Women in Management

by Rita Bailey

What’s happening?

What effect does the glass ceiling have on working women in general?

Board level

It is estimated that over 80 per cent of top jobs are dominated by men. Out of the FTSE 100 companies, only 22 have a female at board level; the rest of the boards are all male. Similarly, only a small percentage of executive directors are female.


According to Cranfield’s Female FTSE Report 2009, on FTSE100 boards only 5.2 per cent of Executive Directors and 15.2 per cent of Non-Executive Directors are female.

This under-representation of women at executive/board level suggests that the perception continues that the leaders at the top should be male. Along with this perception goes the assumption that leadership requires qualities associated with men – dominating, competitive, aggressive and demanding. Women, on the other hand, are not supposed to be like their male counterparts.

The problem is that even if a woman were to start acting like her male counterparts simply in order to progress, this would not necessarily resolve the negative perceptions, because she would not feel congruent with her persona. Moreover, when women do chose to act like their male counterparts, they become unpopular and can find they have a hard time. This is because perceptions of what women can and cannot do persist, so behaviour that might be accepted or tolerated from a male is resented when coming from a female.

What strategies are men using to rise to the top?

Men are using a range of strategies to take up visible senior positions. Among those strategies are

  • Being mentored by senior male executives who are board members
  • Belonging to key networks and groups that benefit their career
  • Becoming visible through critical assignments that were assigned bottom-line results
  • Being proactive about putting themselves forward and asking for a rise or a promotion
  • Having confidence that they can work long hours and travel with assignments, whether they have children or not, as they are not the main carer, unlike their female colleagues.

In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.

Margaret Thatcher

In short, men fit the traditional management role and culture. This doesn’t mean that the strategies men are using will necessarily work for women. What it does mean is that women have to create their own unique strategies to support their rise to top and sustain their position.

Pay gap


As a result of discrimination, women earn on average 22.6 per cent less per hour than men.

The average salary is £36,712. Female managers earn £2,674 less than their male colleagues. At director level, the pay gap is £22,144.

While more women than ever before are heads of corporations or departments, getting onto boards and earning more money, and while the principle of equal pay for work of equivalent value has been incorporated into the legislation of many countries, pay inequality continues to be a persistent form of gender inequality.

‘Women’s jobs’ have been known to be given a lower value in terms of skills and remuneration, despite job evaluations highlighting that these jobs have the same complexity and skills requirements as better paid ‘male jobs’. The gap is slowly closing, but it still remains to be seen whether, in the 21st century, gender will cease to influence occupations and positions.


A study released in 2010 by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) showed that in the last 12 months female managers’ pay rose by 2.8 per cent, while that of their male counterparts pay rose by 2.3 per cent.

However, the women on average earned £10,000 less than the men. If change continues at this rate, male and female managers will not be paid the same until 2067!

Equal Pay Act 1970

The act sets out that, once a woman establishes she is doing equal work to that of her male counterpart, if she is being paid less, then her employer must prove that this is not related to her sex.

Even so, official figures state that men on average earn £15.54 an hour, compared with just £12.88 for women!

It is estimated that the average woman working full time will earn £369,000 less than their male counterparts over the whole of their career!

The pay gap widens during the childbearing years and, once these are over, women’s pay doesn’t catch up with that of their male counterparts, who have by now gone into senior executive roles.

Raising a family

The childbearing years bring lifestyle changes that determine, in many cases, how women can work, with many feeling obliged to choose jobs that provide more flexibility and family friendly polices at the expense of their careers. Approximately one third of female employees have pre-school-age children and many workplaces do not allow women to go back to their original levels of pay if they have left the workplace for some time.

So, is discrimination more noticeable among women with dependents? Working mothers have stated they can find themselves excluded from critical assignments and opportunities because the business culture doesn’t accommodate them. Often, high-profile working mothers will resign from their senior roles to spend time with their families because the sacrifices demanded of them are too great. The pay disparity still exists, surprisingly, even in the public sector area, where male executives earn more. This persists even though the public sector has integrated more flexible working policies and arrangements, due to legislation.

It may seem like a disheartening picture, but the key to breaking through the ceiling is to be creative and innovative about your own approach. Women are succeeding despite this backdrop to their working lives. Indeed, if you are a line manager or senior manager, this added awareness can spur you to make diversity a top priority.

A woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.

Margaret Thatcher

The continued gender pay gap means that women’s talents, skills and abilities are not being fully utilised; the full use of women’s talent makes good business sense.


The highest-paid female director of a FTSE 100 company took home barely a 10th of the pay of the highest-paid man.