UN reports rise in women managers, urges greater efforts for workforce equality

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UNITED NATIONS: The last 20 years has seen a surge in the number of women employed in senior and middle management positions, Farhan Haq, the deputy UN spokesman, said here Monday, citing a new UN report, which notes although all-male company boards are decreasing in number, more must be done to achieve gender parity.

The study, titled Women in Business and Management: Gaining Momentum, is released by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and covers 80 of the 108 countries for which ILO data is available, Haq said at a daily news briefing here.

“Despite that progress, only 5 percent or less of the CEOs ( chief executive officers) of the world’s largest corporations are women,” he said.

According to the ILO, the larger the company, the less likely the head will be a woman.


“Our research is showing that women’s ever increasing participation in the labor market has been the biggest engine of global growth and competitiveness,” Deborah France-Massin, director of the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities, said in a press release.

“An increasing number of studies are also demonstrating positive links between women’s participation in top decision- making teams and structures and business performance,” France- Massin continued, adding that nonetheless there remained “a long way to go” before true gender equality in the workplace is achieved, particularly in top management positions.

“It is critical for more women to reach senior management positions in strategic areas to build a pool of potential candidates for top jobs such as CEO or company presidents,” the ILO official said, indicating that so-called “glass walls” still existed with a concentration of women remaining in certain types of management functions like human resources, communications, and administration.

In addition, the report’s findings show that women own and manage over 30 percent of all businesses but that they are more likely to be found in micro and small enterprises. As a result, helping women grow their businesses remains not only critical for increasing gender equality but also for overall national economic development.

The report shows that Jamaica has the highest proportion of women managers at 59.3 percent while Yemen has the least with 2.1 percent. The United States is in 15th place in the list of 108 countries with 42.7 percent women managers while the United Kingdom is in 41st place with 34.2 percent.

Further action in reducing gender equality is critical, France- Massin said, warning that without it, “it could take 100 to 200 years to achieve parity at the top.”

The report thus outlines a number of recommendations to close the remaining gender gap, including seeking “flexible solutions” to manage work and family time commitments as an alternative to being subject to special treatment or quotas; providing maternity protection coverage and childcare support for professional women; “changing mind-sets” to break cultural barriers and fight sexual harassment; and implementing gender-sensitive human resources policies and measures.

“It is time to smash the glass ceiling for good to avoid controversial mandatory quotas that are not always necessary or effective,” said France-Massin. “Having women in top positions is simply good for business.” PNA

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