On June 7, 2008 Hillary Clinton conceded defeat as the Democratic nominee for president. In her concession speech she stated that although, "we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it." She was of course referring to the Glass Ceiling Effect, an important concept in many feminist frameworks.
If you’re not familiar with it, it basically means that women encounter invisible barriers when moving up the ranks in their profession. Once they move up to a certain point on the corporate ladder, they find they’re not able to move any higher due to external barriers such as discrimination, sexism and the like. Certainly there is some legitimacy to this phenomenon, but the question begs, how much?
When it comes to big business, venture and making millions, Forbes.com has a large database of statistics and the who’s who of the financial world. In their 2009 Special Report Top 100 CEO Compensation, they listed 99 of 100 highest compensated CEO’s as men. There was only one woman among them, and she was ranked at number 28. In another Forbes’ Special Report of the World’s Billionaires, of 150 billionaires only 11 were comprised of women.
Out of those 11, 10 were billionaires from inheritance. Only one female billionaire was self-made and she had her husband as her partner. Of the rest of the billionaires, 50 males were from inherited wealth and 92 were self-made. Ninety-two men were self-made billionaires compared to 1 female. Is this the result of the glass ceiling effect? Many would say yes. I say let’s follow some less obvious possibilities. It would be nice to have an external source to blame but the reality is that women are their own worst enemies.
It’s a perfect storm of variables that factor into women’s lack of success in the big bad world of business. And when I speak of success, I’m talking millions and billions of dollars here…the big leagues. These variables are largely ignored by the academia and the women’s movement. If there’s going to be a change, awareness of all impediments to women’s power and success should be realized.
Of course sexual harassment happens, as does discrimination and sexism. But there are other factors women have not explored or addressed yet and that is how their own behavior impedes their own success other women’s success in the world of business. Two examples of not-so-talked-about variables include female intrasexual competition and women’s low risk-taking behavior. These behaviors need to be factored in and adjusted if women are going to compete with the big boys for the millions.
I don’t think we will disagree when I make the claim that women worry. Of course we do. It is by design of course to keep the people we care about safe. Thus, because of women’s tendency to worry we do not take the same sorts of risks that men do. It’s really not in our best interests. Over the course of the last hundred years our environment has changed drastically. Now that women are entering the public sphere we are sharing it with people who have been doing business for thousands of years… of course the people I am referring to are men.
First we have to come to terms that the business world is a culture created by men. I’m not saying that it won’t change, it might over time, but in the meantime if we want a piece of the action we are going to have to behave accordingly. A recent study by Paola Sapienza et al. concluded that women are more risk averse than men, and that the differences in financial risk between men and women are affected by the presence of testosterone or lack-there-of.
Female MBA students who were tested for and exhibited higher than normal levels of testosterone were more likely to choose riskier careers in finance. Evolutionary psychologists agree that women take fewer risks than men and men are rewarded more favorably with risk-taking than are women. Okay, so testosterone affects how likely one is to take risks. That makes sense doesn’t it?