People - 09.11.2016 - 00:00 

Why are there so few women in management?

In our modern times, we often speak about equality between men and women. In other words, all doors are open for women. Nevertheless, only few women hold top positions. Noëmi Lellé investigated this phenomenon from a sociological perspective for her doctoral thesis.

10 November 2016. Women are a pretty rare phenomenon when it comes to the management boards and senior executive positions in Swiss companies – even though women and men actually have the same rights and career opportunities. "Modern society would therefore appear to be having problems integrating women into the senior executive job market." According to the observations of Noëmi Lellé. In order to investigate this phenomenon, she asked women in senior executive positions about their careers, their challenges and how they cope with their jobs, for her doctoral thesis "Market - Power – Business. Women on the venturous way to the top".

The general gender order was not queried
Principally, there is a generally valid and recognised principal of social order in Switzerland: the division of men and women. This division is also apparent in the attribution of competencies, preferences, characteristics, etc. This gives rise to ideas concerning the social world. For example, that the woman should be the mother and thus give up her career, whereas the man is predestined to have a successful career. This gender order is not generally disputed, and therefore lets the division into man and women and the corresponding, “created” roles appear self-evident. “Even the gender-specific division of labour appears to be something natural and thus not disputable,” says Lellé. The finding of Noëmi Lellé’s survey revealed that women in senior executive positions had disputed this division and therefore had to deal with the traditional distribution of roles between men and women.

Self-exclusion of women

One central realisation of Lellé’s doctoral thesis is that a certain “female” self-construction can result in a certain level of self-exclusion. “Women unconsciously ignore certain positions and do not therefore apply for them." Lellé therefore recommends that women consciously think about their self-positioning and their expectations. At the same time, meritocracy, where management board or senior executive positions are assigned based on merit, is not always sufficient for integrating women in particular. This is also the challenge facing Swiss society: men and women need to make their contributions, instead of taking on prefabricated models within the scope of gender coexistence.

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