Recent research from the Institute for Women and Work, part of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, revealed that while women are increasingly rising to middle-management positions, a glass ceiling still exists and restricts women access to executive offices.
Along with the Women’s Executive Circle of New York, the Institute for Women and Work recorded the number of women at the top of the 100 largest publicly-held corporations in New York.
According to the report “2007 New York Census: The State of Women Business Leaders in New York State,” women hold 15.6 percent of the 1,129 board seats and 11.9 percent of the 354 executive offices in the 100 largest public companies in New York.
Dr. Francine Moccio, director of the Institute for Women and Work, said she sees the improvements that women have made in the workforce; however, Moccio also said she understands that the exclusion of women from leadership positions is still a serious problem facing society.
“Women have made increases in middle management but not in executive jobs like CEOs or CFOs,” Moccio said. “Although we have come a long way, there is still a tremendous glass ceiling for women in work. We still have a long way to go.”
Although women comprise half of the population, Moccio pointed out the inequality in corporations in which the percentage of female executives is far less that half.
“Women represent half of the population, half of the employees, half of the consumers and half of the voters,” Moccio said. “Women bring a different perspective with usually a greater emphasis on such issues as childcare, family life and corporate social responsibility.”
As America grapples with issues of gender, race and diversity, Moccio sees now a fitting time to report this research.
“This is a good time to put this issue of women leadership in business on the table,” Moccio said. “With a woman and an African American running for president, this clearly shows the importance of having diversity in leadership positions.”
Not only does Moccio believe that diversity in executive offices is a positive externality of social equality, she also sees it as a profitable business strategy.
“When diversity is increased, there is an increase of different points of view,” she said. “We see that these companies are missing perspectives of women. Women socialize in a different way. Not in a better or worse way, but a different way. Companies need to take into account these differences and embrace them because they will be beneficial to the organization’s overall success.”
Prof. Jack Goncalo, organizational behavior, agrees with Moccio that diversity in is important but notes that conflicts may result.
“By bringing a diverse group of people together, with a broader range of knowledge, expertise and perspectives, an organization has the potential to improve their performance in addressing complex problems,” Goncalo said. “However, diversity can also simultaneously increase conflict and lower cohesion if not properly supervised.”
The Institute for Women and Work plans to do a similar report that will look into the number women in leadership positions in other lines of work.
”In the future, we will be taking a closer look at the leadership of women in unions as well as public policy and the political arena,” Moccio said.
On Cornell’s campus, female organizations act as networks and encouragement groups to help prepare women for leadership roles in the future. Meredith Nethery ’09, co-president of the Society for Women in Business, hopes to help women gain a sense of leadership on campus that will translate to success in business.
“The Society for Women in Business works to increase networking abilities for women interested in business and open more doors for women entering in the workforce,” Nethery said. “In addition, we do not simply focus on one are of business, whether it be finance or accounting. Instead, our organization shows women the different career paths that they can choose.
Not only does Nethery believe that partaking in organizations is important in improving one’s leadership skills, but she also encourages women to partake in organizations outside their comfort zone.
“It is important for women in college to take leadership roles on campus in clubs outside of their comfort zone because that will translate to more leadership in the workforce,” Nethery said. “While sororities are important organizations and I am involved in one, women must seek out other leadership roles on campus that go outside their comfort zone and partake in organizations they would not normally. This is a great step improving one’s leader skills.”
When looking at the leadership opportunities for women on Cornell’s campus, Nethery says she has high hopes for the future of women in the work force.
“There are definitely more opportunities now for women to take on larger leadership roles on campus and I think that will definitely show in the difference of leadership opportunities for women in the workforce,” she said.