Women on Corporate Boards: What pipeline issue?

Written by Diana Markaki – Bartholdi, Founder – the Boardroom

Senior-level women—executives at the level of vice president and up—have dedicated a great deal to their careers over their lifetimes, working to earn promotions and run teams, often in workplaces that are structurally biased against women. They are leaders. They are trailblazers. In my book, these women are just as qualified as (if not more than) their male peers to seat at the boardroom table.

According to a recent HBR study, women had to be more qualified than men to be considered for directorships. Findings suggest that to receive invitations to boards, women might need to be more accomplished than men. The data also indicate that female board members may have made different trade-offs on their way to the top. In comparison with male directors, fewer female directors were married and had children. A larger percentage of the women were divorced—suggesting they may have incurred greater personal costs.

Although there are more than enough women that are qualified and willing to be appointed in corporate boards, the question remains: Why aren’t more women on boards? And Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? I urge you to read the book of gender-equality-warrior Gill Whitty-Collins “Why Men Win At Work” and stop being “polite” about gender inequality. I also invite our male peers to listen to the podcast If I Had Been Born A Girl by Tom Waterhouse and reflect on the gender norms that have shaped them and the advantages they’ve enjoyed by virtue of being male, and how their experiences might have been tougher – or quite simply how things might have turned out differently – had they been born a girl.

Many people argue that #maleprivilege does not exist, because many women succeed. The reality is that acknowledging privilege could help us see in a truer perspective the achievements of those who succeed without the same systemic advantages – and to recognize how much higher they might soar without the constraints of discrimination holding them back. So what are we afraid of: seeing women achieve their full potential?

One thing is for sure: as women, we are continuously being underestimated. And in the words of Sara Blakely, “one of our greatest weaknesses is also one of our greatest strengths: being underestimated”. So I suggest we start using it to our advantage.

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