Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Gender in Management: An International Journal, Volume 26, Issue 8
In this editorial, I am drawing upon two recent high profile publications which have spotlighted successful women in management and leadership and their reflections: “Women at the top” (The Financial Times, 2010) and Management Today’s UK “35 women under 35” (Prevett and Haslett, 2011). “The top 50 women in the world of business” (The Financial Times) focuses on CEOs, Chairwomen and Executive Directors of listed companies. Indra Nooyi is ranked number one as CEO of Pepsico and views being a life long student as a fundamental value, crucial to her success. Although she calls herself a normal person, mum and wife, she is accompanied everywhere by security guards. Andrea Jung CEO of Avon Products and ranked number two, sees perseverance as a strong cultural trait and believes the biggest emerging market is not a country, its women. Guler Sabanci (ranked number three), Chairwoman of one of Turkey’s largest corporations sees girls’ education in Turkey as a big issue and believes in balancing profit and shareholders with sustainability and philanthropy to support the political and social fabric of the country. Irene Rosenfield (ranked number four) CEO of Kraft Foods notes that her emerging workforce is not interested in command and control leadership and will not do things because she said so. They want to do things because they want to do them.
Management Today’s UK “35 women under 35” focuses primarily on high flying entrepreneurs and highlights a number of reflections. Successful women entrepreneurs, managers and leaders need to be an advocate of their own confidence and self-belief, have determination and ability to think out of the box. Confidence means not being afraid to play to your strengths and feeling comfortable in your own skin – to relax and be yourself – not a stereotype of a shoulder-padded fierce business wo(man). The debate raised here centres around whether to demonstrate male personality traits to get ahead or to stay “female”. The entrepreneurs, lawyers and business women featured are described as sharing the same kind of drive and creativity.
The CEOs in The Financial Times piece talk of passion for what they do and for the company and of choosing people around them as leaders who share the same passion and do not just focus on their own careers. Nahed Taher (ranked 24), CEO of Gulf One Investment Bank, hired 50 women before she left her previous job in Saudi Arabia’s National Commercial Bank.
While the two publications celebrate womens’ success and women as role models, highlighting progress made across the world, there is still work to do in relation to the barriers to women reaching Executive positions. In some European countries, there are now minimum percentages for women in government and on company boards, yet Italy and Germany still have few women in executive positions and the UK is still struggling to increase women’s representation at senior level.
O’Brien in The Financial Times piece notes that:
[…] women prefer to build careers in companies that […] foster broad diversity and support systems – formal or informal – that enable career advancement in parallel to the evolving demands of personal life.
This is not rocket science, except that women are now forging ahead in challenging traditionally male dominated cultures, e.g. in investment banking, Isabelle Ealet at Goldman Sachs, Heidi Miller at JP Morgan Chase, Wei Christianson at Morgan Stanley China and Margaret Leung at Hang Seng Bank (HSBC group).
There are many more talented and accomplished women in the so-called “marzipan layer” of organisations, just below senior management but only 3 per cent of CEOs in the Fortune 500625 are women. Women qualified to lead still do not “have the powerful backing necessary to inspire them, propel them and protect them through the perilous straits of upper management” (Hewlett, 2010). It is clear that while celebrating success of women in business, management and leadership, the two publications confirm the need to continue research and activism in understanding the motivations of women in the marzipan layer, in affecting change in organisational cultures and in politicizing the number of women executive representatives at the top of world organisations. Women in Management: An International Journal continues to do just that.
(The) Financial Times (2010), “Women at the top: the top 50 women in world business”, The Financial Times, November 17
Hewlett, S.A., Peraino, K., Sherbin, L. and Sumberg, K. (2010), The Sponsor Effect: Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling, Harvard Business Review Research Report, Center for Work-Life Policy, New York, NY
Prevett, H. and Haslett, E. (2011), “35 women under 35”, Management Today, July/August, pp. 31–41
Daniel, C. (2010), “Women at the top: afterword”, The “marzipan” Layer in Financial Times, “Women at the top: the top 50 women in world business”, November 17