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Women in Management and Leadership in Corporate America


Written by the Nina Gorman, an author from

In this modern era of technological innovations, increased and tight competition in the labor market, there is a higher number of women making their way to paid employment in the corporate world. Nevertheless, progressing to top hierarchal positions of leadership and management has been very slow. Although many people perceive management and leadership as the same thing, they are clearly distinguishable as management is the art-science of implementing organizational or project goals through people, systems, and technology in an organization. Leadership is an act of use of power and influences in leading or intending to and making a significant difference, as well as achievement of a certain goal, mission, or objective.

Globally, a strong business argument is ongoing in a bid to attract the contribution of women-executives to the attainment of organizational objectives. Due to the industrial growth, changes in economical and social standards, competition in the global labor market, women’s participation cannot be disregarded any more. Considerable transformation will entail a devoted leadership attention to economic as well as broader performances that can be attained by drawing and maintaining women at leadership and management positions and optimizing their contribution. Labor market in the past few years has experienced stiff competition globally, and this has made the business world promote, employ, and retain women at executive positions. Many affluent companies have adopted globally accepted mechanisms to aid gender diversities within their labor force. This paper explores the need to have more women at leadership and management positions, their benefits, obstacles that hinder them in their full utilization of expertise, possible solutions, and examples of women already on top positions.

The Need to Have More Women in Leadership and Management Positions

According to Husu, Hearn, Lamsa, and Vanhala (2011), leadership that does not include women’s contribution wastes great talents, skills, and knowhow. In the United States, women are identified as one of the major factors that are accelerating the growth of the economy through raising the production power. Women have greatly elevated economic growth through expansion in the workforce and raising production from 1970 to 2009. Employment rate of women has increased by eleven percent, being equivalent to thirty eight million more women, which means that without them the today’s economy would be twenty five percent less that is equivalent to the GDP totals of only 3 states of New York, Illinois, and California. Economic growth is determined by the growth in labor force and increased productivity. Before diversity and women inclusion in the labor market, sixty-five percent of economic growth was driven by growth in labor force, but today about eighty percent of economic growth comes from the rising production. For the country to maintain leadership in the global economy and historical growth rate, research has shown that there is a need to increase production and advance the workforce (Barsh & Yee, 2011).

Therefore, since not the full potential of women has been exhausted and there is still a large number of unemployed, bringing more women will play a major role in labor force development and lead to innovations through their talent and skills. This will help in achieving the country’s goals, sustaining reliance in the fight to maintain historical GDP growth rates, tapping more women in the labor force, and employing experienced women at management positions in order to drive production forward.

Many studies have been carried out that clearly shows the benefits corporations derive from employing women and barriers women encounter that hinder them from unlocking all their capabilities. Developing a program that will aid women in unlocking their full potential and attaining economic goals remains a complicated task. Overall, there is a considerable prospective to raise the number of women in the labor force across the country. In the corporate world, there is a large number of highly skilled women who have secured middle level positions; they only require a chance to advance to leadership positions where they can exhaust their potential.

Even though key corporations have shown great effort in recruiting women, women remain underrepresented in the top corporate hierarchy, and it has not shown any improvements over the years. According to the catalyst, recent studies in the United State reveal that fifteen percent of corporate officer positions and board seats of affluent companies are held by women with 2.2 percent occupying CEOs positions in these companies, with many more graduating with business degrees and MBAs. In the United States, women went home with over a third of MBAs awards in 2010, and this trend has been increasing at a higher rate. Although the number of women in the corporate world is growing at an accelerating rate, they remain underrepresented on the executive level because women find it difficult to climb up to leadership positions in the atmosphere that is highly subjugated by men. For color jobs, the gap broadens with women holding about twelve percent of managerial and professional workforce with three percent Fortune 500 CEOs, among which only three of the five hundred directors are women of color (Catalyst, 2011).

On the other hand, the corporate business case for increasing, retaining, and putting more women at top leadership positions is strong and progressing well. Individuals are optimistic that there is still a chance to make major steps forward in increasing the number of women at leadership and management positions. Many corporations and companies are recruiting women in a greater number because they are turning to developmental programs that are designed specifically for women to respond to their market demands and remain competitive in the labor market. In addition, they have introduced a friendlier environment such as part-time working, parental leaves, and working from home using technology. Despite that, some remaining challenges are critical as involvement at key career positions can have enormous effects. For instance, if corporations focus on women on the middle management level and alleviate a number of women to the next level, they could significantly develop a better way of achieving gender balance on the leadership and management levels. Women on the middle management level have demonstrated adequate and greater expertise in leading and management skills than those fresh from school. In addition, young women with no or slight family concerns can be good leaders (Barsh & Yee, 2011).

Barriers Encountered

Different researchers have pointed out different barriers that hold women back from exercising their right to secure top leaderships positions in the corporate context, which include gender bias, cultural beliefs, workplace structures, and interaction patterns. One of the most common barriers is a structural barrier when women lack informal networks to make significant connections. They fear being excluded from social networks. They lack female role models in the top management and support from male counterparts on the top level, although women put more effort to remaining more relevant for their colleagues than men do (Barsh & Yee, 2011).

Secondly, lifestyle issues, which relate to roles played outside job, but affect career choices, include overnight executive travel requirements and motherhood. For example, many organizations run towards financial returns, which are short-term and maintaining corporate performance. Short-term financials influence operations, leadership, and culture, which prevent the optimization of women’s contribution to organization objectives (Piterman, 2013).

Thirdly, institutional barriers, which entail institutional cultural practices that formulate the running of the company such as no part-time job or promotions, are done on merit and performance for women, but for men on a potential basis.

Finally, individual mindset, which is the worst enemy or challenge that hinders women’s advancement. It is the entrenched belief that men should dominate in some fields. Although many organizations worldwide have joined hands in the fight against gender inequality, empowering women, promoting women leadership and management through public outreach, and researching to improve labor market, in some companies women still experience discrimination. Both male and female managers believe or innocently communicate that women are not suited for leadership positions, assuming that women are better handling family responsibilities and should leave leadership roles to their male counterparts. In most cases, even women hold such beliefs and support men when leadership positions arise, thus underestimating their ability to lead.

According to Ibarra, Ely, and Kolb (2013), a person becomes a leader by internalizing a leadership quality and mounting it with a sense of purpose. Internalizing the logic of being a leader and taking a focused action are a central process of being a leader. The society or other people assert or oppose the action, thus supporting or discouraging the person or her followers. In the view of the fact that creating and internalizing leader identity is paramount in the process of becoming a leader, then gender bias may hold back women’s potential and diminish their self-confidence by hindering their identity, which is necessary for taking up leadership responsibilities. It results in women locking their potential and remaining underrepresented in leadership positions, thereby validating the norm and belief that support men in bids for leadership positions.

All these barriers and mindsets are always hard to eliminate, but it is clear that there is a need for a systematic and organizational transformation. Most companies that are welcoming transformations by changing their culture in order to maintain diversity balance remain competitive and enjoy economic benefits.

In addition, regardless of the barriers, a good number of women have done well on top leadership positions and, according to recent catalyst report, women have shown positive impacts that have greatly improved corporate performance. Companies with a large number of women on top leadership positions have been ranged the best in terms of financial returns. What spurs the growth of these female leaders is their confidence in changing the belief that some fields are male-dominated, changing their adversities to lessons, building networks and connections with sponsors, and showing willingness to move out of comfort zones with a strong belief that they are matching forward no matter the difficulty to make a difference. Women always work with passion, inspire, motivate, and love their work more than men.

Ways of Encouraging Women in Organizations

Companies have identified ways, which will lead them to achieve their goal of employing, retaining, and advancing women in the current market. These practices have supported many organizations, which are driving the change. First, leaders are acting as role models by accepting and welcoming gender diversity matters with open arms. Advocating for the issues openly support cultural changes and encourage others to change their mindsets.

Secondly, companies are appointing leaders with influence. Many companies that are doing well choose and appoint managers who are respected, courageous, and equipped with diversity issues to help and guide the company in the process of achieving gender balance. Thirdly, firms are creating strong networks and connections with sponsors and advocacy groups. Most sponsors have development programs, which assist highly skilled women by giving them opportunities for expansion and advancement and advocate for their promotions. Fourthly, corporations are recognizing talent management as an important pillar in attaining economic advantage, which is ending up with promoting women to the top management.

Finally, firms are having accountability and database where companies share performance dialogues with different management levels. These databases help talented women to be considered when a leadership position arises.

Examples of Women in Management and Leadership in Corporate America and their Roles in Management and Leadership

A number of women have taken leadership positions in the corporate America (InvestorPlace, 2012) and among them, the following are very prominent.

Ginni Rommetry

The 56-year-old Ginni was born in July, 1957 in the suburbs of Chicago. She received her first degree from the North-Western University with first class honours in computer science. On October 25, 2011, Ginni was appointed the chief executive officer of IBM Company. IBM is an internationally recognized company that deals with computer hardware and software, IT services, and IT consulting services. Currently, Ginni serves as the chairperson, president, and CEO of the company (CNN Money, 2013). In the company, Ginni plays an outstanding role in marketing and financial management of the company. Being in her second term as a CEO has greatly employed the company’s resources into commercializing the company’s various products. For the last two years, her leadership has resulted in significant sales opportunities across the world. She has also worked hard to acquire an extensive market for the company’s products in Africa. She has done this by selecting new clients in both marketing and finance in an effort to preserve the tech company that has been in the market for over 100 years (Aluise, 2012). This has seen the company stay ahead of the stiff competition in the computer services industry. According to CNN Money, Ginni was ranked the top most influential woman in the American corporate sector in 2012, maintaining rank number one. Currently, Ginni has spearheaded towards the shift of the company from hardware business to the provision of software services as well as consulting services. This has greatly increased the company’s global market and has ultimately led to high financial returns. In 2010, her leadership and management of the global markets stocked up approximately $100 billion in sales (MSN, 2012). Being a senior president of the company’s global business services, Ginna has raised a team of over one hundred specialists in consulting services. She has also incorporated PWC into IBM.

Indra Nooyi

The 57-year-old Indra Nooyi is the chairperson and CEO of Pepsi CO, one of the world largest food and beverages company in the world and in America. Indra holds a BS in maths, physics, and chemistry from MCC and an MBA from ISM. She also holds a Master’s degree in public and private management from the Yale Management School. On October 1, 2006, she was appointed a CEO and chairperson of the Pepsi Company in America (CNN Money, 2013). Since her appointment, Indra has spearheaded the restructuring of the Pepsi Company that has been in the beverage market for 18 years now. Her leadership and management roles have seen the company lead in sales of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut restaurants, and KFC as well as the Yum brands. Indra also holds a tremendous reputation as one of the most confident and self-driven leaders in the American businesses profiles. In her tenure, she has presided for over twenty two billion dollar brands. These brands include Quaker, Tropicana, Pepsi-Cola, Gatorade, and Frito-lay. In her management functions, Indra has led the company’s takeover of Quaker Oats that was estimated to be worth over 13.4 billion dollars. Her tenure has also led to the acquisition of Tropicana worth over 3.3 billion dollars. Recently, Indra has played a great role in the expansion of the company’s market beyond the general domestic soda business by creating other more marketable products. For example, she has introduced Hummus and Yoghurt, which are some of the fast growing selling products in the market (MSN, 2012). Her excellent financial skills have seen the company’s fast growth in revenue generation and boast of over 22 billion dollar brands. Despite the stiff competition from their rivals, Coca-Cola, Indra is still anticipating company’s growth in the corporate world.

Ellen Kullman

The 57-year-old Ellen Kullman is the head of the board and chief executive officer of DuPont Company. DuPoint is one of the largest chemical companies in America. Ellen was born in January 1956. She has a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the Tufts University as well as an MBA from the North-Western University. On October 1, 2008, Ellen was appointed the CEO of DuPont company (CNN Money, 2013). Ellen has been a great and visionary leader since her appointment. She has successfully seen her company survive one of the greatest economic recessions in America. She did this by centring on various company resources that the company could control to avoid unnecessary expenditures. During this season, she requested all the employees to take a two-week leave without pay voluntarily. All the executives were required to take an off that was to last for approximately three weeks. Her tenure witnessed the company reach over 70 percent of its time-off objective. This greatly lowered company’s expenditure by over 700 million dollars in 2009. Her leadership did not only see DuPont survive, but also rebound. Despite her tenure witnessing a great economic recession, Ellen’s leadership has witnessed a notable rise in stocks. Within her leadership, DuPont stock has risen to over 50 percent as compared to the Dow tenure that witnessed a 19 percent return throughout the same period. Ellen’s tenure has also witnessed 6.3 billion dollars takeover of Danish Enzyme Company. This has significantly improved the company’s extensive growth in the bio-fuels market (MSN, 2012). Recently, she has reset the company’s selling commodity units. This strategy has positively influenced the company’s growth, allowing it to move to high margin areas. Consequently, her decision has paid off, resulting in doubling of the stock with an over 86 percent rise.


The perception of gender and leadership makes women aspiring leadership positions create a developmental agenda that will aid in unlocking their potential and raising the rate of women in the leadership and labor force across the globe. Many corporations are recruiting women in a fair or higher number because they are turning to developmental programs designed specifically for women in order to respond to market demands and remain competitive. In addition, they have introduced a friendlier environment of part-time working and working from home.

In order to meet this growing demand, well-known business institutions such as Stanford, Harvard, and Simmons School of Management, which initiated women-only leadership programs in early 1970, have started a new program in leadership for women. More efforts should be made to ensure collective inclusion of women in top management and leadership in the corporate America. Such efforts will see more women like Ginni, Indra, and Ellen at top management positions. This will be possible if the barriers hindering women’s success are addressed without further delay. However, this might not be done sooner and, hence, it is the duty of every woman aspiring to be on the top to take personal initiative and campaign for those with weaker voices. Those already on top positions should use their powers to motivate women at lower levels and raise their concerns during corporate meetings. This way, more women might climb the corporate ladder and improve their world and that of those around them.

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