Having women in senior positions may not help other women get ahead

Adam Pretty/ALLSPORT

The work environment at a company where women are in senior positions may not be much of a help to other women trying to get ahead.

Researchers analysed 20 years of data on S&P 1,500 companies in the US and found that having a small number of women on the leadership team might mean a company makes less effort to have more women as managers.

“An important implication of these findings is that a firm’s efforts to promote gender diversity in management may need to redouble, rather than relent, once the firm makes some initial progress,” says David Gaddis Ross of the University of Florida and author of the study published in the Strategic Management Journal.

The researchers have a theory that women in top management face an implicit quota. A company’s leadership makes an effort to have a small number of women on the management team but makes less effort to have, or even resists having, larger numbers of women.

In Australia, the gender pay gap continues to widen, and is now standing at a 20-year high.

In the US, women are under-represented in positions with profit-and-loss responsibility, holding only 3.7% of CEO positions and 6.1% of line officer jobs in 2011.

In Australia, the percentage of women on the boards of ASX 200 companies is 21.3%. However, 29 companies among the top 200 still do not have any women on the board of directors.

The latest findings add to earlier research which shows that appointing more women to management roles can sometimes have a negative effect on others who work for them.

That research found women take an earnings hit compared to their male colleagues when they go to work for a female manager.

The study by the University of California’s Berkeley’s Haas School of Business examined how the salaries of both male and females changed when they switched from reporting to a male manager to a female manager and vice versa.

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