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A woman’s place….

Posted 19/04/2011 by KatieJ

…..is in management – or so a recent report: Unlocking the full potential of women in the US economy, prepared for The Wall Street Journal by management consultancy McKinsey, suggests.

And US companies are beginning to recognise that potential and are being recognised by annual awards presented by the US National Association for Female Executives (NAFE). ‘Women have long struggled to reach the highest ranks in a male-dominated business environment, but with the growing profitability of companies with women in the top ranks, that is changing,’ says NAFE president Betty Spence. ‘Today, employers reward the skills that women bring and demand them of men, as well.’

To be considered for the NAFE Top Companies for Executive Women, companies must have a minimum of two women on their board of directors as well as at least 500 employees in the US, although there is no stipulation for the proportion of women required in that workforce. As part of the application for the award, companies must answer 225 questions on topics such as female representation, hiring, attrition and promotion rates; access and usage of key retention and advancement programmes, such as mentoring, executive coaching, networking and sponsorship; company culture; and management training and accountability.

US pharma major Eli Lilly has just received its 2011 award from NAFE, to go with the awards it collected in 2010 and 2009. ‘It truly is an honour to win this award for the third consecutive year,’ says Shaun Hawkins, chief diversity officer. ‘At Lilly, we’re confident that the acceleration of our commitment to efforts, such as the professional growth and development of executive women, ultimately will lead to better business results and innovative therapies to improve patient outcomes.’

McKinsey is even more emphatic: ‘Women are crucial to US economic growth. But women still aren’t reaching their full economic potential. One important reason is that far too many highly skilled women simply don’t progress up the ladder in corporate America.’ McKinsey blames entrenched mindsets and behaviours at companies and among women themselves for preventing women from advancing; this is particularly acute at the transition from middle manager to senior manager, a point when women have proven themselves professionally.

A major problem, according to the McKinsey report, is the perception among senior executives that certain jobs just shouldn’t be available to women and to reward men for their potential but women only for their performance. Many women react to these barriers and biases by reducing their corporate ambitions in favour of achieving greater satisfaction across their lives, says McKinsey, and companies lose out entirely.

With Marie Curie as the figurehead for this International Year of Chemistry, chemical companies, not just in the US but around the world, should be thinking very carefully about their own performance with regard to their female executives.

Neil Eisberg - Editor

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  • Peter Hambleton said:
    02/05/2011 12:23

    The McKinsey report seems to identify key issues as to why women do not progress to the higher corporate positions that they should be filling. Although I don't particularly favour quota setting or positive discrimination there is much else that companies could do to help women negotiate the apparent barriers to higher management positions; through mentoring, focussed training and devlopment and transparent committment at Board level.

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