February 9, 2014

BUSINESS NEWS: Students Express Concern Over Corporate Gender Gap

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Some undergraduate students have recently responded to reports that women are underrepresented in leadership roles in business, by saying workplace environments are not conducive to gender equality.

Though the participation of women in the labor force has been steady for over a decade, membership to the traditionally male-dominated power roles is rare, according to a report by the United Nations, titled The World’s Women 2010.

Gizem Sakalli ’15 echoed the sentiments.

“I don’t think women are underrepresented in the corporate world but they’re definitely underrepresented in leadership roles,” she said. “Some people argue that they’re underrepresented due to the pipeline issue that says that there aren’t enough qualified women who want to go into STEM fields and finance, as they don’t want to do that.” Aparna Pande ’14 said though many workplaces have a quota for their number of female employees, she does not believe these policies create an equal workplace environment. “Women have to prove themselves competent beyond [a] doubt.” Aparna Pande ’14

“Historically and statistically, it has been a significant challenge for women to be considered just as competent as men and to have their opinions heard,” she said. “Having a quota representation does very little to change that.”

Though many women are qualified for these leadership positions, prejudice in the corporate world prevents them from progressing through the ranks, according to Sakalli.

“A blind resume test proves that there are some women who are just as qualified on paper but they can’t move on due to the glass ceiling, as they are prejudiced against in the finance world,” she said. “I have heard women alumni narrate stories of situations where their opinion didn’t matter, which shows prejudice against women.”

Christine Yu ’14 said she believes that gender parity depends on the company policies and team setting. Though there are lots of positive and fair work environments, corporate world could use a lot of progress, she added.

“Progress in the corporate world is contingent upon progress in mainstream society when it comes to gender norms and fair treatment,” she said. “The present growth of inclusion initiatives and awareness of the many reasons to foster a gender inclusive environment is a good sign.”

Pande agreed, adding that younger companies are “more conducive environments” as more educated women are entering the corporate world to assume roles traditionally held by men.

“Even so, in most cases, simply expecting hard-working women to have the same opportunities as men to rise in the corporate world is unrealistic,” she said. “Women have to prove themselves competent beyond a doubt, and build strong personalities.”

Though gender parity in the corporate world might seem a long shot for the current generation, Sakalli said that she is optimistic about the future of women in the workforce, especially in the developed world.

“[The gender gap] might not change in our generation, but the future looks optimistic,” she said. “[However], in the global scene this issue might not be resolved just as quickly.”