If evolution of man really occurred, then probably it took place in the business side of life and the way people carry it out. In the earlier years, the business sector was dominated by men, from the small scale businesses to large scale multinational organizations. This could have been the ‘stone age ‘of the business life characterized by male dominance in all the business sectors.
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At that time the preserve of women was the home and minor positions in the business arena. Women were perceived incapable of handling serious business matters, and were a bit sidelined in this area. This period was followed by the enlightenment era in which women began to realize the great potential and the influence on business environments that they posses.
It is in this era that women started taking up senior positions in business and transforming the organizations they work for. Women’s involvement in business has become a major issue that has raised mixed reactions from different corners of the business world.
Women’s participation in business has seen the rise of great heroines like Vera Wang and Gail Kelly, who have made permanent marks in the male dominated business world. This paper discusses the issue of women in business and how it affects the way business is done at present.
Women involvement in business has been an issue that has raised much debate and reactions from different corners of the world. Some perceive it as boost to business, while others see it as a barrier to commercial progress. In either of the perspectives, women involvement in business is a major issue associated with undertaking trade in the world today. This paper discuses how this issue affects businesses in today’s world.
Definition and Description
Women have been running businesses for quite a long time without any serious recognition being accorded to them. The lack of recognition came because they worked in the invisible side of the business, which is behind their husbands. The only time they could rise was when their husbands had passed away or when they were forced by circumstances to do so.
A number of factors in today’s world have contributed to the visibility of women in the business world. As more women joined the workforce in the recent past, they gained more professional and managerial experience and skills needed to rise to top positions in firms (Duff, 1993, p. 45).
Of recent, the trend has changed and we can see a lot of women coming to the limelight, with majority of them taking up challenging positions in the business world.
Positions like chief executive officer, presidents, among others are now no longer reserves for the male gender. In earlier years the female folk dominated business sectors like the fashion and trends, and food sectors but of recent they have moved into men dominated domains like engineering and construction.
Unlike men who enter businesses for growth opportunities and profit making, women join this world to meet personal goals like acquiring the feelings of accomplishment and achievement among others (Laurie, 1990, p. 34). Women tend to consider financial success as confirmation and proof that their ability is bearing proof rather than a motivation for joining business.
Areas of Business Affected
The issue of women in business has raised various reactions from various corners of the business world, specifically the areas where this issue has become a disadvantage rather than an advantage. There has been a trend of women taking up managerial positions in many organizations, and though this number is still low, the trend is growing gradually (Walsh & Heppner, 2006, p. 461).
Women in management positions account for thirty three percent of those in administrative posts and forty percent of those in professional related occupations (Davidson & Burke, 2000, p. 224). Another area in which the issue of women in business is evident is the increasing number of female entrepreneurs.
The number of women entrepreneurs has been increasing since the 1990s in which there were over six million female entrepreneurs in the United States alone (Davidson & Burke, 2000, p. 234). It is estimated that by the onset of the twenty-first century, women will make up of fifty percent of the self employed American population.
Women have owned businesses for years, but most of them have been working side by side with their spouses, and that is the reason their efforts have not been recognized. Despite working as employees, a number of women are leaving the employment field for self-employment due to number of factors.
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These factors include discrimination against women more so in larger companies, sexual harassment, and the need to balance family and career life. Some women find entrepreneurship as the ideal solution to juggle the competing demands of family and career, in the case of single women this venture is a means of keeping poverty at bay (Silver, 1994, p. 56).
Women entrepreneurship has further been facilitated by the sharing of responsibilities of taking of children in the household by both partners. It is no longer a trend in which the woman is left with all the child caring and house management issues as the man goes out to bring food for the family.
This has further relieved the woman of some roles and given her much time to endeavor in business ventures. Further to this, the modern day law tends to promote equity and equality providing opportunities for women to excel in such fields just like their male counterparts.
Another sector of business that is seeing an increase in women representatives is the managerial side or the boardroom issues of organizations. The number of female heads is still insignificant especially in the third world nations, but many of them are gradually earning such positions.
This aspect has further been propelled by the issues of gender equality and affirmative action, for example the Norwegian quota system of its state law proposes a forty percent female representation of the board members in any company (Vinnicombe, Singh, Burke, Bilimoria, & Huse, 2008, p. 81).
Women representation and influence in the board meetings has affected decision making and has a touch of ‘professionalization’ in the whole process depicted by more comprehensive and formal meetings (Vinnicombe et al., 2008, p. 120).
Women involvement in business has presented some of the most unusual problems, and some have cost some companies millions in terms of revenues. Despite the fact that governments are fighting for an increased number of women representation in boardrooms, there is a great need for some decisions to be left to the male executives of the company.
Though researchers have proved that women are better managers than men, there is need for the decision making to be left to the men. There could be isolated cases where women are good excellent decision makers, but the bigger portion of the pie suggests otherwise. Some of these problems include:
Decline of Profits
A greater women representation in companies boardrooms has a brought a positive effect on gender representation in the company at the expense of the company’s profits.
Recent research shows that employing more women in boardrooms can destroy a company’s financial performance, since female directors focus more on getting rid of underperforming male executives, which could make the company less profitable (Koster, 2009, p. 1). This research further shows that companies having greater female representations in their boardrooms are less profitable with lower market values.
Women are prompt at attending the board meetings and have a better record than their male counterparts, and in fact their traits could profit a badly-run company. On the contrary, these traits could negatively affect the well-governed companies.
Lack of Authority
The female folk generally lack the authoritative personality that their male executive counterparts possess. There are more focused on personal experiences, family, among other issues. Managers are fundamentally authoritative people, and are required to dictate the rules and the structure in order to manage the subordinates effectively.
The proposal by affirmative action to increase women representations in boardrooms has led to the employment of incompetent persons, in an attempt to fulfill the demands imposed by the law (Dodenhoff, 1997, p. 10).
Incompetence is brought in by the fact, that employing unqualified women for the posts leads to declines in corporate governance, for example the Norwegian move to raise female representation in boardrooms by forty percent has led to an average of twenty percent drop in corporate governance in the firms that brought in the new and relatively inexperienced female folks (Crumley, 2010, p. 8).
Obtaining Financing for Entrepreneurs
The female entrepreneurs normally face bigger challenges when it comes to obtaining financing as compared to men. In the recent past, women have faced discriminations when it comes to receiving loans for business ventures. Though this barrier is being lifted, it is still experienced in the third world countries and under-developed economies.
Gender discrimination is evident in that women can only dominate certain businesses seen as feminine.
The following are two case studies concerning women in business, including Gail Kelley and Vera Wang. Gail Kelley has managed to rise in ranks and transform the Australian Banking industry and has managed to become a force in the male dominated executive boards by becoming the first woman to head a public corporation in Australia.
The next woman is Vera Wang, an entrepreneur of a kind in the fashion and design business segment. She is known for her wide collection of wedding and bridesmaid gowns in America.
Gail Kelly is a successful Australian business woman, born in Pretoria South Africa in the late 1950’s. Currently, she is the chief executive officer of the prominent Australian bank, called Westpac and the first female executive officer of a major bank in Australia (Swanepoel, 2008, p. 21).
Gail started off her career as a teacher in Zimbabwe after clearing her university studies in 1974, and then moved to South Africa with her husband where she continued with her teaching job.
She was introduced to the banking industry by his father through his own connections and immediately she became a teller at the Nedcor Bank, which was South Africa’s fourth largest bank at that time.
Through the bank’s training programs, she managed to climb the career ladder to several higher ranks. After taking a year leave to do her MBA, she was appointed as the human resource head at Nedcor, and still rose to higher ranks and held various general manager positions at this bank.
After moving with her family to Australia, she became the general manager of strategic marketing at the Commonwealth Bank, and eventually the CEO of St. George Bank in January 2002. She become the head of St. Georges Bank after the then chief executive passed away, leaving the position vacant.
Her good performance and success at Commonwealth Bank made her a hot cake for this position, which she took over before moving on to where she is at the moment. At St. Georges Bank, Kelly managed to increase the profitability level, and increased the levels on return of assets, removing the bank from a takeover target in which it had fallen into.
She further increased this bank’s capitalization by three billion dollars, making the bank to extend her contract indefinitely and give her a key pay rise. Her success at this bank earned her the best financial services executive awards in two consecutive years;: 2003 and 2004.
Four years later, she resigned from this bank to head Westpac, which later took over St. George Bank (Swanepoel, 2008, p. 21). In her time and with her impact, St. Georges Bank has become very profitable that it was earlier.
Currently, Gail Kelly is the highest paid woman in Australia, the first woman CEO of Westpac, and the thirty second most powerful female in the world according to Forbes ranking of 2011. She is also the first woman to ever head one of Australia’s fifteen largest corporations. What is fascinating about her is the speed within which she rose to top positions from a mere teacher to the head of Australia’s fifth largest bank.
She credits her reasons of success to giving every task the great attention it so much deserves, and creating an environment where each individual can do his best by creating teams of people who love working together. She further says the secret of success is not being motivated by money, ego or power, but instead achievement and achieving quality outcomes.
This case study is about women involvement in the leadership of business organization, and their involvement in the boardrooms. I found it while doing my research about the influence of women in the business sector. It talks about one woman who has outdone many to dominate the men dictated executive positions.
She is one woman who has transformed the banking business industry, and has lifted her organization from a muddy miry to profit haven. What made Kelly rise to these ranks occurred one day while she was still a teacher in Zimbabwe, when she became so much frustrated and disappointed by the students. Somehow, she had allowed the stress in the school interfere with her life and take away her happiness.
Despite being married, she was still sad, and it is only after realizing that she can change her life and situations for better did she make a move to join the banking industry. It was doing what she loved most that mattered to her, and this aspect is what propelled her to success.
Apart from this realization, she also gained from the banks training programs and her MBA, which gave her an upper hand during the period when major changes were taking place in the banks.
Some of the challenges and problems that Kelley faced was the guerilla war and the effects of the apartheid rule, which they successfully managed to overcome. Moving to a new environment and country also provided a healing effect to overcome the problems that were manifesting themselves.
Vera Wang is an American of Chinese origin, an excellent entrepreneur, and an excellent fashion designer widely known in New York, where she is based. Whenever her name; which is also her logo, is mentioned a wider variety of wedding gowns and bridesmaids gowns, jewelry, and other decors can be seen.
She is known for her simple and contemporary designs which have adorned many brides which has been her mark in the bridal fashion industry.
This great female entrepreneur was born and brought up in the city of New York, with her Chinese parents of Shanghai origin in the late 1940s (Dakers, 2010, p. 15). While studying at high school she took training as figure skater as one of her co-curricular activities. She loved this game so much and often took part in number of competitions in the United States.
After failing to make it to the United States Olympics team, she decided to drop this sport and join the fashion industry. Joining the fashion industry was a big decision to make, since she had a passion for ice skating, being forced to drop it for the sake of her studies depressed her. She then departed to paris, from where she developed the passion of fashion (Dakers, 2010, p. 15).
In the fashion industry she got employed by Vogue, where she worked as senior fashion editor for around sixteen years (Dakers, 2010, p. 34). After being turned down the position of an editor-in-chief she decided to leave this firm to join Ralph Lauren for the next two years before opening up her own design salon.
Her shop dealt with trademarks and bridal gowns as the main product. Her presence in the fashion industry has seen her soar high after making wedding gowns for public figures like Chelsea Clinton and Campbell Brown among others.
She was inspired to start up a bridal salon, while she was searching for the perfect dress fit for her wedding. She spent three months searching for the dress in several departmental stores and bridal salons. She failed to get thee dress that matched her preference and eventually she hired a dressmaker to create her dream gown which cost her ten thousand dollars. This experience became her inspiration for her new business endeavor.
Later in 1990 after letting the business idea wait for nearly two years as they tried to get children, being newly wed, her father offered her financing so that she could launch her business right away.
After receiving this initial capital, she opened up shops in New York and started her bridal business. In a bid to attract more customers she used colors and a lot of innovative ideas in her dresses and the use of illusion netting in her gowns which became her trademark. Eventually Wang’s vision has expanded beyond bridal attires, to ladies’ and men’s fragrance, designing mattress sets, and clothing for handbags, among others.
Some of the problems and challenges that Wang’ faced include she had to wait for more than two years after getting married to his husband Becker since he wanted children. During this period she was on infertility drugs in an attempt to get pregnant, after getting married at forty years of age.
Another challenge was the lack of financing, which forced her father to come to her rescue and offered her financial backing. She also had to fight the negative image that the fashion press had branded her, despite brides loving her dresses. The fashion press perceived her to be an insider to the fashion industry and due to this it was said that she was receiving special treatment.
The major issue that this paper was discussing was the involvement of women in business, which has raised various reactions from various corners of the world. In some places it has been positive, and in some isolated instances it has led to great regrettable losses.
The specify areas where the influence of women has been seen in both positive and negative perspectives include the entrepreneurship aspect and the boardroom issues. As from the two case studies of Vera Wang and Gail Kelley, women too can achieve much in the corporate world.
When women are given the support needed from the family and from fellow male employees they can produce the best of the best. Some of the problems that have been identified from women’s involvement in these two areas include:
- Decline of profits due to meddling with the executive leadership
- Lack of authority leading to poor coordination of subordinates
- Problems of obtaining finances due to gender bias
- Gender discrimination and sexual harassment
- Incompetency due to employing unqualified women
To curb such problems the following solutions can be effective:
- Since women have proved effective in bringing up poorly managed companies, they should hold such positions in such companies.
- Only qualified and experienced women, irrespective of the affirmative action requirement should be employed to hold executive positions.
The issue of women in the workplace is a modern day trend, and it is there to stay. Man has moved from the days of male dominance to a cosmopolitan world where the women are called into the decision making boards.
This paper has looked at some of the problems associated with the issue of women in business, it also has a case study of two successful women, and it has further provided solutions to the problems associated with women in business.
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