Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In” has recently stirred an interesting debate on whether or not women are working to raise the bar to their best abilities in the leadership realm. The general consensus is yes, there has been progress, but not to the level of acceptance. We’re slowly seeing small spikes in movement in different sectors. Government for one. According to NPR, women are said to be changing the Senate tone and leadership altogether. During last November’s election, the number of females in the U.S. Senate rose to 20, setting a new record. In addition, for the first time in history, women are maintaining an unprecedented number of leadership positions in the Armed Service and the Appropriations and Budget subcommittees.
This isn’t just a conversation we’re having here at home. This is an international topic of conversation. Here is a brief round-up of where professional women stand globally according to a 2013 report by the audit, tax and advisory organization, Grant Thornton:
- 7% of senior corporate leaders in Japan are women
- 19% of senior corporate leaders in the United Kingdom are women
- 20% of senior corporate leaders in the U.S. are women
- 32% of senior corporate leaders in the Botswana are women
- 33% of senior corporate leaders in the Vietnam are women
- 40% of senior corporate leaders in the Estonia are women
- Over 50% of corporate leaders in China are women
Clearly the U.S. is behind. We read about these statistics all the time, but what are we really doing as a country to progress women in the workforce? This recent Seattle Times piece highlighted others’ views on America’s headway when a group of political leaders from South and Central Asia visited the States and “took Americans to task for not having made more progress.” The writer offers, “Good for them. We haven’t lived up to the promise of 1992.”
Erica O’Malley, a partner at Grant Thornton, suggests that our country doesn’t respond well to changing the status quo. “American’s second industrial revolution was fueled by steel, coal, and oil and designed by men. The world has since changed, but cultural norms stick around long after they’re relevant, especially given the tendency of people in power to surround themselves with people who think like them.”
In a recent article, Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman asked professor, Anne-Marie Slaughter (who’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” cover story in The Atlantic spurred its own debate), “These issues were basically put on the table 40 years ago. Why are we still having this conversation?” in regards to the feminist movement.
Slaughter’s response, “Because we have not fixed it. We don’t have male-female equality and we won’t have until we have, what I think of as, the next wave of the revolution. We need the next wave of an equal rights revolution.”
It’s all about the mindset. We’re not asking companies to employ women in senior leadership positions because they are women. We simply want to level the playing field; judge them on their work potential, not their gender.