Are Women as Business Savvy as Men?

Are Women as Business Savvy as Men?

Summary: Diversity in the workplace is essential for success, so why do gender perceptions, disproportional gender representation, and the wage gap still exist?

TOPICS: ÜberTech

In 1972, women represented 38 percent of the workforce. A 2012 study reports that women now constitute 47 percent of the workforce, just three percent shy of equal representation.

The future is now


Future of Work is here, and as businesses become increasingly technologically advanced, employers have access to a diverse pool of global applicants, breaking the limitations of recruiting within a corporate office’s city walls. According to an article on FastCompany, this new labor pool will dynamically increase efficiency of organizations, creating competitive pressures for organizations to appeal to the most talented workers through cultural awareness and diversity.

But unfortunately, when comparing diversity by gender in the IT industry, women are far outnumbered by men.

Actually, women are disproportionately represented across many industries.

  • About 100 percent of all dental hygienists, speech language pathologists, nurses, and librarians are women

  • Over 90 percent of all special education, elementary, and middle school teachers are women

  • Roughly 20 percent of software developers, applications and systems developers are women

  • Less than 10 percent of all computer network architects are women

And women are disproportionately represented in leadership roles.

  • Only 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 companies have females CEOs (as of 2012)

  • Less than 40 percent of U.S. management roles are filled by women (as of 2012)

It’s a tough ladder to climb

Fifty years ago, women made 57 cents to each dollar men earned. Today, that number is up to 77 cents. Why are women paid significantly less than men? It’s not because women are less educated.

According to an article by Charles Coy, more millennial women are enrolled in college and graduating with Bachelor Degrees than men. Of all Americans ages 25 to 32, 38 percent of women have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 31 percent of men. And among younger Americans, ages 18 to 24, women are seven percent more likely than men to be enrolled in college.

women 2

Are women as successful as men?

Interestingly, 20 to 40 percent of the earnings gap resulted from gender stereotypes, discrimination, lack of professional networks, and women’s resistance to negotiate for promotions.

According to research from Bentley University, by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent, respondents consider women to be better prepared than men for success in their first jobs. But respondents give the edge to men over their entire careers, 53 percent to 47 percent, reinforcing the idea that perceptions, not necessarily skills, still play a key role in whether women and men have equal opportunities in their professional lives.

Can women be strong leaders?


According to the American Psychological Association (APA), women are rated as highly as men, sometimes higher, when it comes to being effective leaders. “When all leadership contexts are considered, men and women do not differ in perceived leadership effectiveness,” said lead researcher Samantha C. Paustian-Underdahl, PhD, of Florida International University.

According to a study published by the APA, men tend to rate themselves as significantly more effective in the workplace as women rate themselves. When ratings by others were examined, women came out ahead on perceptions of effectiveness. The researchers theorize that some of this effect could be due to a “double standard of competence,” meaning some people presume that women leaders have to be extra competent to get into top positions.

“These findings are surprising given that men on average continue to be paid more and advance into higher managerial levels than women,” said Paustian-Underdahl. “Future research needs to examine why women are seen as equally (or more) effective leaders than men, yet are not being rewarded in the same ways.”

The future of women in business

With the Future of Work celebrating diversified talent, IT giants are aiming to attract more females to the industry. In the study conducted by Paustian-Underdahl, she argues that, “as organizations have become fast-paced, globalized environments, some organizational scholars have proposed that a more feminine style of leadership is needed to emphasize the participative and open communication needed for success.”

Globally, these three IT superstars are leading: SAP, IBM, and Microsoft. SAP shifted a large focus to attracting women to the company and to leadership positions. By 2017, SAP aims to have 25 percent of leadership positions filled by women.

IBM aimed their focus on secondary education. The company is promoting its EX.I.T.E. Camp (Exploring Interests in Technology and Engineering). The program is designed to inspire young girls to take an interest in math, science, technology, and engineering.

Also working to break the notion that, “IT is a man’s world,” Microsoft enhanced their HR initiatives to include internship programs targeted to females as well as conducts internal programs on how the to balance family, work, and advancement. In 2000, Microsoft created DigiGirlz High Tech Camps, which work to dispel stereotypes of the high-tech industry through hands-on networking and workshops.

What can we do to bridge the gap?

Within our companies, to align with the Future of Work, we must put aside judgment based on gender and perceived capabilities. The age-old idea, “two heads are better than one,” is true, but when you have two similar heads, we limit innovation. 

What do you think? Share it with me in a comment below or on Twitter or Google+.

The original story was posted on SCN in SAP Business Trends.

Topic: ÜberTech


Christine Donato is an integrated marketing expert in SAP Global Marketing where she focuses on SAP HANA. She is passionate about improving healthcare with innovation and technology and telling the tale of how technology makes the world run better. @CMDonato

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  • Bad definition

    Diversity should be defined as a wide array of skill sets and not what people look like.
    Buster Friendly
  • Totally agree

    Hey Buster-
    I agree. My definition of "diversity" is not physical difference; instead by diversity, I suggest that different genders and cultural backgrounds bring different and unique styles of communication, leadership, and business process to an organization.
    That's why it's so important to have both men and women (from all different backgrounds) represented in the workplace. Both genders bring something different stylistically to the table-- just as people from different backgrounds bring fresh ideas based on their cultural differences.
    • That's not the case

      Except the reality is sexist bean counting and of course mis-using the word gender because saying sex is apparently evil.
      Buster Friendly
  • That's actually the wrong question

    The real questions are:

    1. How business savvy is this individual?
    2. How much potential does he/she have?

    Even if on average (and I don't actually know this), men are more business savvy then women (but I think my wife is more business savvy than I am), that tells you almost nothing about the man or woman standing in front of you. Rather, people have to be judged as individuals, rather than as members of a group.
    John L. Ries