On March 8, it is time again to celebrate the international Women’s Day. Sure, better female equality has been achieved in the past few decades. But not enough!
During a lot of meetings during the years with students, researchers, male and female entrepreneurs or corporate officers, politicians and other professionals, I have got the clear impression that the female role in supervisory boards and boards of directors until now has been regarded as – by far – the most relevant gender equality issue. However, this view is definitely too narrow though very necessary.
Instead, there is another group of corporate and non-commercial organizations with insufficient female equality: competent women in middle management and below. These women still seem to be without strong and influential lobby – indeed a shame!
One major problem in this context is the statistical uncertainty about the total relative share of women being organized under the leading positions. Better statistical estimates are desirable. Some kind of idea, however, can be found in a publication by the World Bank by the name of https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.EMP.SMGT.FE.ZS (also for emerging countries). Here, the participation share of women in middle management is in most advanced countries around 30-40 percent, in the case of Sweden somewhat higher. The average seems to be located at around one third on country levels – not really satisfactory.
Altogether, the potential for improvement is still high. Analysts should be provided with much more statistics on gender equality on both broadening and deepening levels – and researchers should deal more with female encouragement and promotion on lower organization levels.
Theory and practical application from female gender research
No advanced exercises are necessary to give the “malign neglect” – as described above – an academic touch. Research on human capital formation tells us a lot about the benefits of applying education and improved competence – strongly underlined, for example, by Nobel Prize winners such as Robert Lucas and Paul Romer.
Massively improving female human capital formation also in middle female management and below could appeal to many women’s motivation and productivity – and in the longer run even to macroeconomic GDP growth if successfully spread. Furthermore, countries in particularly Europe could receive some demography-supporting input from the above-mentioned and strived gender-equality improvements.
However, theoretically possible broad proliferation of widened gender equality urges for strong practical support: from students, researchers, employers’ and employees’ organizations, male and female entrepreneurs or corporate strategists, politicians, media and last but not least from voters.
This shouldn’t be impossible in advanced countries, right?
However, also many emerging countries could work more on improved gender equality (also here with human capital mostly in the first place). If we look, for example, at the current convention of the National People’s Congress in Beijing (China’s “parliament”), the female participation rate is only about one fourth. Not really a model for the rest of the world!
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University