In homage to International Women’s Day last weekend the news this week tied in quite nicely. In the news this week it seems that only 4% of Dutch managers are female. According to The UK’s Chartered Management Institute a gendered pyramid is mirrored worldwide, with women holding positions as 60% of junior managers, 40% of middle managers, 20% at senior levels and single digits at CEO. The article published by Dutch News had a particular sentence in it that caught my attention “The government wants to ensure 30% of boardroom jobs are done by women by 2016 but the current figure is only around 16%.”
When I was at university I studied foundations of politics. One of my essay questions was along the lines of ‘Is there a ‘glass ceiling’ for women in the work place?’ I remember writing reems and reems about it at the time.
In many countries there are obvious limits to what work women are allowed to do. As much as I don’t agree with limits enforced upon women we cannot ignore that in parts of the world they exist especially in places such as Saudi Arabia. Although not technically against the law as such the Islamic establishment of Saudi Arabia prohibits women to get behind the wheel of a car! According to the Department for Transport in 2010, 80% of males and 66% of females had a licence in the UK. So clearly we cannot make sweeping accusations of womens’ positions in the work place across the world. However in westernised countries such as NL, UK and USA one would hope that we are more accepting and encouraging to women in the workplace. The idea of a glass ceiling comes from the idea that women are encouraged to be middle managers but struggle to get much higher. This is clear in the UK and as well in The Netherlands according to these reports.
Back to the matter in hand. The Dutch government was to ensure that 30% of boardroom jobs are done by women. How do they intend on doing that? It’s like saying for every man that goes into space there should be a woman there too. It wasn’t until 2014 that the International Space Station had two women on board for the first time in years. So its easy to say we would like more women in the boardroom but the key to this, in my opinion, is education, inspiration and encouragement. There was a story in our local news about a female RAF Medic who is now suffering from PTSD. There was some horrid comment on it questioning whether or not women should be on the front line, the issues here is the lack of support for those that are be they male or female. You can’t say that women should make up this or that women should want to! We have got to a stage now where we are used to particular things. I think women need empowering, they need supporting and they need to be reminded that women can. I have been brought up as a successful and independent woman, I am surrounded by successful and strong women but I would say that I am one of very few. What female role models do we have? Even in cartoons there aren’t female role models and those that there are are sexed up e.g. Cat Woman, Wonder Woman etc. Successful women in TV and movies are portrayed as evil and cruel. There’s now wonder women are put under pressure. When do nice women succeed?
In my ‘normal’ life I work in Politics. I have been subject to strange looks and once I was given someones coffee order in a meeting I was charing because they ‘didn’t realise I was the boss’! It happens, gender discrimination is there and women, in my opinion, are subjected to it more than men when it comes to the boardroom. Only 20% of legislators are women. Only 9% of negotiators at peace tables are women. This isn’t good enough but we cannot change this without empowering young women and making it easier for them to achieve.
We could argue that discrimination is harder for women because they have to take time out to have children. Career progression is made easier for men than for women and thats not very fair. Men can’t cary children so their career isn’t interrupted by a pregnancy for a start off. But thats a separate issue! You could argue that male nurses and caring staff suffer the same problem too. For the record I don’t think thats fair either!
So is there a glass ceiling for women? Yes. I believe there is.
Is there any sign of us breaking through? Yes. Slowly but surely we are pushing through but its taken years to get this far and we’ve a hell of a long way to get on a level pegging.
Should women make up 30% of the boardroom? Why the hell not?! 50% should make it up, but also 50% of politicians should be women and I think that parliament should represent the demographics of the country too but nobody is pushing for that change in the UK or in The Netherlands. Seven out of 10 candidates for next month’s Dutch Provincial Elections are men, whereas in the UK there are currently 502 male MP’s and 148 female MPs (expected to change in the May 2015 Election) Thats 70% male dominance in Dutch elections compared to and 80% male dominance in UK elections.
So the struggle is real, the effects can be devastating but we must power on, we must aim to achieve and we must never take no for an answer, be you male or female, be you young or old. If not us, who? If not now, when?
Women should be encouraged.Women should be empowered. Women should be whoever the hell they want to be and do whatever the hell they choose.