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Ilene Lang
  Ilene Lang

Researcher Finds Glass (and Concrete) Ceilings Firmly in Place

11/11/2005 --

Women enhance corporate performance while battling stereotypes.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Promoting diversity is not only a matter of doing the right thing, according to Ilene H. Lang, president of Catalyst Research. It is a business imperative.

"Diverse teams produce better results," she said, paraphrasing a study conducted by her company, a leading research and advisory organization working with businesses to build inclusive environments and expand opportunities for women at work. Lang was a keynote speaker at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business workshop titled "Pathways for Women to Obtain Positions of Organizational Leadership" held Nov. 4.

Consider the Facts

Lang believes there is a strong business case to be made for advancing women in the workplace. Statistics show that female-run companies enjoy substantially higher levels of key measureables. Close to 85 percent of the purchasing decisions in a household are influenced by women, and women make up 46.4 percent of the labor force.

In the Catalyst study, "The Bottom Line," there is a strong correlation between women in top management positions and enhanced company performance. Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women on their top management teams, on average, financially outperform those companies with the lowest representation of women. So why are there not more women in top corporate spots?

"Women in business continue to face obstacles. We see that the glass ceiling is still firmly in place," said Lang, who later added that minority women face a "double-outsider" status and a "concrete ceiling" when it comes to rising through management ranks.

Women Arenít Biding Time until Motherhood

Gender-based stereotyping and not fact-based information often influences senior executivesí perceptions of men and women leaders and misrepresents the true talents of women leaders, contributing to the startling gender gap in business leadership, according to "Women Take Care, Men Take Charge: Stereotyping of U.S. Business Leaders Exposed," a study released recently by Catalyst.

The study found that men and women hold on to stereotypes, casting women as better at "care taking" or supporting and rewarding, while classifying men as better at "taking charge," something associated with effective leadership. The study makes the case that unless organizations take steps to eradicate the bias against women in management positions, women leaders will forever be undermined and misjudged, regardless of their talents.

"Ultimately itís the companies that suffer. Developing and retaining the best talent is key to remaining competitive in the global business world," said Lang. "Until we break the spell of stereotyping, companies will continue to sub-optimize women and lose a vital talent pool ó one that they cannot afford to ignore."

Words of Encouragement

Offering hope and encouragement, Lang pointed to the many expanding opportunities for women in the corporate world. "We clearly see that there is no one way to the top. If you see that the old paths donít work, chart your own course. Women in business have forged many paths, and we still have a lot of walking to do," she said.

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Written by Nancy Davis

For more information, contact:
Heather Thorne
Phone: (734) 936-8421