Despite talk of equality, women bosses still rare in the US

We are going in the wrong direction, says equality advocate. (Shutterstock)
Updated 20 October 2018

Despite talk of equality, women bosses still rare in the US

NEW YORK: This year was touted as the year of women in politics in the United States, but in the business world, female bosses remain few and far between.
And some warn the situation is unlikely to improve with men unwilling to play the role of mentor to younger female colleagues in the era of the #MeToo movement, which has heightened awareness of sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior in the workplace.
The departure in September of India’s Indra Nooyi as head of PepsiCo. after more than a decade in the job has only reinforced a trend that has been growing for the past two years: the decline in the number of women CEOs even as debate about the need for equality in the workplace rages, and amid increasing calls for women to break through the “glass ceiling.”
Recently, a number of prominent women have left their posts as company heads, including Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup, Margo Georgiadis of Mattel, Sherilyn McCoy of Avon, Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard, Ursula Burns of Xerox, and Ellen Kullman of Dupont.
All of them have been replaced by men, a blow for diversity since fewer than five percent of leaders of the S&P 500 largest enterprises are now women, down from 5.4 percent in 2017.
“We are going in the wrong direction,” said Lorraine Hariton, whose NGO Catalysts advocates for women in senior positions.
“Women have gotten into entry-level positions very successfully, and then they get to middle management, and things stall out,” she said. “Women still today are not reaching the top, particularly women of color.”
Dismissing the idea that the glass ceiling is down to women’s decision to focus on family rather than career, experts lay the blame more on deep-rooted cliches.
Hariton said her group’s research “shows that the stereotype that men ‘take charge’ and women ‘take care’ puts women leaders in a double bind and can potentially undermine their leadership and career and advancement options.”
“Women suffer ‘Goldilocks’ syndrome: they are judged as being too hard, too soft, and never just right for the job,” she said.
“Women are held to higher ethical standards and punished more harshly after ethical violations than are men,” said Vanderbilt University professor Jessica Kennedy.
“In short, women face higher standards and have more to prove than men do,” she said
Women who aim high in business often find they are not invited to important meetings or to after-work gatherings, both places where important connections are made, experts say.
This “culture of exclusion” may get even worse because of the #MeToo movement, because some men worry “that a compliment to their young mentee is likely to actually trigger accusations of sexual harassment,” said Kennedy.
“Nothing much happens without sponsorship,” said Hariton, noting that a mentor or sponsor shares vital contacts, gives advice and pushes for their protege’s advancement.
Even though the number of women in managerial positions has risen in the past decade, many are stuck in mid-level positions like head of human resources, or the legal or financial director of their company, according to Pew Research. Very few rise as high as chief operating officer, the launchpad to the CEO post.
On the other hand, researchers have found that it is not uncommon for a woman to be offered the helm of a company that is already in trouble, a “glass cliff” post she is more likely to accept in a bid to prove herself even if the chances of success are low.
Christy Glass, a professor at the University of Utah, said women are also seen as being better at breaking bad news than men.
She cited the case of Mary Barra, who was named head of General Motors in February 2014, several days before the car maker revealed that its faulty ignition switch was linked to 124 deaths.
Hariton said that to change the dynamic, more women are needed on companies’ boards of directors, which are responsible for appointing the head of a firm.
“Eighty percent of board seats at S&P 500 companies are primarily men,” said Hariton. “So the lens by which women are being evaluated is a white, male lens.”
A recent California law forces publicly listed companies based in the state to appoint at least one woman to their board by the end of 2019, and two or three by the end of 2021.
Kennedy said quotas had been made necessary because even though young men of the “millennial” generation — aged between 17 and 35 — were more supportive of sexual equality than their forebears, they also worry that it could impinge on their own career opportunities.
Some large US corporations, such as American Express, Best Buy and Ralph Lauren, have recently signed up to ParityPlegde, in which members pledge to look at least one female candidate when a job position opens up.

Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

Updated 3 min 55 sec ago

Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

  • Attacks happened as Christians attended Easter Sunday services
  • Sri Lankan police chief warned of planned attacks by radical Muslim group on ‘prominent churches’ 10 days before deadly blasts

COLOMBO: At least 156 people, including 35 foreigners, were killed in Sri Lanka on Sunday, when a string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches as worshippers attended Easter services.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the blasts as “cowardly” and said the government was working to “contain the situation.”

The public has been told to excercise caution in the following days, with emergency numbers being circulated for people who want to seek help.

The country’s police chief made a nationwide alert 10 days before the blasts that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches,” according to the warning seen by AFP.

Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara sent an intelligence warning to top officers on April 11 setting out the threat.

“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” said the alert.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 42 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit.

The first explosions were reported at St. Anthony’s Shrine — a church in Colombo — and St. Sebastian’s Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital. Dozens of people injured in the St. Anthony’s blast flooded into the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, an official told AFP.

“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.

Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in Batticaloa.

An official at one of the hotels, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo, told AFP that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant. He said at least one person had been killed in the blast.

An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.

“Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account.

He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St. Anthony’s Shrine, and described “horrible scenes.” “I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners.”

“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added. Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.

The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood. Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries. The images could not immediately be verified.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.