Social insights about women’s position in the corporate world from different global markets.

Women have a capacity to understand and utilise their authentic power more so than ever before in the history of humankind. Power is a word, an action, requiring more respect than is often given credit for. It can be used or abused, genuine or fake depending on our choices. Yet either way power is comprised of many facets. Each facet affords us the opportunity of getting to know ourselves more intimately, regain lost parts of ourselves, free ourselves from self imposed limitations and become more complete within ourselves in order to reach our ultimate potential.

The tragedy that has befallen us all and has come to a head now in the world, is that the message is often lost to our consciousness because we are too busy being fearful, working hard to remain in comfort zones, and focusing on protecting ourselves from past wounds instead of manifesting our authentic selves into the present, and becoming who we truly are into the future.

Acceptance versus Assertion

In South Africa, there is this state of mind that Women can have money – but men should have more.. although many women have made huge impact towards achieving executive and board level positions and in fact achieving equality in all aspects of life, for many of us our own achievements and wealth is still an uncomfortable subject. We would be wise to understand that discrimination does not initiate and terminate in the workplace. It’s been around since the beginning of time – when we were little girls or boys. Comments only too common read like “little girls should be seen and not heard “or “boys should have access to education first as they will ultimately be the breadwinner”, educated men get the best business positions and the best women with status and wealth end up being alone” This is all our own fault ! We roll over and accept this state of mind that doing things like underestimating our value, undercharging for services and fail to stand up and put ourselves out there and up there for the big risks and the best jobs. We need to quit giving up on our own entrepreneurial dreams. Stop holding back for what we really want and what we are capable of achieving. !

Real power is about our truth, our sacred thoughts, intimately interwoven into every fabric of our lives and utilised inwardly towards ourselves and the outwardly towards others. It is about congruence, consistency, standing by the promises we make to ourselves and not abandoning our vulnerability.

It is not by accident that women are finding themselves in positions of perceived power, organisationally, socially, personally and spiritually. And indeed it has come at a time when the world is in great chaos fighting the conflict between ego and humility and we are all being confronted with the choice of either or, or the balance of both.

Women are being urged, through the strains and distress of current existence, to re-discover their core strength, and to let go of areas of their lives that no longer work to their advantage and deplete their essential energy.

Global Snapshot

On the 25 March 2011 – Leading women’s organisation, the Businesswomen’s Association (BWA) released the results of its 2011 BWA South African Women in Leadership Census sponsored by Nedbank and the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI). The Census results were announced amidst calls for gender diversity to become a pre-requisite for listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

There has been growing concern at the continued underrepresentation and the slow pace at which women were being incorporated into the corporate space at senior level. Year on Year it is revealed that this increase is so minimal and that this does not at all represent the large pool of highly competent women who can take up Executive and Board level positions. There is a blatant lack of women’s advancement in corporate South Africa. The trend has remained the same over the years. At Corporate level the number of top performing companies (i.e. companies with 25% or more of director positions and 25% or more of executive management positions held by women) decreased from 41 in 2010 to 37 in 2011. This decrease can be attributed to the inclusion, as of the previous year, of subsidiaries which provided for a larger pool of directors and executive managers.

Maria Reggiani – Glasford International Brazil

Maria Reggiani of Glasford International Brazil comments “Here in Brazil, statistics show, not only a smaller number of women than of men in power, but also a lower compensation for women, at any level. This is intriguing to me because, throughout my career, for more than 20 years as a Human Resources and Executive Search consultant, I have never seen a pay chart that would define different values ​​for men and women, at any level. If pay charts are settled based on the complexity and importance of the functions in organizations, why in reality, should women earn less?”

Miriam Leitao, Brazilian journalist, publishes in her column for “O Globo” in January 2011: “In the labor market, Brazilian women are already 44% of the economically active population, but they also earn less and still occupy only 14% of management positions in the 500 largest Brazilian companies”.

Hamidah Yusoff – Glasford International Malaysia

Hamidah Yusoff of Glasford International Malaysia, feels there is a great concern for the country as many educated women do not continue to work. Malaysia is already experiencing a talent brain-drain and women are contributing to that by not working. About 60% of graduates are female and over one third of them do not enter the workforce. Subsequently, about half of those that do work drop out after 3 years. Much of this problem is derived from cultural pressures to be a good wife and mother. In most cases, women are not expected to be the bread-winners or even contributors to the family’s economy. Sadly this removes women from the work force far too early in their formative years of career development. It is not hard to foresee the negative impact this has on the country’s overall economic performance,”

Whereas, Brian Sun of Glasford International China explains; “As an executive search consultant, I observe that there is a higher penetration of women who succeed in the multinational sectors. Whether in office management or commercial roles, I have regularly observed the visibility of female candidates hired by multinational corporations and their readiness to take on leadership roles. The natural water-shed is the women’s own choice to step down for a maternity break or preference to focus on family life. This has been an integral part of Chinese (Asian) family tradition but it is equally common for career women to quickly return to their fast-track careers after a short maternity break and allow grandparents to tend to their young. However, while a small percentage strive to become leaders, I have observed that “mothers” prefer to maintain a career primarily for stability motivations and the provision of another source of income to the family. There are colloquial family culture differences in varying Chinese provinces but it would require a controlled survey to reach an accurate conclusion. In terms of infrastructure, the Chinese government has also been active in modernizing labor laws to protect women’s rights. Nonetheless, there is still a difference in the perception of career development for women in multinational corporations versus a domestic state-owned enterprise. Thus, the meeting of minds and values in organization culture will pre-determine the environment for female potential in leadership appointments.”

In South Africa however, we are in the middle of a paradigm shift. Top women talent no longer fill mere management positions; they are now sitting at boardroom tables and steering corporate South Africa into an exciting future. While this bodes well for women, progress is only now beginning to gain momentum and attention is also being focused on women talent retention.

Leveraging on our international presence, Glasford International consultants readily share best practices and raise the awareness of gender discrimination and advise clients at Board level to focus on best-fit competencies and domain knowledge. Through our objective advisory, we aim to shift this paradigm of board members to realize the potential and benefits of diversity hires. In certain countries, it might be necessary to lobby pressure through the political and legislative government bodies if mindsets fail to shift.

I continue to be amazed when I meet powerful women leaders who, despite having a successful career, are not able to play the political game as well as men. They tend to believe that just doing a good job should be enough. In 21 years as a headhunter I have seen women fail to manage their progression, and therefore their promotion, simply by not being as pro-active within their career as men. When their ambitions and dreams fail they “loose a wing”, choosing to stay in a comfort zone rather than “going for gold”. Boardrooms need to shift their same-old preferences to hire people they are familiar with and who they think mirror their own images. Effectively it means that at least half of the South African population is not represented in decision making at the highest level of the economy. This means the country is using only half of its brain power. Since women bring to the Board room different perspectives, experiences and views, the urgent attention of all stakeholders – government, business and civil society – is needed to ensure that women do not continue to be under-represented in senior levels of the workplace where policy is decided and implemented.

Power is not just out there, it is right here, in you. Power is not about controlling another person, how they think, how they feel, or what they do for you. It is not about what you secure from others for your own needs but rather what you can give and where you can add value. It is through this giving that meaning is effected and it is through meaning that one begins to live their true self. – and within this true self, lies one’s power.

About Glasford International

Glasford International is a global (retained) executive search firm with offices throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, North and South Americas. Established in 1998, we support clients in executive search and selection, leadership and personality assessments at an international, cross-border and local level.