Only about one in 10 CEOs in the U.S. is a woman, and the number of women in senior leadership and executive-level positions has been frozen at 15 percent for about a decade.1 Women now hold only 4.2% of CEO positions in America’s 500 largest companies.2

Gender bias in business often goes unrecognized by the men who have the power to make a difference. Per research reported in Harvard Business Review3, just 28 percent of men believe that gender bias in the workplace is alive and well. Men sometimes see a large percentage of women in the workplace and have the false notion that everything is fine, but just because women are in the workplace does not mean they are given the same opportunities to advance within the company.

Women in the Workplace 20164, a study by and McKinsey & Company, came to two broad conclusions: 1) On average, women are hired and promoted at lower rates than men; and 2) At senior levels, women are more likely to be shifted from line to staff roles. By the time women reach the SVP level, they hold a mere 20 percent of line roles, which is where the vast majority of CEOs are drawn from.

The same study found that women get less access to senior leaders in their company, and receive feedback from managers less often than their male counterparts.

Getting Funding and Contracts

Women face gender bias in many other areas of business besides working their way up the corporate ladder. Women entrepreneurs often have a much harder time finding investors than men do. Women-owned businesses have reportedly been getting only seven percent of venture capital investment money, even though women own 30 percent of small businesses.5

A recent study by Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) also found that women small business owners are being shut out of major government contracts6, while the Department of Commerce found that businesses owned by women have a 21 percent lower chance of winning a federal contract compared to similar businesses owned by men.7

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) announced earlier this year that the federal government surpassed its five percent contracting goal for women-owned small businesses for the first time ever.8 SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet said that surpassing the five percent goal was a foundation upon which to build, as opposed to a ceiling.

Finding Solutions

Companies concerned about gender equality in the workplace can take steps to level the playing field. The problem should be top of mind during the recruitment process, in retention efforts, and when promotions are being discussed. That doesn't mean you shouldn't hire the best person for the job or place your efforts on employees who don't bring as much to the table, but it does mean not undervaluing talent based on gender. Make sure managers receive the training they need to help keep your company an inclusive and equal-opportunity workplace.

It may also prove useful to simply speak openly (and professionally of course) with women employees about their experiences at the company. Show them that this is an issue you take very seriously, and ask for their feedback and suggestions for improvement.  



The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A.