on average 3. 5 months off-work, whereas women spent on average 24 months in maternal leave. This is important only because the cost to the firm may not total the number of weeks or months allowed new fathers in paternal leave.
In assessing the viability of such a proposal, while still offering the fairness required, this information, especially in initial implementation, should be taken into account. Moving beyond the initial period of parental leave, the recommendation of flexibility in young parents’ work schedules has great potential in the context of the German Entitlements. “The really good news for a medium sized or small company is that the top pick, the policy area where cost women need help, is actually around flexibility. It’s not about high priced benefits. It’s about imaginative management of time.
And we have all kinds of data showing that that is actually the one thing that small companies can come through with. ” states Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy, in an interview with Harvard Business Review. That the Entitlements, made up of small and medium sized companies, employs roughly 70% of the German population lends credence to the applicability of this recommendation. What challenges this flexible work schedule recommendation s the German cultural belief that work is to be done at work. In a 1999 Dartmouth study interviewees identified there to be a clear separation of work and home in Germany.
As flexible work scheduling would involve out- of-office work, sometimes during non-business hours, this would be a hurdle to successful implementation. Metrics for assessing goals are as well part of the German identity which represents an opportunity to overcome the aforementioned challenge. Flexibility policies will thus require a commitment to UN-biased appraisal through measurable results. The narrative of working only during business hours in order to accomplish goals must be replaced with emphasis on the measurement of goals achieved.
This is an important addendum to the recommendation of flexible working policies for parents. Unless the cultural connotation can be successfully addressed, it matters little whether the economic benefit is real. If this policy is undermined by insurmountable cultural beliefs, it is ineffective. Here again the leadership from above is critical in moving the narrative from the traditional belief of work done at work, to an unbiased, results based orientation. In suggesting flexible work schedules, the assumption here is that those employees who use them will be equal in output to other employees.
This policy proposal does not suggest that flexibility means allowing employees a pass from accomplishing the goals of the firm. Instead it suggests they accomplish as much as others, though in the times that are most appropriate for them. In addressing the inevitable friction that such a flexible work schedule will create with the prevailing narrative, the OUtpUt of these employees’ must not diminish, or the validity of the argument in favor will be weakened. Otherwise, this proposal will fail, and the narrative that accomplishment in work must be done at work will continue to undermine young mothers’ ability to balance family and work life.
In order to encourage women into the higher ranks, in order to make the recommendations for flexible work hours during the parenting years worthwhile, women must be encouraged to stick with their careers till they reach the top. The stigma that women must decide between their careers and their family cannot be addressed through policies that only surface once women become mothers. To do so, career placement programs intended to identify career paths, elucidate the support and policies in place for the parenting years, and encouragement in reaching for the top, are all necessary.
Simple initiatives can be implemented with very little cost to a firm. We suggest mentor programs with women who are currently in top positions acting as career guides. This in conjunction with programs intended to help women identify their personal and professional goals, early in their careers, would be very effective. Encouragement of an honest appraisal of what an individual wants, coupled with the ability to learn from a mentor who s, or has already successfully handled the rigors of career development and family life would be invaluable. These initiatives are simply applied but require a commitment to standards.
They must seek to increase the qualification of women, or promote those who already are, to senior positions. In order for women’s participation to be beneficial for the firm, while successfully addressing the old narrative, candidates who do not match the necessary requirements cannot, for the sake of equality, be pushed to the top. With visibility in a company being such an important ingredient for achieving upper level positions, omen’s interaction with a firm’s leaders should become a cornerstone for increasing their participation in such ranks.
To achieve this, women specific networking functions should be established. Sabine Fischer, the founder of “Women Talk Business”, claims that networking has a negative connotation among women. Likely this is due to the male orientation of the golf course and beer drinking atmosphere that networking engenders. Upper management must make an effort to promote gender neutral networking functions. However, as the golf course will not cease to be a medium for male interaction, inter- omen networking must be encouraged in environments that are inherently female.
The activity itself, whether male or female oriented, is irrelevant in building a career, but the support that men get from such excursions is an important factor in shaping careers and must be duplicated in order to propel women forward. In the German context the government cannot be ignored as a facilitator for change. The above suggestions are made from the point of view of the firm, assuming that as they are applied, creating a society-wide trend, the government can be relied upon to shoulder some of the burden. One suggestion that was left out, due in part to its cost is company provided childcare facilities.
In Germany, if there is adequate public support, this would be a feasible initiative for the government to subsidize or provide. What is key here is the narrative. If individual companies can promote and benefit from the increased inclusion of women in top positions, the narrative can be changed, and public interest garnered for state sponsored support, making the achievement of this goal all the more likely. What should be highlighted though is that the socio-demographic situation, and the benefits won through top echelon gender quality, makes the old narrative antiquated and the creation of a new one, very relevant.2