working women

HR Managers Blame Culture for Gender Inequality

Its that time of year when titans of business and politics meet in secluded, alpine environs.  And so its a good time to revisit some of the work that’s been done out of Davos on gender in the workplace.

Four years ago, the World Economic Forum released a report based on a survey of Heads of Human Resources at the world’s largest employers.  These executives shared their beliefs about the top 5 things holding women back from advancing up the food chain in the office:

  1. Masculine / patriarchal culture
  2. General norms and cultural practices
  3. Lack of childcare facilities
  4. Lack of adequate parental leave and benefits
  5. Inadequate labor laws / regulations

In other words, this report is essentially a “top down” view of corporate gender issues.  When we conducted research on women in the workplace, our surveys reported something similar.  After pay and hours, what women cared most was whether female employees were treated fairly and were happy at the company.  In other words, they cared about culture more than they cared about other benefits like parental leave, childcare and vacation.  Professor Linda Scott catalogues and summarizes similar surveys and research done in the UK, by the OECD, and by McKinsey in her great piece on cultural stereotypes at work here.

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