Misogyny in Politics: Women in Politics Face Violence and Abuse

Whether women are elected to local, state, or national office or are appointed to visible senior roles in federal government, they face more threats and attacks, sometimes physical, than ever before. Adeel Hassan of the New York Times reports that 79 percent of mayors in the United States “report being the victim of harassment, threats or other psychological abuse, according to a recent study” published in the academic journal State and Local Government Review. Hassan goes on to note that in a statistical analysis of the study data, gender stood out as a predictor of whether a mayor would be a target:

  • Female mayors were more than twice as likely as their male counterparts to experience psychological abuse, such as online threats.
  • Female mayors were almost three times as likely to experience physical violence.

Hassan notes that while many mayors now accept that verbal and physical abuse are part of public life, it doesn’t keep people from running for office, “but it burns people out once they’re in it.”

In the United Kingdom, women running for office report a significant increase in death threats, abuse on social media, and threatening graffiti. A study, reported by Megan Specia of the New York Times and conducted during the most recent election, “showed that female lawmakers received disproportionately more abuse on social media, with women of color receiving an even larger share.” In 2016, Jo Cox, a Labour lawmaker, was shot and killed by a man shouting “Britain first” and “Death to traitors” as she campaigned for Britain to remain in the European Union. While women are still running for office in the United Kingdom, they are more cautious about how they campaign since the death of Jo Cox.

Julian Borger, writing for the Guardian, reported that Dr. Fiona Hill, the senior director for Europe and Russia in the National Security Council in the US government, said she has been subjected to a campaign of harassment and intimidation, which reached a new peak after she agreed to testify in congressional impeachment hearings. Since those hearings, the harassment has continued and intensified.

Misogyny, or the hatred of women, is deeply embedded in white Western cultures and is a big factor in why women are not equitably represented in senior leadership roles. Women of color are subjected to a double dose of discouragement and intimidation as they deal with both sexism and racism when they seek leadership roles. Lisa Lerer and Jennifer Medina of the New York Times note that in her candidacy for president of the United States, Kamala Harris could neither get support from the Democratic Party nor raise the funds she needed to continue her campaign because as a black women she was deemed “unelectable” in majority-white areas.

What will it take for the talents of women of all races to be valued and for the harassment and threats to stop? Let us hear from you about what you think could bring positive change.

 

Photo by Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash

 

Six Ways Female Start-Up Founders Succeed: New Research

Encouraging new research from Lakshmi Balachandra, assistant professor in entrepreneurship at Babson College near Boston, reported by Janelle Nanos of the Boston Globe, identifies six tips from successful female entrepreneurs. Balachandra notes that after publishing several research reports on how little venture funding women raised between 2012 and 2014—only 183 women’s start-ups out of 6,517 companies received venture funding in that period—she decided to study successful women entrepreneurs. These women were successful despite

  • Not being taken seriously by the business community
  • Having their leadership abilities questioned
  • If they are mothers, being written off by potential funders who assumed they would be too busy with family concerns to succeed
  • Facing skepticism about their age as young women while young men are given the benefit of the doubt
  • Assumptions by investors that women are pursuing a business as a hobby
  • Questions about their business’s viability even when earning millions in revenue if the business is run by a woman
  • Feeling unwelcome at CEO networking events because too few or no other women are there

Nanos writes that Balachandra’s research on successful entrepreneurs, published in October 2019, included thirty successful female entrepreneurs whose business earned at least $5 million annually (with an average of $43 million a year). Balachandra reports the following sources of success for her sample:

  • Look beyond venture capital—The barriers for women seeking funding in the venture capital world remain high. For this reason, many successful female entrepreneurs seek other sources or provide their own capital from savings to maintain control of their companies. Consequently, their growth may be slower, but this can also be an advantage.
  • Take it slow—Many of the successful businesswomen in Balachandra’s study intentionally grew their companies at their own pace and did not let anyone else dictate their timetable. They reported feeling that this slower approach allowed them to establish a secure foundation for their businesses.
  • Invest in your employees—The research participants reported that building a supportive environment for their workforce as a long-term investment pays off.
  • Lift others up—Supporting other woman-owned businesses by either buying from or funding them shores up opportunities for others.
  • Create your own networks—Balachandra’s research participants acknowledged the importance of both networking with men and building their own women-centered networks. They also seek out and offer mentoring.
  • Make it personal—Women control half the total wealth in the United States and are informed consumers. Trust your own personal experiences as a consumer to inform your business.

This truly is encouraging research.

 

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New Research on Women in Politics from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation

The Barbara Lee Family Foundation, formed twenty years ago by Barbara Lee to advance women’s equality in politics, is nonpartisan and research based. Lee, described by Stephanie Ebbert of the Boston Globe as “the Paul Revere of women,” has a foundation that has studied the political campaigns of every female candidate for governor—both Democrat and Republican—for the past twenty years, provided real-time polling data to the candidates, and championed women’s candidacies, such as that of now–US Representative Ayanna Pressley in Boston. The new research report from the Lee Family Foundation explains that this most recent study focuses on governorships because previous research showed that executive offices are hardest for women to attain: voters have long been more comfortable electing women to legislatures than to offices where they can make unilateral decisions.

The new research from the Lee Family Foundation has good news and bad news. The study found that most Americans recognize that women face double standards when running for office. That’s the good news. The bad news is that many people with this awareness still apply double standards to women anyway. The new research is based on twelve focus groups and a phone survey of 2,500 likely voters, which is a substantial study. The researchers asked voters to evaluate hypothetical women running for governor against white men. The study found that

  • Voters do not demand the same qualities in male and female candidates. Men are assumed to be qualified while women are not.
  • Women are further penalized if they are deemed “unlikable.” The likability expectation is applied disproportionately to women.

When researchers looked closely at the intersections between gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, they found that

  • Black women and lesbians face many more challenges than white women.
  • White voters in particular do not like it when black, Latina, and Asian American candidates mention their race or ethnicity. These white voters say things like, “Introducing yourself by a particular ethnicity perpetuates the problem.”
  • Candidates from different demographics had to use different strategies to prove they were qualified. For example, being “a business owner who creates jobs and balanced budgets” made Asian American women seem likable to most voters but did not help Latinas as much. “Working across the aisle” was a key likability trait for Latina and lesbian candidates from both parties but did not benefit straight white Republicans.

It’s time for all of us to stop applying double standards to women when they are running for office. We need to keep a critical awareness about our own judgments and reactions to women candidates and ask ourselves if we are holding women to a different standard than we do for men. If we stop and reflect on this possibility, we can catch ourselves being unfair and break out of these patterns. Let’s do this!

 

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Global Update on Gender Issues: Signs of Change

Women in different parts of the world have both similar and different experiences. Here are some updates from South Korea, Nigeria, Spain, France, and Saudi Arabia on workplace barriers, the #MeToo movement, and domestic violence.

South Korean Entrepreneurs

Women in South Korea, frustrated by a lack of opportunity in male-dominated corporations, are starting their own businesses at a record pace. Michael Schuman, writing for the New York Times, cites Park Hee-eun, principal at Altos Ventures, as saying, “In education we are equal to men, but after we enter into the traditional companies, they underestimate and undervalue women.” Schuman adds that only 10 percent of managers in South Korean companies are women and, in a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the pay gap between men and women is the widest among countries studied.

Schuman reports that women in South Korea are taking matters into their own hands. A Mastercard report on fifty-seven global economies found that South Korea shows the most progress in advancing women entrepreneurs and that more women than men are engaged in start-ups. Despite slow changes in societal attitudes about gender roles, difficulties in being taken seriously by male bankers, investors, executives, and employees, and constant discrimination and sexual harassment, more than 12 percent of working-age women in South Korea in 2018 were involved in starting or managing new companies. Go, women of South Korea!

Nigeria and the #MeToo Movement

Julie Turkewitz of the New York Times reports that the #MeToo movement came to Nigeria in February 2019, when a young pharmacist in the north took to Twitter to describe a sexual assault by her boyfriend. “Stories of abuse soon flew around the internet, many of them tagged ‘#ArewaMeToo,'” or #MeToo in the north. A few months later, after years of silence, Busola Dakolo came forward to accuse her pastor, a famous and powerful religious leader, of raping her when she was a teenager. Many more women came forward to accuse this same pastor, government officials, other church leaders, and university professors of abusing their power to solicit sex or commit sexual assault.

As in Europe and the United States, the backlash has been strong against the #MeToo women of Nigeria, who receive death threats and threats of criminal charges. Breaking their silence is particularly hard for Nigerian women, who fear shaming their families, scaring off potential husbands, and taking on the region’s most powerful men. These women are courageous, as are all women who speak out about sexual assault.

Spain and France on Domestic Violence

On Monday, November 25, 2019, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which was established twenty years ago by the United Nations, Spain and France moved in opposite directions on protections for women. Violence against women remains a serious problem in both countries:

On November 25, 2019, in France, the prime minister unveiled comprehensive new measures to combat domestic violence. While criticized for underfunding these initiatives, the government at least recognizes the seriousness of the situation. In Spain, however, the secretary general of the recently elected far-right Vox party took the opportunity to reaffirm his party’s intention to repeal a fifteen-year-old law intended to stop violence against women. Instead, the secretary general of Vox gave a speech about men who have been killed by women, as well as women who have suffered “violence from their lesbian partners.” This is a sad state of affairs.

Saudi Arabia and Women’s Rights

Mixed messages are coming from the leaders of Saudi Arabia about whether women actually have more rights. Megan Specia writes that the notoriously repressive country has long enforced an interpretation of Islam that restricts every aspect of life for women. While Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Mohammed bin Salman, took steps in 2017 to lift some restrictions for women, including allowing them to drive, the government also recently released a video that listed feminism, homosexuality, and atheism among ideologies that are considered to be “extremism.” While the video was taken down and declared by bin Salman to be a “mistake,” Saudi Arabia’s top women’s rights activists are still imprisoned, tortured, and subjected to physical and sexual violence. Definitely a mixed message.

We need to stay awake to all the progress and regression taking place globally so we can be ready to support each other.

 

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Forgotten Women in History

I find it inspirational to read about women in history who I have never heard of but who have accomplished amazing things. Thanks to attempts in recent years by the New York Times to make amends for not acknowledging these women at the time of their deaths, their belated obituaries are now published from time to time. Here are a few of these women:

Elizabeth A. Gloucester (1817–1883)

Steve Bell writes that “Elizabeth A. Gloucester was considered by many to be the richest black woman in America at her death at age 66 on Aug. 9, 1883.” Gloucester built her fortune, the equivalent of about $7 million in today’s dollars, from owning and operating fifteen or more boarding houses in the New York area, including the elegant Remsen House in Brooklyn Heights, which she purchased for $3 million in today’s dollars.

Gloucester and her husband contributed financially to antislavery activist John Brown, who stayed with them whenever he was in New York. Gloucester also led efforts to raise money for New York’s Colored Orphan Asylum.

Dorothy Olsen (1916–2019)

Dorothy Olsen, born in 1916 on a farm in Oregon, dreamed of flying from an early age after reading a biography of the World War I flying ace Baron Manfred von Richthofen. Sam Roberts writes that Olsen saved money from teaching to pay for flying lessons. When World War II broke out, she was one of 1,074 women to complete army air force training and join the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), the first women to fly military aircraft for the United States. Roberts notes that the WASPs collectively flew an estimated 60 million miles, and Olsen herself flew sixty-one missions. She was also one of only a dozen women certified for night flying.

Always considered civil service employees and not military personnel, the WASPs had to pay for their own food and lodging. Olsen recalled, “When the war was over I was fired, just like that.” The WASPs were finally recognized as veterans, eligible for benefits, in 1977.

Claude Cahun (1894–1954)

Lucy Schwob, born in 1894 in France, decided she would rather be called Claude Cahun in a protest of gender and sexual norms in early twentieth-century France. Joseph B. Treaster writes that Cahun devoted her life as a writer and photographer to the “exploration of gender and sexual identity.” Cahun lived before our current understanding of gender identity and gender-neutral pronouns. Cahun would most likely have preferred “they/them/theirs” as pronouns and explained that “neuter is the only gender that always suits me.”

Cahun and her lover, Marcel Moore, engaged in small acts of sabotage against the Nazi occupation of France. They were caught and sentenced to death but were freed when the war ended.

Elizabeth Keckly (1818–1907)

Nancy Wartik tells the amazing story of Elizabeth Keckly, who was born enslaved in 1818, bought her freedom, and eventually became the friend and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln during her years in the White House. Keckly survived years of savage beatings and rapes during her enslavement before starting her own business as a seamstress. She was able to buy freedom for herself and her son from her owners for the sum of $1,200 in 1855. A talented seamstress, she moved to Washington, DC, and was in high demand. Mary Lincoln hired her to make the gown she wore to her husband’s inauguration festivities. Keckly soon became a friend and confidante to Mary Lincoln.

After President Lincoln’s assassination, Keckly wrote a memoir of her life called, Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House. Keckly became one of the first African American women to publish a book. Her sympathetic but honest portrayal of the Lincolns’ domestic life angered Mary Lincoln, who severed their relationship, but the book remains one of the most important slave narratives and accounts of daily life in the Lincoln White House.

Deborah Sampson (ca. 1760–1827)

The true story of Deborah Sampson, summarized by Alison Leigh Cowan, is a little known tale of “a woman who stitched herself a uniform, posed as a man and served at least 17 months in an elite unit of the Continental Army.” Details of Sampson’s military service recently came to light with the discovery of a long-forgotten diary recorded more than two hundred years ago by a Massachusetts neighbor of Sampson.

Enlisting in May 1782, Sampson is one of few women to take on a combat role during the American Revolution. Her secret went undetected until she fell ill in Philadelphia and was found out by a doctor in 1783. Dressing as a man was illegal in Massachusetts, and she fought for years to get back pay for her service. Paul Revere and John Hancock both took up her cause and helped her get partial payment after the war.

Isn’t it great to know about these women? I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I did.

 

Photos are in the public domain and are courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

The Imposter Phenomena: Part II

Researchers and the general public alike are rekindling their interest in an old topic—the Imposter Phenomenon (IP). I first wrote about IP in 2018. As a result of that article, I have been invited to speak on this topic several times. The reactions and questions from my audiences, along with the publication in 2019 of some new research, inspired me to revisit this topic for my current readers and share new information on the differential impact of IP for women of color and the implications for mentors and coaches supporting the development of people dealing with IP.

My recent audiences have most often been women leaders in technology and healthcare industries. They are hungry to learn about this topic and anxious to tell their own stories. By way of review, here is some background information on IP: Psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes coined the term imposter syndrome in 1978 to describe an “internal experience of intellectual phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” The imposter phenomenon is not uncommon, but most people do not talk about these feelings and think they are the only ones having them. IP can cause people to hold back, hesitate, or fail to contribute their valuable ideas and skills. They may appear to lack confidence. When they have an opportunity to put a name to this experience and discover they are not alone, people often feel liberated and empowered.

While not uncommon, not everyone experiences IP, and symptoms can be transient and may range from mild to severe in those who do experience it. Clance and Imes’s research also shows that more women than men experience IP. While men can share these same fears, the experience tends to be less frequent and less severe—and I have known men who had intense and severe bouts of IP.

Lincoln Hill writes that the original research by Clance and Imes was based upon a homogeneous sample of white, educated, middle- and upper-class women and did not take into account the intersectional experience of women of color. Hill notes that Kimberlé Crenshaw first used the term intersectionality to describe ways “racism and sexism interlock to form a nuanced and exacerbated form of oppression.” In the case of IP, black women and other women of color who experience IP are often hit harder by it than their white counterparts. IP for women of color may be triggered and exacerbated by

  • Feeling that they don’t belong when they look around and do not see others like themselves
  • Being subjected to gendered racial stereotypes such as “angry Black women” or “emotional Latinas”
  • Experiencing gendered racial microaggressions on the job or in school ranging from microassaults (name-calling) and microinsults (insensitive comments) to microinvalidation (dismissing their stories and complaints about their experiences as women of color)

Hill cautions us to be aware that for women of color, “racism is gendered and sexism is racialized.” In other words, we must be aware that for women of color, IP can be increased by the interplay of dynamics of race and gender within our society, which is founded on racial hierarchies and the masculine ideal.

Supervisors should note that employees dealing with IP may require somewhat different strategies to support their development. Those people who experience a fear of failure as part of their IP will go to great lengths to avoid criticism. They may feel that anything less than perfection in their performance is equivalent to failure and proof of their lack of worth. Valerie Young writes in her book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women that “in the imposter world there is no such thing as constructive criticism—there is only condemnation.” Consequently, supervisors, when they must give constructive criticism, should be specific about what needs to change and give extra assurance that they know the employee can make the change needed.

New research reported by W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith in the Harvard Business Review, entitled “Mentoring Someone with Imposter Syndrome,” offers helpful strategies for mentorship:

  • Make their feelings seem normal—Assure your mentees that they are in good company, as many people deal with IP.
  • Stop negative self-talk—Use available data, stay concrete, and create dissonance between evidence and your mentees’ self-critical statements.
  • Encourage and affirm—Look for opportunities to give copious doses of affirmation and encouragement. Review your mentees’ progress and milestone achievements.
  • Fight stereotypes—Remind your mentees that context matters and that race and gender can set people up to feel marginalized and like imposters.
  • Share your own imposter stories—If you have your own stories, share them. It will help normalize the experience.
  • Don’t let your mentees give you credit for their achievements—Highlight your mentees’ own achievements and show them how they got there.

These strategies work. As an executive coach, I have worked with many clients struggling with IP. They have been able to gain mastery and reduce their anxiety—and realize their potential. What has worked for you?

 

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Female Leaders Make a Difference: Putting Women in Space

Two women, Jessica Meir and Christina Koch, recently made spacewalk history when they completed the first all-woman spacewalk for the International Space Station. This breakthrough was possible thanks to the efforts of Janet Kavandi, a recently retired NASA leader. Jillian Kramer, writing for the New York Times, notes that after three missions in space, Kavandi moved into NASA administration and became a role model for women in leadership roles at NASA. Kramer explains that Kavandi is “credited with adding fairness to a process that for the first time chose an astronaut class that included as many women as men.”

In 2013, Kavandi was appointed director of flight crew operations. As chair of the astronaut selection committee, she chose diverse committee members who had demonstrated open-mindedness. She implored them to make fair and diverse choices. While she did not specifically tell them to pick as many women as men, that is exactly what they did. Out of 6,300 applicants, they chose four women and four men, “the first astronaut class balanced by gender.” One of the four women chosen was Christina Koch, part of the recent historic spacewalk described above. This instance was also likely the first time a senior woman leader was in charge of the selection process, and Kavandi clearly made a difference.

Not surprisingly, few women hold senior leadership roles at NASA. Kramer cites Lori Garver, NASA’s former deputy administrator, as stating that less than 15 percent of the agency’s top roles are filled by women. Garver notes that “when there is such an imbalance at the top, the culture tends to favor men, and women often struggle to be heard or have their views taken seriously.” Women are also often passed over for promotions when top levels still have a gender imbalance. For example, last year, the current NASA administrator recommended that Kavandi be promoted to the number two position, deputy administrator, at NASA, but President Trump instead appointed a man with no previous space technology experience. A short time later, Kavandi announced her retirement and took a position at a space technology company. (Wouldn’t you do the same?) Nonetheless, her legacy will continue as one of the four women in the gender-balanced astronaut class chosen by her hiring committee will likely be the first woman to walk on the moon when the next moon walk occurs.

Women have faced great difficulty in being allowed to become astronauts. Jessica Bennett and Mary Robinette Kowal, writing for the New York Times, note that of the 560 people who have been in space over the past five decades from all countries, only 56 have been women. Many myths and distortions abounded to justify why women could not be astronauts. For example, Bennett and Kowal cite a report from the 1960s “that raised concerns about putting ‘a temperamental psychophysiologic human’ (read: a hormonal woman) together with a ‘complicated machine’ (the spacecraft).” In fact, studies now show that

  • women are actually better suited than men for space travel. They are smaller and lighter on average and consume fewer resources.
  • women astronauts handle stress better than men do.
  • women, when they have spacesuits designed for them rather than ones designed by and for men, perform as well as men in space.

It does make a difference when women are in senior leadership positions in organizations. We need more of them.

 

Photo by Nicolagypsicola on Unsplash

Advancing Women: Best Practices Roadmap

Many best practices exist for creating organizations where women can advance. The ones listed below, from a variety of sources, are current, innovative, and comprehensive ideas that can act as a roadmap for what works:

  1. Implement sponsorship program—Enhance the quality of and access to sponsorship. Hold senior leaders accountable for achieving measurable targets for increasing the visibility and opportunities for advancement for white women and women and men of color.
  2. Eliminate bias in hiring, performance reviews, and promotions—Use gender-balanced panels and third-party review of performance feedback to screen for possible bias.
  3. Have a flexible life-work infrastructure—Provide and support the use of flexibility to balance work and family. Organizations often have flexible work policies but then discourage their use.
  4. Create accountability and share failure—Build accountability by setting targets and measurements. Hold leaders accountable through a reward system. Address implementation failure and policies that are in place but fail in their execution. Acknowledge and reward trial and error—one size does not fit all.
  5. Develop men as allies—Educate men on gender dynamics, double binds for women, and unconscious bias.
  6. Create immersion experiences for men—Challenge men to experience interruptions during team meetings, pay gaps, and other forms of gender discrimination to humanize the experience for them of the gender dynamics women often deal with.
  7. Listen to the needs of both women and men—Women and men often want similar workplace policies and practices that support family life but are reluctant to ask for them.
  8. Reduce the “only” dynamic—Increase the representation of women and people of color so no one is the only —— at the office.
  9. Diversify networking practices—Networking is different for women. Women need to build small, intentional, and diverse networks of other women, as well as a broad network that includes men. Men need only the broad network.
  10. Create an anti-harassment culture—Offer multiple avenues for reporting sexual harassment, ensure that no one will experience retribution for reporting harassment, and institute appropriate responses to findings of sexual harassment, including counseling for less severe offenses and firing for severe ones.

These best practice ideas are adapted from the following sources:

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

Ten Things We Know about Gender Dynamics in Organizations

I recently had the opportunity to make a presentation to a group of senior women leaders and was reminded of the value of sitting together to review what we know about gender dynamics in organizations that create headwinds for women trying to succeed. Each of the items listed below is important in its own right, but looking at them together had a powerful impact on the women in my session, who said things like “It’s good to be reminded that it’s not just me having these experiences, and I’m not crazy.” Of course, more than then gender dynamics that we know about through scholarly research on this topic exist, but these ten stand out to me. I offer them here, along with links to their sources, for the reflection of my readers:

  1. Society still holds strong cultural biases against women as leaders.
  2. Women get interrupted more than men.
  3. Women are more frequently evaluated on personal characteristics (e.g., how often they smile or are abrasive): 76 percent of women get this kind of feedback compared to 2 percent of men.
  4. Women get evaluated higher on seventeen out of nineteen leadership characteristics than men.
  5. Women face double bind challenges and walk a tightrope, such as the likeability trap, where being assertive and decisive is not likeable.
  6. Executive women who talk more than their peers are rated less competent than executive men who talk more.
  7. If a woman challenges a man’s inappropriate behavior, she is seen as a “b——.”
  8. The only —— in the office (whether regarding gender, race, or both) faces more challenges to prove him- or herself and feel heard.
  9. Women who adopt a masculine style are considered “b——es.”
  10. Masculine workplace norms discourage relationship work as a “waste of time” and value task focus and autonomy.

We can change how women are treated at work, but only when we are aware of the systemic problems. Talking about these points and more with other women is the first step.

 

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Where Are the Senior Women in the Financial Sector?

The statistics on the representation of white women and women of color in the financial sector, at both management and senior levels, are grim.

Closing the Gap,” a study conducted by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company, looked at thirty-nine financial services companies, which employ 1.2 million people:

  • In North America, women account for fewer than one in five positions, or 19 percent, in the C-suite.
  • Women are 24 percent less likely to attain their first promotion than their male peers, even though they request promotions at the same rate.
  • Women of color are 34 percent less likely to make their first promotion than men in financial services. They face compounded bias due to both their race and gender.
  • Despite the value placed on sponsorship, senior-level women (34 percent) are still less likely than their male peers (44 percent) to receive substantial support from senior management, even though they ask for it at the same rate.
  • Nearly half of senior-level women say they continue to shoulder most household responsibilities while just 13 percent of their male peers say the same. Senior-level women are much more likely to believe that participating in flexibility programs will undermine their ability to succeed at work.

This report notes that “a limited number of female role models in leadership positions may limit women’s motivation to make it to the top.” According to Deanna Strable, executive vice president  and CFO at Principal, “Young women don’t see role models or potential paths towards executive level leadership.”

The research study “Women in Financial Services: Quick Take,” conducted by Catalyst, highlights alarming trends:

  • Between 2007 and 2015, women’s representation in the financial services industry remained unchanged for management at about 48 percent and the executive level at about 29 percent.
  • For women of color, representation between 2007 and 2015 increased slightly at the executive level from 4.1 percent to 4.4 percent.
  • Median weekly earnings in 2018 for financial managers was $1,262 for women, and $1784 for men.

A recent article written by Jack Ewing of the New York Times reports that Christine Lagarde just became the first female president of the European Central Bank. Women are visibly underrepresented at central banks and the US Federal Reserve. Ewing notes that less than one-third of the economists at the Federal Reserve are women.

In a New York Times article, Jeanna Smialek writes that representations is important because “women focus on different issues and have different economic priors than men.” Janet Yellen, the former first female chair of the Federal Reserve, explains that “beyond fairness, the lack of diversity harms the field because it wastes talent . . . and skews the field’s viewpoint and diminishes its breadth.”

Of the big banks in the United States, none have a woman at their helm. Emily Flitter of the New York Times reports that when the leaders of the seven largest US banks recently testified before the House Financial Services Committee, “not one raised his hand in response to a question about whose bank might have a woman as its next chief executive.” Shortly after that hearing, Citigroup became the first giant United States bank to put a woman in line to become chief executive. Jane Fraser will one day be the president of Citigroup, if she decides to wait for the retirement of the current, leader who is not planning to retire for a long time.

Overall, little change has happened in the representation of women in the financial sector, especially in the senior ranks. Smialek cites cultural barriers and biases that are currently embedded in the cultures of banks and other financial services organizations as the cause of this underrepresentation. Thanks to senior women like Janet Yellen and Christine Lagarde, new pressures are now on those institutions to change.

 

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