We have all heard of the glass ceiling that prevents women from reaching the top in their chosen profession. However, despite the problems that women face with being accepted in their field of work, women are breaking through and overcoming the cultural barriers that stand in their way.
Despite the many achievements of women, there are still misconceptions about what women are capable of achieving. Some still believe that women are less capable of making the tough decisions that are often required in the business world. Young girls may be achieving more academically, but it is still not uncommon for it to be assumed that a man will always be more capable and more skilled at a job. There is also, of course, the question of commitment. Whilst men are expected to be ruthless in their pursuit of a career, women are seen as more concerned with family life. Women of today do many of the jobs that were traditionally the preserve of men, but they are often not paid the same as the men.
Women have to do more than men to prove that they are good at their job. Surveys have revealed that when male executives speak up about issues, their competence ratings rise by 10%, but a female executive who does the same will see her competence rating fall by 14%. Male employees who offer ideas are rated more highly by their managers, but female employees who do the same will see no change in their rating.
These attitudes are not only bad for women but also for companies. Where women share the reins of power, companies do better. Startups led by women are more likely to succeed, and innovative firms that have a mix of men and women in their top management are more profitable.
However, women are making headway in what has always been considered a man’s world. Sheryl Sandberg was Facebook’s COO for four years, and during her time at the company, she shepherded it through its flotation on the stock market; she has now been elected to the social network’s board of directors. Virginia Rometty, who has worked for IBM for 30 years, became the first woman to lead the tech giant.
It is not just in Europe and North America that women are rising to the top. Across the world, in Asia, Africa, South America and other far-flung corners, women are running businesses and holding top positions in government.
Jennifer Douglas Abubakar has recently been called to the bar. Whilst this is an achievement in itself, it is just one of her many achievements. A former journalist and PhD student in America, Jennifer Douglas Abubakar is also the founder and president of the Gede Foundation, which works to help people who are living with HIV/AIDS. The organisation addresses the root causes of HIV/AIDS and offers help to those in areas where there are no clinical services.
In Asia, Kwon Seon-joo became the first female bank CEO, and Maggie Wu oversaw the privatisation of the Chinese company Alibaba, an international wholesale marketplace that dwarfs even Amazon.
It may take time, but women are rising to the top in business, and the old perceptions of women are fading away.