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Most women with a quest to rise through the corporate world ladder face many challenges despite the great expectation that people have for them. Women can make great contributions in corporate governance and some have recorded marked achievements in their careers. Unlike their male peers though, the numbers of women in the senior positions in corporations remain small. This paper will look into the expectations that society has for women in quest for corporate positions; the challenges that they face before and during their career and the achievements that they can make. The study will involve comparison in terms of the requirements for recruitment, the behavior at work and the relationship between expectations and perceptions and the actual work performance. This paper will also seek to establish which perceptions are true and which ones are not about women who are aspiring and those who are already in corporate leadership. Solutions to the above problems will be sourced from different texts for purposes of comparison and broadened perspective.
In the past there has been a conspicuous absence of women in senior corporate positions. However, this trend has been gradually changing, with the number women holding senior positions in the corporate circles are on the rise. Their rise in corporate management can be attributed to the fact that some of the challenges and expectations were purely stereotypic and are being demystified. Findings indicate that can make substantial achievements in the corporate leadership. The collapse of large companies such as Enron has motivated corporate institutions reconsider gender composition in senior corporate positions, with the belief that gender diversity in the boardroom affects governance in meaningful ways. Gender diversity is viewed as a catalyst to effective management and a mechanism to mitigate risky occurrences such as collapse of corporations and poor corporate profitability.
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The comparison of corporate performance between male and female executives reveals new findings that are useful to corporate management, some of which contrast popular perception. The challenges that corporate women face as they rise through the corporate ladder are diverse. The interrupted nature of woman's career such as having to take a break to raise children greatly lowers their chances of acquiring new job skills, management and work experience needed necessary for one to rise in corporate circles. Nevertheless the expectations placed on women in order for them to move up the corporate ladder are enormous. According to Singh, Terjesen and Vinnicombe (2008), findings indicate that new women appointees had higher qualifications than their male counterparts (p.48).
Besides the qualifications, women appointees are likely to have attended prestigious learning institutions or have been mentioned in Who's Who or Debrett's People of Today to be considered for a senior corporate position. These expectations were not applicable to their male counterparts. Overall, the findings indicated that women appointed as directors were more likely to have had a portfolio of experiences in their careers. In addition; women have to strive for so as to be noticed by the board selecting group. 'Women aspiring to become board members must be visible on the arena where men recruiting board members can see them' (Huse, 2009).
The perception that women should occupy the middle and low position jobs in a firm is also a setback in quest for corporate leadership. The glass ceiling effect has been one of the biggest impediments to career progress even among professional women, the reason why they should strive to be visible. Adams and Ferreira (2008), agree that although previous findings suggested that more gender-diverse boards had stronger governance, results indicate that on average, tough boards never add value to the corporation (p.306). This is due to the fact that there are many male corporate leaders who have a biased tendency to elect their male peers to such influential positions. This means that the number of gender diversity in an organization may not significantly influence the performance of the company. The performance of an individual in a corporation is not dependent on gender but on the professional and experiential capabilities of the individual.
The expectations that society and the company have for corporate women is different from the expectations of male directors. Singh, Terjesen & Vinnicombe (2008), reports that women are perceived as lacking the qualifications and experience required for directors and that they have to be twice as good as men, or rather should have more extensive human capital than their male counterparts in order to attract the attention of director selectors (p.46) A strong positive relationship was found between seeking to exert influence by seeking out positions of authority and leadership effectiveness for male senior executives and no relationship for female senior executives (Kabacoff, 2010). The expectation society has on women is that they are not in a position to assertively lead the organization.
According to Singh, Terjesen & Vinnicombe (2008) findings disapproved the notion that qualified and experienced women who can take up senior corporate positions are hard to find. This notion however still acts as a disadvantage to women seeking to lead in corporations Advocacy for gender diverse boards is on the rise and forms the central theme of governance reform efforts in many corporations worldwide. The collapse of big companies such as Enron, which lacked gender diversity, has led to the issue of gender in organizations to be reconsidered.
It is expected that the presence of women in corporate institutions will improve accountability and proper governance. Research findings show that gender will determine the selection of a director. According to Farrell and Hersch (2005), the selection of a director to an organization is dependent on the presence of women in the organization or if the incumbent of the advertised position was a woman (p.104).
Women in senior corporate positions can realize far-reaching achievements contrary to popular perceptions. According to Huse (2009), women can achieve in corporate boards in five critical ways which are: creating alliances; preparation and involvement; attending the decision- making arenas; taking leadership roles and being visible (p.359). It was found that women are always much better prepared for board meetings than men. Preparation and involvement are deemed indicators of commitment. In corporate institutions that embraced gender diversity, significant improvement was noticed in the area of monitoring. In reference to Adams and Ferreira (2008), indicates that if women participate actively at board and monitoring committee meetings, they could increase the monitoring intensity of the board (p.301).
Results suggest that female directors appear to be tougher and focused monitors than male directors. In addition the fraction of women on boards appears to be a critical determinant of the turnover performance sensitivity, the effect of which is more robust than the effect of independent directors. Kabacoff (2010) also indicates that direct reports showed that unlike their male counterparts, female senior executives are likely to set higher expectations for performance, both for themselves and for others (p.4).
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They are perceived as having greater tendencies to set targets and to follow them through to ensure the completion of the activities set. Their competitiveness and assertiveness in their approach to achieving goals were rated highly According to Kabacoff (2010), a research done to find out how senior female executives are perceived, senior female executives were described as operating with a greater degree of energy, intensity and emotional expression, and having a greater capacity to keep others enthusiastic and involved (p.54). According to Singh, Terjesen & Vinnicombe (2008) findings disapproved the notion that qualified and experienced women who can take up senior corporate positions are hard to find (p.57). Companies however readily find women who have the qualifications and expertise that the companies are searching for. The number of female graduates in some countries such as the United Kingdom is higher than their male peers. In addition, some of the women have broken through the glass ceiling and have become an inspiration to their fellow women by virtue of their appointments to their director positions.
In fact all the women appointed were on the basis of experience and professional qualifications. This shows that women have also made achievements in professional competence, unlike in the past. Advocacy for gender diverse boards is on the rise and forms the central theme of governance reform efforts worldwide, indicating the contribution of women in corporate affairs is critical. Female executives were also found to be inclined to let others know directly what they think of them and how they are performing in the firm (Dalton & Catherine, 2010, p.257). This promotes communication in the firm which is necessary for effective performance.
According to research findings, the perceptions that people have on women in or aspiring for, corporate leadership are diverse and most are not founded on research facts. Most women in their quest for corporate leadership face greater challenges than their male counterparts. Despite having the same qualifications and experience, a male professional is likely to get the job than the female counterpart. I recommend the recruitment of corporate leaders should be based purely on professional qualifications and not on gender considerations. Despite the fact that findings do not indicate any significant changes in corporate profitability to warrant mass gender recruitment in corporations, gender diversity can promote strict monitoring and hence should be promoted.