Challenges for Women in the Workplace

Survey finds women are expected to take on greater responsibility at work and home.

WHAT CHALLENGES DO WOMEN still face in the workforce? That was the question behind a recent study conducted by the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM), an international network of business schools, which surveyed students and alums at 28 member schools (read more about GNAM in “Exponential Alliance” on page 18). The 4,881 respondents collectively have workplace experience in more than 100 countries.

Among the findings:

  • Time is Money. When deciding who should be promoted, respondents show no preferences based on gender, but they are 36 percent more likely to recommend promoting the candidate who can be “available to work at any time, including nights and weekends.” Given that women provide more of the care for family members in many parts of the world, this requirement means they have fewer opportunities for advancement at work.
  • Workplaces favor assertive individuals. Respondents believe that both men and women with assertive personalities are more likely to be promoted than more reserved individuals—but there are great variations across countries. For instance, in societies with male-dominated labor markets, families might socialize daughters to improve their marriage prospects by being congenial and docile rather than competitive and assertive. But if employers prefer workers with assertive personalities, professional women might be harmed at work by the very traits that smooth the way for their social relationships.
  • Women are still presumed to be the caregivers. Employees on average expect women to be responsible for 55 percent of childcare. However, they believe senior managers expect women to do even more— 65 percent of childcare. As a result, women face a tough dilemma: If they spend more time at work, they might get promoted, but their co-workers might view them with disfavor because they fail to conform to expected behaviors.
  • Working remotely extends the workday. Respondents report that working remotely during regular business hours is viewed negatively, while working remotely outside of those hours is seen positively. Thus, technology may be extending the hours people are expected to work, rather than simply giving them more flexibility.

The GNAM report concludes that employers can create better workplace environments for women by encouraging a healthy work-life balance for all employees. It notes, “Such a culture could prove an advantage in the competition for the best talent.”

To read “Women in the Global Workforce,” visit women-global-workforce.