For every 100 men, only 72 women are promoted and hired to manager. These alarming figures concerning career opportunities for women are provided by the report Women in the Workplace 2019, conducted by McKinsey & Company in partnership with LeanIn.
The so-called glass ceiling, a pretty accurate expression that was coined in 1978, is still topical a good 41 years on, seen as that ceiling is still unscathed.
However, it isn’t just this glass ceiling that hinders the careers of women interested in reaching the top of the corporate pyramid. Problems arise when taking the very first step on the career path. As soon as they choose the managerial path, women come across the first bottleneck, the one that prevents them from advancing at work: a problem that stems from an erroneous conviction, from a trenchant judgement that leads the heads of human resources of the 329 companies surveyed to assert that inequality is mainly due to the lack of qualified women workers in the hierarchic flow. This is just a clear repetition of a mechanism that justifies patriarchy by identifying a “shortfall” in women, who are less talented than their male colleagues and therefore cannot be promoted. On the contrary, it would be sufficient to promote more women from entry-level positions to first-level managers to make sure that more women may advance to every subsequent level.
According to Censis [an Italian socio-economic survey institute], women often perform tasks that are well below their skills and academic certificate. In fact, 48.2% of Italians are convinced women should study more than men to achieve the same goals. And what about the problems in reconciling and balancing career and family? The employment rate among women aged between 25 and 54 who have small children is 57%, compared with 89.3% for men.
Extending parental leave and incentivising work flexibility for both parents, in order to help out with the children, could by all means address the problem and partially solve it. Furthermore, the gender gap should be considered from an economic standpoint too: the difference in gross earnings between men and women is € 2,700 per year. Practically, doing equal work, women work two months a year for free! The worst aspect of this situation is that most discrimination in the workplace occurs unconsciously. We are simply not used to see women holding powerful positions, hence we believe it cannot happen. Women themselves end up being less ambitious, perceiving themselves as less worthy of prestigious jobs.
But a system that is more respectful of gender equality could benefit us all. Indeed, some studies have revealed that gender diversity is positively associated with the creation of added value. A consistent presence of women in the managerial sphere would allow us to generate more operating revenue and to create more value in the long run. Plus, may we add, it would make the female element of society feel more fulfilled, on a professional level and – consequently – from the personal and family standpoint as well.