The Silent Issue of Female CEO Discrimination

The Silent Issue of Female CEO Discrimination

The Silent Issue of Female CEO Discrimination

Stereotypes rule the employment realm, often indicating what roles are seemingly appropriate for men and women. Stereotyping begins even before birth as baby magazines unfurl pinks for girls and blues for boys. And yet, times are changing. Statistics reveal that more women are creating start-ups than men, and more women hold degrees than men. And yet, this shift doesn’t reach the leadership positions of companies stereotypically run by men.

Without women holding these leadership positions, gender diversity within these industries suffer. Companies with women in leadership roles often do better than similar companies without women in leadership. Women in leadership help to represent women throughout the business, fighting discrimination and instigating change from the top down.

If you have experienced gender discrimination or unequal pay because you are a female CEO, contact an employment discrimination lawyer.

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Biased Business Perspective on Female CEOs

Meanwhile, studies and articles question why women aren’t occupying more senior positions. In some cases, numbers show that women are less likely to pursue positions in technology, which causes concern that new female leadership will rise. Gaining workplace parity for women might take up to 80 years if not more. In the mean time, industries miss out on the creative talent and intelligence of women.

A common problem of discussion is the gender pay gap that still exists throughout the business world. But, more obvious is the fact that less women hold the position of CEO in companies. Despite a fairly high turnover rate of almost 20% in the entire world, only 3% of those jobs were filled with a woman CEO. Meanwhile, only one in five corporate board members are female.

“Companies need to do more than they’re doing today to get talented women to be promoted to CEO,” DeAnne Aquirre stated to Bloomberg.

How Public Perception Shapes Female Discrimination in Leadership

Executive and leadership positions carry a certain stereotype, conjuring the image of a solid man in a business suit with a briefcase. With so few women in such positions, no accepted perception guides the way for women in these roles. And the balance has not yet shifted to include men and women.

The University of Utah surveyed a number of MBA students for their perception of companies led by a female CEO next to companies led by a male CEO. Despite identical qualifications and similar business standing, these possible investors considered companies with women at the helm to be less capable. Moreover, the research showed that investors viewed female CEOS as less experienced, less capable of leadership, less able to resolve company problems, and less adept at representing their companies to the public.

“Taken as a whole, our results suggest that gender stereotypes are alive and well. Moreover that such stereotypes impact investment decisions, even though information is available to investors that clearly is counter to the prescriptive implications of stereotypical thinking.” – Skirting the Issues? Experimental Evidence of Gender Bias in IPO Prospectus Evaluations, February 2012.

How Employment Structure Discriminates Against Female Promotion

Since society stereotypes establish many of the accepted structures of a business, different employment roles are associated more often with one gender over another. This occupation segregation pushes women towards HR-related and secretarial jobs while lifting men to roles with a clear pathway to leadership positions. Historically, women stayed within roles that were associated with women. But now, this type of organizational discrimination holds women back from exploring their true potential in the business world.

The climb to higher job positions usually has a specific path. Some women and men are encouraged to company hop to higher positions until they obtain the position that they wanted. Data illuminates that women who stay at the same company invest a median of 23 years into that company before reaching the CEO position. Meanwhile, male peers  had a median stint of 15 years before reaching CEO. These are horrifying numbers, especially in light of how company profit increases when women are represented equally in leadership positions.

female CEO leads meeting

Show Me The Money: How Women in Leadership Increase Company Profit

The companies that do champion diversity by promoting women into leadership roles recognize a dramatic shift in profit. Catalyst conducted research over a four-year period and discovered the companies with a higher number of females in leadership roles outperformed companies with few or no women in leadership. Even just three or more women in leadership outperformed companies with low representation by 84% on sale return. Allowing stereotypes to rule the leadership positions could be costing businesses.

Equilar conducted a study on CEO pay at one hundred of the largest companies, based on revenue, that completed proxy statements by April 1. In 2015, female CEOs earned much more than male peers. Of course, only eight women held leadership positions at that time within the surveyed companies. On average, these women earned almost $23 million, which was almost $8 million more than the average made by male CEOs. However, the sample size of women CEOs is much smaller than male CEOs. Equilar and AP study looked at 346 executives in their study and only 21 were female. Although unsurprising, this imbalance shows how much ground needs to be covered to change the landscape of male and female employment.

Many argue that businesses are just not ready to hire women for leadership positions. Men and women might be equal in qualifications and experiences, but stereotypes still permeate and ruin the employment options of women.

Studies reveal that women are slowly gaining a toehold in the corner office of businesses throughout the workforce. In 2010, 116 out of 943 CEO replacements were women, but more recently in 2016, Challenger, Gray & Christmas noted that out of 1,043 replacement of CEOs, 193 of these CEOs were women. Society still has a long way to go to reach a more balanced diversity within CEO positions of companies.

professional business woman staringMaking A Stand for Diversity and Equality in Leadership Roles

Data supports that the status quo in diversity and equality no longer meets the needs of society because there is a call for change within every rung of employment. Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin disrupted the political norm by contending for some of the highest leadership roles within the United States. Although a woman is not yet president of the United States, this bid for leadership challenges the very stereotypes that have long ruled societal perception.

Tony Prophet, the CEO of Salesforce, likes to talk about the issues that plague businesses, including the workplace discrimination based on orientation, gender, and more (The Independent Online). He recognizes that technology is the next frontier in a big way for the world, diversity, and equality. While many businesses struggle to keep up with the demand for equality and diversity, Tony Prophet stares at the root of the problem. It’s a perception issue.

“Anyone who is transparent is making themselves accountable. The next step is taking that accountability and pushing it through the system.” – Tony Prophet, CEO of Salesforce.

In a high level career of a minority business person, discrimination isn’t so much about negative employment action as it is about the perception of leadership ability. This perception creates the problem. The lack of minorities in CEO positions is the summation of tiny discriminatory actions throughout that person’s career. Tony Prophet has the right idea for creating a sustainable environment that invites and welcomes diversity and equality.

“People go where they are invited but stay where they are welcome.” – Tony Prophet

How To Fix Gender Discrimination in the Legal World

Steps To Change the Culture of Female Leadership Discrimination

Discrimination roots in the public perception of roles for men and women in every public and private capacity. While men are still perceived as the suit-wearing, money-earning individuals, women struggle to shake the barefoot and pregnant stigma that persists. Responding to straight-up insults is not worth any business person’s time, but a number of changes within a company can improve the trajectory not only of female employees but also of the entire business.

Warning: Dangerous Perceptions Ahead

Women and other minorities grapple with a number of stereotypes that cripple or hamper the growth of their careers. Business need to watch out for these perceptions, but society must start this perception shift at home. Men and women are equal.

Watch Out For…

  • Stereotype-driven discrimination
  • Gender perception of accepted roles
  • Gender perception of roles for specific positions

Although these viewpoints greatly hinder women from reaching leadership positions within companies, women also must clamber over other significant barriers. For some, these barriers are a stopping point. For others, these barriers represent the rampant inequality within businesses and demand to be challenged.

Possible Barriers to Female Promotion

  • absence of training
  • higher stress for leadership positions
  • lopsided work life balance
  • unwelcoming work organization
  • harassment
  • family commitment
  • less senior visibility

What Can Businesses Do To Fight Female Discrimination in the Corner Office?

Since discrimination stems from deep unconscious bias within society in some cases, recognizing discrimination and creating a plan to deal with discrimination is crucial to developing change throughout the business world. Individual employees can instigate change. But, when a company supports a cause from the top down, the entire structure shifts.

1. Skill-targeted Promotions

A business that distinguishes necessary requirements and characteristics for job descriptions as the cornerstone value for promotions cuts down on minority discrimination.

2. Open presentationsfemale CEO shakes hands with men

When a company creates a platform for presentations that is open to women and other minorities, that company allows each person visibility and public company support.

3. Employee mentorship

Company mentorship programs that focus on growing employees on all levels offers a hand to office minorities when implemented for the success of the overall business.

4. On-site childcare

Businesses that offer on-site childcare attracts the most talented individuals from men and women while relieving a main concern for parents.

5. Diversity awareness

Companies offer programs that promote office diversity and also demonstrate the importance of diversity by hiring and promoting qualified individuals and not allowing bias to cause employment discrimination.

6. Include men

As businesses purpose to raise women throughout the company, businesses need to exercise caution in not creating reverse discrimination against men.

What Can Women And Other Office Minorities Do To Fight Employment Discrimination in Leadership Positions?

Maintaining stamina for this uphill battle requires a well-known fitness rule: switch it up. Sometimes one way of solving a problem will only leave fatigue and no success. Meanwhile, women and minorities commit to a can-do and resilient attitude.

1. Endorse yourself

In a business world where minorities and women are considered less than, a woman must advertise her own competencies and abilities.

2. Ask if women are represented in the top positions

A business that reveals a good number of women in leadership offers a welcoming environment for new women hires.

3. Find similarities with colleagues

Although colleagues may be a different gender or race, seek commonalities that a connection can be built. This connection benefits future job opportunities or promotions within or outside the company.

4. Join the corporate board

Not only do women gain practice in strategic thinking, but companies that have women on the corporate board often have more women in leadership roles throughout the business.

5. Follow the money

Revenue-producing positions often gain much more visibility and lead to chief executive positions so women who move out of “support” roles to revenue-producing positions increase their chance of holding a leadership position in the future.

6. Contact an employment lawyer

A lawyer provides legal perspective on the climate within a company and also provides pointers for negotiating pay, flexible work hours, and more. In cases of employment discrimination, a lawyer provides legal options.


If you are a female CEO and have experienced CEO discrimination of any type, contact a discrimination attorney now to hear your legal options.

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