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Bridging the Business Gender Gap


Shattered glass will look like the stars when it rains from the rafters.

By: Katie Smith

Photo courtesy of Shelbi Noble

Photo courtesy of Shelbi Noble

Last week, an all-male panel on Fox’s Lou Dobbs Tonight discussed the “danger” of women becoming the primary breadwinners in American households. According to the broadcast, four out of ten American women provided the most money in their households, and, should that number grow larger, it will “hurt our children” and have an impact for generations to come.

Now, will a shift from the male-dominant business environment to an environment consisting of more women have an impact elsewhere? Yes. But will it hurt our children and undermine society as we know it? Not at all.

According to a study by McMaster University professor Chris Bart, female board members make decisions differently than male members. While males tend to base decisions on what has worked in the past, women consider other possibilities and the implications these new solutions may have.

Contrary to the study, however, women who are still feeling the effects of gender discrimination in business, prefer discrimination to be in the form of pay inequalities or other forms of discrimination.

According to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, women are taught that ambition in females is a quality that is frowned upon, while young boys are praised for it. While Professor Bart’s study revealed that women have beneficial characteristics that would serve an executive board well, the article also hypothesizes that men resist the strengths of women in a business setting.

To achieve a truly gender-equal workplace, Sandberg urges women to speak up and assert themselves in the workplace. In an anecdote from Sandberg’s book, the author details an experience she had at a board meeting. The female members of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s staff chose to not sit at the table at a lunch meeting. Because of this, the women were unable to assert their opinions or speak up at all. To combat this feeling of being shut out in a workplace, Professor Bart encourages higher-ups to ask women to share their opinions.

While there is still a remarkable gap between genders in the business world (women still earn 23 per cent less than men in a study conducted in 2008), awareness and promising research is working to bridge the borders between the two.

Katie Smith is a rising third-year student at Boston University. She also writes for the Campus section of BU’s lifestyle magazine The Buzz and is interning at Seal Press in Berkeley, California.

Sources:

Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Human Rights Campaign

Fitzpatrick, Laura. Why Do Women Still Earn Less Than Men? Time

Mirkinson, Jack. All-Male Fox Panel Freaks Out About Female Breadwinners. Huffington Post

Norman, Jane. Renewed Calls for Company Targets to Get Women Into the Workforce. ABC

Toller, Carol. New Research Shows Women Execs Really Do Think Differently—That’s Why We Need More. Canadian Business

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