Most of us have seen the pop-art cartoon before, either on a refrigerator magnet or a T-shirt. It’s a Roy Lichtenstein spoof of a woman smacking her forehead and saying: “Oh my God! I forgot to have children!” A tear drips from one corner of her eye.
The official definition of the glass ceiling, courtesy of the US Department of Labor, is: “those artificial barriers based on attitudinal or organisational bias that prevent qualified individuals from advancing upward in their organisation into management-level positions”.
For years now, men and women have entered law firms in the US in almost equal numbers. And yet, the number of women in leadership positions at these firms remains remarkably low.
Sheila Wellington was the first woman to become secretary of Yale University in the 1980s, a prestigious role that ranks just below the Yale provost and president. After completing her stint at Yale, she ran Catalyst for 10 years, a nonprofit group that works to improve opportunities for women in business.
Much is written about achieving a work/life balance, particularly in the context of attracting women to the upper echelons of corporate life. In the run up to the FT’s ranking of the top 50 women in world business, I have been asking some of the highest-achieving women in the world whether it is possible to “have it all”.
Weili Dai is the co-founder of Marvell Technologies, a semi-conductor company that has grown from a three-person start-up in 1995 into one of the world’s largest chipmakers, with 6,000 employees internationally. As the vice-president of a company with a market capitalisation of $9bn, Weili is often cited as the only female entrepreneur to have created a multibillion-dollar technology company from scratch.
Born in Shanghai, Weili Dai moved with her family to San Francisco in 1978, completing high school there before studying computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. Between the ages of 9 and 14 she played semi-professional basketball in China, and the sport remains her passion. She spoke to Women at the Top:
The public relations industry is dominated by women. In 1970, according to Ragan’s PR Daily, women comprised only 27 per cent of the US public relations workforce. Today, close to three-quarters of the members of the Public Relations Society of America are female; in the UK, about 64 per cent of those employed in PR are female.
Also, women in the US with bachelor’s degrees in journalism or mass communication disproportionately specialise in advertising and PR, which have more opportunities for full-time employment than other parts of the industry.
But unlike many fields where women dominate at entry level and in the junior ranks but are noticeably absent at the managerial and principal levels, in PR they are increasingly seen in managerial roles.
In the past 30 years, US women have become more educated, outperforming men in university graduation rates. During that time, the disparity between the percentages of women and men working full-time has shrunk considerably too – and yet the pay gap persists, a topic this blog has tackled in the past.
According to a new study by sociologists from Indiana University and Cornell University, one of the biggest contributing factors to the wage gap is the phenomenon of “overworking” – which means working 50 hours a week or more.
A decade ago, the University of Michigan published a landmark study that examined why fewer women attended schools of business than schools of medicine or law.
The research became a veritable call to arms in the business school community and helped launch the Forté Foundation, a US consortium of companies and business schools that aims to address this imbalance and its effect on the corporate world.
For women who have put their careers on hold to have a baby, spend more time with their children or care for ageing parents, returning to the workforce presents serious challenges.