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Pre-2008 Posts

Today’s Male Terrorism: The Ceiling Isn’t Glass — It’s a Very Thick Layer of Men*

The Seattle P-I  ‘s Christine Frey began an excellent, though exceedingly demoralizing series yesterday about the glass ceiling where I live.  In Washington, a blue state, liberal, progressive, this year, 2006, here are the sobering facts and figures:

In a state that made history last year by becoming the first to have a female governor and two women serving in the U.S. Senate, women on average hold fewer than one in five senior-level executive jobs at the top 73 public companies. Records compiled and analyzed by the P-I also show that in the boardroom, just 14 percent of all seats at those companies belong to women.

  chart2

Despite Washington’s progressive reputation and blue-state leanings, not one of those companies has women in the majority as executives or in board composition. Only Seattle-based Blue Nile has an equal number of men and women in senior management and on its board.

Among the findings:

  • Women hold 18 percent of executive positions.
  • Women hold 14 percent of board positions.
  • There were no top-level women executives at 15 companies.
  • There were no women on the boards of 21 companies.
  • Seven companies had no women at the executive and board levels.
  • Consider this chart showing the top executives of Washington’s 10 largest companies:

    Not only is only one of the 10 a woman, every one of them is white.

    This coincides neatly with Ann Bartow’s(of Feminist Law Professors) post yesterday citing to a Harvard Law School Alumni newsletter article which noted that “women still account for only 17 percent of law firm partners, 20 percent of federal judges, and 14 percent of Fortune 500 general counsels.”  This despite the way we are continually being reminded that law schools are turning out more women than men these days.

    If it’s this way here in Seattle, it’s this way throughout the U.S., or worse.  There is currently a sex discrimination case brought by women employees against Costco, charging that women are not allowed into management positions.

    *Quote is the brainchild of Lisa Liswood, general secretary of the Council of Women World Leaders based at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government 

    Heart  

    Discussion

    7 thoughts on “Today’s Male Terrorism: The Ceiling Isn’t Glass — It’s a Very Thick Layer of Men*

    1. One number I would like investigated is the number of women who have an educational background that aligns with the requirements to be a corporate executive. College is one place that has less gender discrimination, or in fact may very well have reverse gender discrimination, if the male:female ratio at American universities is to be believed.

      The question then becomes: Is the disparity because of discrimination on a corporate level, or is it a society that does not encourage women to go into fields that lead to executive roles?

      I know that within my own professional field (computer programming), that the gender bias is at the level of society (the stereotyped image of a computer programmer being a white nerdy male), and that within the field itself, women have a easier time of getting hired because it is automatically assumed that any female that goes into computer programming must be “smarter than average”.

      Of course it is still discrimination, and it still has negative consequences for women in the long run. It results in managers expecting more from a new female employee (because of the belief that she is smarter) than from her male co-workers.

      Posted by Devlin Bentley | November 17, 2006, 3:23 pm
    2. The quote from Lisa Liswood is brilliant, and brilliant as a title.

      I really like the graphic presentation of the (dismal) percentage of women in key positions – it really does show that equality, and equal representation are still a long, long, way off.

      Posted by stormcloud | November 17, 2006, 4:41 pm
    3. Devlin Bentley, what precisely are the requirements you think are necessary to be qualified to be a “corporate executive”? All the executives I have known (white men all of them) have met one or more of the following requirements. 1. They are born to families with money. 2. They are promoted by white men just like themselves. 3. They use their macho personalities to impress other executives. 4. The only “field” they have in common is the one they golf on.
      Advanced college degrees are not required. Knowledge of business law is not required. Do you really think executives who make millions of dollars per year are so much more “qualified” than the rest of us? Are they hundreds of times smarter? Thousands of times more competent? They embezzle and lie and treat their workers like dirt and many of them do so while also losing money hand over fist without the board of directors stepping in. It is the good old boy network through and through.

      I will leave it up to some of our other commentators to address the ridiculous “reverse discrimination” trope.

      Posted by looking glass | November 17, 2006, 8:57 pm
    4. Yes, the title really is brilliant, as is the graphic presentation of percentages!

      Posted by profacero | November 17, 2006, 9:26 pm
    5. looking glass:

      Hey now, I am an engineer, I hate executives just as much as you do!

      I have to disagree about the education though. While being a CEOs does not mean have a very… rigorous… education, there is a stupid “did you go to the right school and mingle with the right people” requirement to enter into the upper hierarchy of the American business world. Granted, it is complete BS… I don’t think that they are qualified in any way really, they just happen to know what stupid games to play.

      Another issue is that CEOs (and those who sit on the board of directors) are fairly old. As such, they represent the values held by society a few generations back, not by the current generation.

      Oh, and as for the reverse discrimination, have you worked in software engineering before? Have you seen how desperately software companies are working to try and balance the gender gap? My GF and I did a fun experiment, we sent out almost identical resumes.

      Hers, with a female name on it, got back more than twice the responses that mine did. Same college, similar GPAs, identical skill set. Same resume layout and formatting style.

      I have literally grown up within the “computer community” (for lack of a better phrase…), there is a huge emphasis on non-discrimination, heck, there is a huge emphasis on not paying attention to a person’s physical attributes at all!

      Unfortunately this is the more traditional viewpoint, and all too many members of the newer generations (mine included) who are coming into the field are forgetting (never learning…) the original messages of valuing a person only for the quality of their work.

      One of the top geek/nerd news sites, slashdot.org, has run numerous stories on this topic, such as this one. (A bit old though, the newspaper article it references is no longer at that location)

      The software community has performed numerous studies on why they are failing to recruit females into the profession, and how they can change the attitudes that exist within the field so that it is one that is open and inviting to women. My own university’s Computer Science department works to recruit females.

      We, the software community, are working hard to ensure that women have an equal opportunity within the field.

      BUT, But. (there is that word!) Trying to deny that stereotypes exist is dangerous. As I said before, there is a stereotype of female engineers being “extra brainy”, and this causes a problem for women in the field, as they have higher expectations placed upon them than upon their male peers. Thus true equality is not achieved!

      Posted by Devlin Bentley | November 20, 2006, 6:33 pm
    6. Devlin Bentley,

      First I want to address this quote from the top of your first post:

      “College is one place that has less gender discrimination, or in fact may very well have reverse gender discrimination, if the male:female ratio at American universities is to be believed.”

      According to USA Today in their 10/19/2005 article the ratio is currently 57% female to 43% male in US colleges. While the article is full of entitled “but what about the boys?” whining, looking at the chart showing the breakdown by race and income level is informative and makes it evident that sex is hardly the deciding issue in this discrepancy. Rich white boys are doing just fine in the college department at 49%. The article goes on to give examples of young men being given preferential treatment over equally qualified young women to try to even out the percentages in the lower income brackets. This is hardly discrimination against men. Colleges are NOT denying access to men.

      Try comparing this state of affairs to the history of education in the United States where most women have historically been denied higher education. Look around the global community for examples of women and girls being killed for trying to access or offer even grade school education. This is discrimination based on the belief that women should not be or do not deserve to be educated. That we are less than rational (male) human beings or that we will be “corrupted” by education. Comparing the fact that there is an imbalance in the current sex ratios at US colleges to the historical oppression of women in the field of education is a false equivalency.
      So now finally women have access to higher education in the United States. Huzzah! When every person who wants a college education can get one that will be a happy day, but women are not taking available slots away from men in the college arena.

      Secondly, you are changing your tune on this one regarding corporate executives:

      “Is the disparity because of discrimination on a corporate level, or is it a society that does not encourage women to go into fields that lead to executive roles?”

      When I pointed out that there is not a “field” that is conducive to executive status but that it is linked to white male privilege you switched to this:

      “I have to disagree about the education though. While being a CEOs does not mean have a very… rigorous… education, there is a stupid “did you go to the right school and mingle with the right people” requirement to enter into the upper hierarchy of the American business world. Granted, it is complete BS… I don’t think that they are qualified in any way really, they just happen to know what stupid games to play.”

      So do you disagree with me or not? Or is your definition of the word “education” something other than actual, you know, EDUCATION?

      Thirdly, you first use the idea of “reverse discrimination” to uphold the belief that it can explain the fact that there are more women than men enrolled in college and then use it to say that it is in play where there are fewer women than men in the software engineering field. You can’t have it both ways unless you mean that whenever a woman gets something a man wants that is discrimination.

      Finally I have no idea what you mean by this:

      “BUT, But. (there is that word!) Trying to deny that stereotypes exist is dangerous.”

      Nowhere in my post did I deny that there are sterotypes of anybody. Veiled threats do not impress me. Ooooh, dangerous thoughts. I must be in denial!

      Posted by looking glass | November 22, 2006, 2:19 pm

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