Gender imbalances in business: Time for a new way of thinking

Gender imbalances can be seen throughout various careers and industries and don’t just apply to female workers. Certain roles are considered more male or female orientated; whether it’s in the boardroom or the classroom.

Nowadays the world of business is considered a diverse environment, however according to figures from the S&P 500 companies women hold just 4.6% of CEO positions. So why is the CEO position considered a masculine role, and how do we go about changing our perceptions and gender imbalances?

gender imbalancesAfter all, gender diversity works! Companies with a high representation of women in the boardroom significantly outperform those with no female directors.

Of course, business isn’t the only sector with gender imbalance.

Teaching is a career path that is heavily dominated by women. Teaching has become a desirable career option in terms of salary as this infographic shows, however, a man working as a primary school teacher is still viewed as strange by some.

Jim Vensen, a recently hired primary school teacher based in Lancashire, spoke about his experience of working in education:

“There are two male teachers in our very small village school, which I think is a lot considering our size. Primary schools are usually much more female-dominated environments, but I actually think dominated is the wrong word and there is a reason for it.

“Parents of younger children feel more comfortable with a female teaching their kids until they reach secondary school, that might be because they feel their children need that maternal touch still and then are thrown in almost at the deep end when they start secondary education.

“I noticed a few parents look a little uncertain when they saw me greet their four-year-olds back in September, I am six foot three and a pretty big guy with a beard, but they have warmed to me since.”

So what can we do to solve the problem of gender imbalance, which as the examples above show, affects both men and women? It’s a problem that organisations like Close the Gap are working tirelessly to try and solve.

They have put together a toolkit entitled “Think Business, Think Equality”. Designed specifically for business owners and senior managers, it asks a series of questions before offering accompanying guidance and comments, including whether or not your workforce has enough women in senior positions.

Guidance is a start, but some are asking for things to be taken one step further. There are calls for a law, which is essentially the gender equivalent of the NFL’s “Rooney Rule”, to be implemented. This would mean that for every senior position advertised, at least one female applicant must be interviewed.

ACAS has also talked about the benefits of a diverse workplace and how businesses can start to change their way of thinking…

“There’s a clear competitive advantage to be gained from employing a diverse workforce. An organisation with a diverse range of employees is well placed to understand the needs of a wide range of customers, and can interact with a broad client base.”

“The best starting point for any organisation is to develop a good equality and diversity policy, backed up by a concrete plan of action.”

Of course, things aren’t going to change overnight, but admitting there is a problem is the first step, and actively taking steps to resolve the problems is infinitely more useful than doing nothing.

Who knows how long it will be before men and women can take on a role without any kind of stigma attached. Stereotypes have a nasty habit of hanging around, but as long as we keep challenging these ideas, it’s only a matter of time before gender imbalances are a thing of the past.

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