Imagine a world where half the countries and half the companies would be run by women. Since the world population is about 50 percent female, wouldn't it make sense that a more equal gender representation at the top would create a better world for everyone?
This is such a burning global question that the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, dedicated a TED talk to it.
"We're lucky we don't live in the world our grandmothers lived in," she says, "where career choices for women were limited. Yet, even today, women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world."
Sheryl provides statistics to illustrate her point. Of 190 heads of state, nine are women. A survey of parliamentarians indicates that 13 percent are female. In the business sector, the ratio of board seats held by women tops at 16 percent. In the non-profit sector, it's about 20 percent.
According to the Direct Selling Association, the numbers in direct sales and network marketing corporations are not much different. Despite a field force of over 80 percent women, the companies are mostly run by men, with an average of only about 26 percent of female board members.
In a business sector with no glass ceiling or gender discrimination, why do we see the same imbalance in feminine leadership?
The answers are complex, says Sheryl, but here is what research shows:
- Women systematically underestimate their abilities, while men tend to overestimate them.
- Success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.
- Men negotiate for themselves and reach for opportunities more than women.
- Society puts more pressure on boys to succeed than on girls.
While these findings offer food for thought, here is a more pressing question: what can we do to even things out, starting right here in our own profession?
At Networking Times, we strive for gender balance when choosing leaders and authors to feature. This often presents a challenge, because we receive many more article submissions and books to review from men than from women. When selecting our Master Networkers, we've had to come to terms with the fact that in most companies, more men than women become top earners.
How can we empower women so that more of them will step into the leadership positions their natural abilities, education, professional skills and rising economic power destine them for?
In this issue, we implemented the first action step Sheryl advocates, which is to make sure women "sit at the table." By accepting only female contributors, we made this our first all-women's issue.
Let us know what you think, for we may make this our yearly contribution to an emerging women's movement that's not about playing against the boys, but rather about writing a new set of rules that allows for both genders to be all in and play full out
.JOSEPHINE GROSS, Ph.D. is cofounder and editor of Networking Times.