Companies only need to set a target for the minimum percentage of women on the board. So that they can not miss that, dozens of German listed companies have officially given themselves a minimum target of zero women on the board. The anger is growing.
It took the year 2019 for the first woman to become CEO of European Central Bank (ECB). This is considered scandalous to many people. How can that be changed – and what makes sense? For women’s members of the Supervisory Board, a women’s quota of 30 percent has been in force for years, and such proposals have not yet been enforced for board members – not least because of the consideration that male-dominated industries should not compulsorily promote women to the executive board.
So would a binding quote be better? It is not that easy. Science has very different answers – and in the end, it seems that equality must first be achieved in the minds before it can function in the enterprise.
More quota for women in Swedish politics
In fact, there is a sophisticated study that certifies some women’s success rates. However, it is not about the corporate world, but about local politics, in Sweden – and it showed that where the electoral lists were alternately filled with men and women, the quality of politicians grew significantly.
Now it is not so easy to measure the quality of politicians. What makes a good politician, can be difficult to summarize in figures: It is about a certain perceptiveness, but also about leadership and the ability to convince people. However, such skills are often in demand in professional life. That’s why researchers looked for each candidate to see if he made more money than other people of the same job, age and education – in Sweden, such data is public. Anyone who excels in this way towards his colleagues probably also has the necessary skills for politics. In fact, such candidates are re-elected rather than others.
So measured, it turned out: Where electoral lists were alternately filled with men and women, more competent women came on the lists – to dispense with a candidacy than the mediocre men. Moreover, because the Swedish Social Democrats made this procedure standard, the mediocre men in the party lost in influence – and even local party leaders had it harder behind in the party if they were just mediocre politicians.
Promoting women is more difficult for a woman
It is even more difficult when there are several leadership positions in a company that need to be filled. This is shown by the example of the European Central Bank, which this spring evaluated the promotion of women among its employees – and encountered many injustices.
The starting point was at the ECB as in many companies: men came to the next level of management rather than women. Although childless women were promoted as often as childless men, mothers were much less frequent than fathers. Did the mothers have less interest because they would rather take care of their children? Or were they discriminated? This is hard to understand today. Anyway, that was a situation that women could find unfair. In 2010, however, the ECB introduced a new program to promote women, which did not even include a quota but put women at the center.
It becomes clear that even after the program has been introduced, women are less likely to apply for leadership positions. Nevertheless, one third of the new bosses are women, which is roughly equivalent to the proportion of women in the ECB. This means that when a woman applies, she has more than twice as many opportunities as a man. Of all applicants, 5.8 percent of men are promoted, but 12.1 percent of women. This can be unfair for men.
Are the bosses only quota women? No, say the authors of the study. The salaries of bosses are rising faster than bosses. In addition, performance today clearly has a significant impact on promotions: those who received a high bonus or were among the top salary earners in their class before applying, even participating in mentoring programs, all have a positive impact on promotion opportunities. As long as women compete less frequently, men have a great chance element: even a bad man may be promoted if there is no woman. A good man, on the other hand, may find that his chance is ruined by a woman. Then the promotion of men depends not only on their performance, but also on if by chance a woman is in the race. That would be a new injustice. The ECB’s data could clarify this, but the study authors keep the numbers under wraps.
This gives the impression that many questions of equality would be answered most easily if men and women were socially equally recognized as bosses – this starts with the fact that women and men have to apply equally often.
But as long as that is not the case, women in leadership positions are harder than men, even with their employees, as a new study by economist Martin Abel shows. He gave work orders to 2,700 people on an Internet platform and sent them feedback by e-mail – sometimes with a female first name, sometimes with a male – the text of the e-mail was always the same. Nobody likes critical feedback. But if it came from a man, the effects were limited – in women, they were twice as hard.
For example, the willingness to continue working for the company dropped by five percentage points when criticism came from a man – and ten percentage points when it came from a woman. This applied regardless of the gender of the employees. It is not about a pure habituation effect. Even the people who said they had worked long under a woman in their professional life were not more receptive to female criticism.
Study author Abel concludes that it could even be rational for companies to promote men: this could help keep employees. According to his findings, even more women stayed in the company. Perhaps everything will change as the next generation advances: young people did not want to be criticized by anyone, not even by men – so far they have not differentiated between the sexes at all. It will be seen if this attitude changes when they become parents.