Skip to Main Content
by Phil Stott | March 30, 2015


<> Embed Vault Blogs Slideshow

One of the biggest barriers to workplace equality for women is so commonplace that there's a convenient lexical shorthand for it. Utter the phrase "the glass ceiling" and almost anyone will know that you're referring to the paucity of female talent in executive positions at companies.

While there are a number of reasons for the continued existence of the ceiling—decisions/pressure related to child rearing, plus the continued prevalence of old boys' networks and good old-fashioned sexism among them—the evidence is mounting that it's not just an unsavory relic; it might also be costing businesses clients and money.

Consider this recent report from U.S. News, which cites a McKinsey study that "found that those whose leadership roles were most balanced between men and women were more likely to report financial returns above their national industry median."

The reason: apparently having members of both halves of the population represented in the decision-making process enables firms to better tailor their products and services to customers who are also not all the same gender. Or, as Tim Cook put it in a much more memorable turn of phrase quoted in that same U.S. News piece: ""You're building a puzzle […] You don't want to stack Chiclets up and have everyone be the same."

Which brings us neatly to the research featured in the slideshow above, which was recently carried out by Expert Market, a B2B market place, into female representation in management positions around the world. Their key finding: only 3 countries out of the 126 that they studied had more than 50% representation of women in top jobs. And, with all due respect, none of those countries are exactly global powerhouses, as you can see from Expert Market's top 10 countries for percentage of female managers:

  1. Jamaica (59.3%)
  2. Colombia (53.1%)
  3. Saint Lucia (52.3%)
  4. Philippines (47.4%)
  5. Panama (47.4%)
  6. Belarus (46.2%)
  7. Latvia (45.7%)
  8. Guatemala (44.8%)
  9. Bahamas (44.4%)
  10. Moldova (44.1%)

Fortunately (or, perhaps, unfortunately), would-be female executives don't need to move to the Caribbean to have a shot at getting big jobs: the United States, while it still has work to do on achieving gender equality, was rated 15th on the overall list, with 42.7% of management positions filled by women.

In fact, compared with other advanced economies such as Australia and Canada (tied in 36th, with 36.2% each), the U.K. (41st, 34.2%), and Japan (96th, 11.1%), the U.S. appears to be a bastion of gender equality enlightenment.

Of course, there's a world of difference between having a job that has "manager" in the title, and actually being the person who gets to call the shots in an organization. Consider, for example, the S&P 500, which currently boasts just 24 female CEOs, a rate of just 4.8%.That stat indicates that, no matter how much progress has been made, there is still a long way to go before equality can be seen to have been reached—provided that the definition of "equality" that we're working off includes not just job titles, but the ability to make decisions that actually matter.

What's your take on the equality data presented here? Have your say in the comments section below.