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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Are women succeeding in business?
Women are still failing to fulfil their potential in the male-dominated world of business and technology.

In recent years, a handful of women have succeeded in making it to the head of the boardroom table at the big financial and technology companies.

However, those who have made it to the top of their professions are still rare exceptions.

Are women failing to live up to their potential in the business world? Who do you think is the most influential woman in business? Do you think that women still face formidable obstacles to doing well in their careers?

Vote here for the highest flier.

 VOTE RESULTS
Who is the most influential woman in business?

Marjorie Scardino, chief executive of Pearson
 9.84% 

Carly Fiorina, boss of Hewlett-Packard and Compaq
 27.87% 

Nicola Horlick, chief executive of SG Asset Management
 6.56% 

Meg Whitman, chief executive of eBay
 39.34% 

Martha Lane Fox, managing director of Lastminute.com
 8.20% 

Cherie Booth, top QC and member of Matrix Chambers
 8.20% 

61 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

I would say that the only obstacle that women are facing is their obsession in trying to become "equals" to the male gender. We are not equal, we never will be (biologically speaking and taking evolution into consideration). So why can't we all just let it go and move on? As a woman, I aim to do the best I can in my professional life, rather than try to live up to a long-term myth.
Rana Jawad, Belgium

The kind of manager that would favour an inferior male over a more talented female will be running a below average operation

Brian, UK
Competition for talented employees is stiffer now than ever. The kind of manager that would favour an inferior male over a more talented female will be running a below average operation which will die a natural death in due course. There may be free rides in the law and politics but in business the only question is whether you are capable of making a real contribution, regardless of gender.
Brian, UK

The thing that is the most aggravating to observe in today's society, is that the feminist fight of the early 20th century tried to push women into the male dominated world, but not the other way around. It is time for women's professions to be equally valued as those of men. As soon as the rules of business are changed from being male oriented, women will be part of it.
Thorey, Iceland

Why do men always get suspicious when a woman is doing her work well? Without making too much noise, without taking the credits, without making useless interim reports about other interim reports, a woman does not stand a chance. And then there are the men who can easily judge if a woman is suitable for her job: she must be tough and definitely not emotional - no better look for a male candidate again.
Cecile, The Netherlands

I have a part-time job that I thoroughly enjoy and am respected and appreciated for, get to spend time with my son for half the working week, spend time with my friends and mum during the day. Who isn't fulfilling their potential? I've never been happier. My husband leaves for work before 8am and returns after 6pm. He can be on call and has to deal with problems all day! Yes, he is vastly better paid than me, but he often says he would swap places. Why is that considered as 'doing better'? Keep your high flying career - I'm doing just fine!
Catherine, UK

There is a general attitude that women are not suppose to be tough

Brenda, USA
Although a few women have made it to CEO here in the US, the prevailing numbers are still men. I think there will be glass ceilings for women for several more decades. There is a general attitude that women are not suppose to be tough.
Brenda, USA

I agree that women do have to push harder. But most of the women bosses I have been around tend to be more difficult and prickly to work for; they seem to get more power crazy than men.
Mick Lloyd, UK

Since starting work 14 years ago, most of my bosses have been female and I can honestly say that having a female boss is far better than having a male one.
Jason, Manchester, England

Women have never had it so good. The problem is that they are never satisfied, and whatever men do it will never be enough for them!
Ray, UK

Being attractive immediately impedes my chances of success

Mary, France
I am a Canadian woman working in Paris. The difference I notice here is that it is very difficult for a woman to obtain a high position unless she is extremely tough and not very attractive. In my industry - technology you rarely see an attractive woman at a high level position. For a young woman, like myself, who is very ambitious and wants to succeed, I find that being somewhat attractive immediately impedes my chances of success.
Mary, France

I am a British Woman working as a Computer Engineer in Northern California. I got tired of constantly having to work to excess to prove myself in IT departments in the UK, so I moved to the USA. It was like a breath of fresh air! Here, they are not allowed to ask you about your family life in interviews and the men seem to work just as hard in raising their children. There are still not very many women working in IT, but they get paid the same and have the same opportunities.
Imogen Shepherd, USA

I would happily stay at home and be a house-husband so my wife could further her career. Unfortunately, she studied archaeology and so has no career. People looking for equality should try the academic environment. Even in my field (physics and engineering) people are judged on intelligence and ability, not gender.
NB, UK

I think the biggest obstacle to women's careers is people's attitudes. Society expects women to take the responsibility of looking after the family, while men earn the bread. Imagine if it was the norm that men stayed at home to take care of the children and do the housework. The topic of debate nowadays would be 'men and their careers'.
Chermaine, Germany

I am sure a lot of women don't want to be leaders. But if a woman wants something she'll go and get it.
Elena, Russia

I will know that women have succeeded in business when I hear a man express genuine concern about how he is going to balance his family and career.
Wendy, UK

I'm 30 and entered the business world with no opinion on whether a man or a woman was more suited to a particular role. I worked for several years in an American corporation and the senior management roles there were equally split male/female - it was a non-issue. Where I now work is very different however - a large steel firm, senior management is all male and in their late fifties, women are viewed as administrators and secretaries only and often referred to as "girls".
Nick, UK

Once we have the job it's a different story

Anon, UK
I work as a software engineer as does my husband. I believe he has a point when he says it's easier for women to get jobs as software engineers because companies want to increase the number of women they employ. However once we have the job it's a different story. I've had men saying to my face that they don't believe that women are capable of being good software engineers. I decided to prove them all wrong and worked really hard but I still had to watch men with less experience/qualifications being promoted over me.

I then changed jobs and was faced with having to prove myself all over again to an extent that a man just wouldn't have to. I'm faced with the expectation that I just won't be as good as the men on the team. Now I'm so disheartened with it all I'm planning to change career, to something more woman friendly.
Anon, UK

A few of the posters here have suggested we should define success. Patience, folks; we're only going to have to wait a few more years to find out. If both parents worked and their kids shove them into an old folks home because they owe their parents nothing, will the mums who stayed home with their kids and who, along with their spouses, are kindly, lovingly treated in their old age because of the strong bonds that exist, be the successful ones? It will be interesting to watch. I stayed home with my children and, even though I am far from old yet, I am cared for with loving kindness now and have no expectation of being put on an ice floe to perish any time in the future.
M, Canada

The only people who succeed in business are the shareholders and the fat cats who sit at the top of the ladder.
John, Scotland

I'm not sure that it's a matter of choice anymore - I think that for a brief, glorious, moment, it was, and the choice was made. That choice is now firmly embedded in house prices, the workplace, the complete lack of a culture outside work (OK, except for those with very young babies). For most women now, there is little option but to work.
Steve, UK

The most successful person in Britain today is the authoress, J.K. Rowling. Not only has she made pots of money in a very short time she has bought please to millions around the world, and like Enid Blyton, will be remembered for a long time.
Anthony, England

I work in manufacturing and the women I really admire are the ones brave enough to take on traditional male blue collar jobs. We see a number of female lorry drivers and I'm talking seriously big lorries and I cannot tell you the admiration I have for them
Malc, U.K.

Whilst women of around 30-45 years of age are of that generation where they felt they had to "have it all" and success is measured by career progression, I think women just starting out in professional life of my generation will make quality of life choices. We have realised the goal in life is happiness which is gained by finding your true potential and achieving it, not "getting to the top at all costs".
Deborah, UK

I think more than a few women are having an easier time of it moving up in the corporate world. But, in spite of this there are women who cannot break out of the secretary/ admin role and move up the corporate ladder. "Once an admin, always an admin" still rings very true out in the business world. I think it's who you know, not what you know that helps.
Margaret, USA

You can't both have full-time management careers and well-balanced kids

Benny, UK ex-pat
I used to live next to a couple who are both lawyers. They work from dawn to dusk and more. They are homogonously rich and their kids are raised by a series of babysitters. I happened to be the teacher of these children and they were distracted, lonely little kids. You can't both have full-time management careers and well-balanced kids.
Benny, UK ex-pat

Modern business demands a wide range of skills. Many of them are the 'softer skills', which women excel at. If people really want to make it (whatever that may mean), men or women they can. However there is a price to be paid and maybe fewer women are prepared to pay it. My wife is a successful senior manager and we have two small children. However, it is very hard for both of us to juggle work and family. The options are there for everyone and it is up to them to make their choices.
CHRISP, UK

Several of my friends got good jobs after leaving uni, then got married, then got pregnant. They all took full maternity leave with full benefits and then quit their job as soon as they were legally required to go back to work. Such blinkered action gives massive amounts of ammunition to the 'boys only' club.
Col, UK ex-pat

I would never put money first and abandon my children, as modern women do

Patricia, Australia
I get pretty tired of this modern trend of women versus men in the boardroom. There have always been women at the top, but it wasn't until the 70s that so much amalgamation started and the huge corporations formed. I can't imagine why any woman with intelligence would want to be in those positions. After working for 48 years in high pressure environments, I believe the best job in the world is being at home with your kids. I had five wonderful years with mine and would never have worked if I didn't have to. I would never put money first and abandon my children, as modern women do.
Patricia, Australia

When we see women being lead out of the office in handcuffs, like the execs at Adelphia, then we will know they have made it.
Don, USA

I think there is some truth that mothers are less likely to be promoted due to the amount of time they have to spend dealing with their children. Personally, I don't think the business community can change that - it's home life that must change. Men should be given a few months off after a child is born, just like women get.
Monica, Chicago, USA

The debate should focus on men for a change

James Millar, England
Choice is the key. As a man, it seems that I do not have the choice of staying at home to raise the children, see them at sports day, read bed-time stories, or help them through difficult times. I see them in the morning as I iron my shirt before going to work and at weekends - it is not enough. Women have total choice, there's an end to it - and good luck to them. They have a good deal. The debate should now focus on men for a change.
James Millar, England

If a woman thinks that being female is automatic justification for a boardroom position, perhaps it's time they considered the millions of men who also don't get the top jobs either. At least women have the choice to revert to a more traditional family role - what choice does the average man have?
Paul, UK

Surely it depends on how you define success. None of the women I know have risen to the dizzy heights of the boardroom, but I would not call the majority of them failures, since most of them lead varied and fulfilling lives. Maybe more so, as they don't have to spend their time point scoring at endless tedious meetings!
Pads, UK

I agree with the comments of Pads, UK. It's really time we moved on from judging people's worth by the job they do or how much they earn doing it.
Jane, Wales, UK

Some of us men can see beyond our own wallets

Ben Drake, York, UK
The main issue isn't high flying executives. Most women earn low wages doing essential but often under valued jobs. Many also have to cram in caring for their kids, as do some men. We need better pay and status for low paid women. And we need more support for all working parents, especially better and cheaper childcare. By the way, I'm a man with no kids, so some of us can see beyond our own wallets!
Ben Drake, York, UK

When I left university a couple of years ago I lost count of the number of times I was asked about my plans for a family by male interviewers. I work very hard and am determined to achieve everything I want out of my career, but I feel that if children were such an issue for employers when I was 22, I feel their assumptions on this issue will become more detrimental as I approach my late 20s.
Helen, UK

It's a mafia-like closed system up there

Tridiv Borah, Germany/India
My role models are the vast majority of female entrepreneurs in Asia. It's time to acknowledge their business skills, without getting into this male-female debate. Most of the so-called successful executives are there not because of their merits - it's a mafia-like closed system up there.
Tridiv Borah, Germany/India

It's interesting to note that it's the men in this column saying women don't have a problem. My experience has shown that it is very hard for an intelligent and self-confident woman to climb the ladder in the same way a man does. I work in the technology field and the discomfort that men feel with my knowledge and skills is quite obvious. Just the fact that it is still women who must choose between career and children says that we have not reached parity.
Lesley, USA

Lesley, I too work in technology. It always irritates me when women complain they don't have a chance in these industries and that men are holding them back. In my experience women are not interested in computers or technology. Here in Britain there has been a considerable drive to get more women into software and engineering but it doesn't seem to be working. The interest just isn't there.
D Williams, UK

If you think it's biased in business and technology, you should look at transport. A 50:50 employment policy is impossible to achieve in our industry. I want to end up as a boardroom member and will go head to head with anyone, black or white, male or female to achieve that goal. We've had female prime ministers, CEOs, astronauts, fighter pilots, doctors and professors. There is no longer any excuse. If a woman wants the same job as I do, she'll have to compete against me for it. If she's good enough she can have it.
Alex, UK

I have worked in the IT industry for six years. I manage a team and earn more than most men in the department so I think the opportunities are there. The problem is that a lot of women think they can't do it, so they don't try.
Sarah Flynn, UK

There are fewer women at the top because they still take the lead role in bringing up children. Hopefully this is because they choose to and not because they feel they must. I suspect househusbands are just as rare as businesswomen.
Katy, UK

The majority of women are making the decision not to rise to the very top

Nicola Lagan, England
Women are not holding the higher positions due to personal choice. We fought for choice - and that's what we've got. We can't expect there to be anywhere near as many women in the top positions, when the majority are making the decision not to rise to the very top.
Nicola Lagan, England

My team leader is a woman of whom I have the greatest respect - she doesn't whine or moan about her sex, and she knows her job. She is a great example of what can be achieved by hard work and the ability to affect her career by her actions and communication skills. Less whining, more action please!
Nick S, UK

Men and women are different and excel in different fields. But if a woman decides to give all her time to her career she must forget about a traditional family. In Albania there are no differences in the wages, so a man and a woman can have the same wage for the same work. It may be because we come from a communist experience in which there was almost a full parity between the two genders. However, even though we are a poor country, this is a good example for the wealthier nations to take.
Dori, Albania

It is not women who are less likely to succeed, but mothers

Fay, UK
I would suggest that it is not women who are less likely to succeed, but mothers. If a male employee took days off without giving notice, because his child was sick, and then rushed home at finishing time to pick the kids up from a childminder, then he would be less likely to be promoted too. The people who succeed are the ones who put in the extra work, and often mothers are unable to do this. This is due to their choices.
Fay, UK

Women go on and on about needing to be equal to men at work. You don't to the same extent however see men leaving a firm for six months to have babies, with all the damage it does to a firm's intrinsic productivity base. A fair salary for a fair performance, I say.
Rich, UK

Only a few weeks ago we were told equal pay for women is still very much a myth in the UK, despite all the legislation. There are few incentives for us women to rise to the top. If I was a senior executive and still only earning 80% of my male counterpart's salary, I'd wonder why I bothered.
Kaye, Liverpool, UK

She wasn't whining or writing chick-lit

Flynn, England
I'm black and don't use my race as an excuse for not succeeding so it's time women stopped using their gender as one. My mother worked and raised kids, facing sexism from my family who expected her to stay at home, never mind the workplace. She wasn't whining or writing chick-lit about it, she was putting the hours in to get on. She didn't have these fashionable excuses ("Oh the men close ranks") and didn't allow us to use them either. If hard-done-by women worked as hard as they complained, every company would have a female boss.
Flynn, England

The obstacles for working women are not just in industry; you try taking a child for vaccinations, checkups or to the dentist outside working hours. You have to take time out of work. There is very little childcare for before/after school and if a child is ill, there is nothing a working mother can do other than take time off work. The government wants us to return to work, but will not help to set up an infrastructure that allows it.
Carol, England

Women are not failing, they have choices

Caron, England
Women are not failing, they have choices which will affect their careers. When I had my first child I understood that my career would be affected. We all have choices; I could have coped by employing a full time live in nanny like Mrs Blair, but it wouldn't have suited me. As for the industry being male dominated - that is more due to the choices made by women and not by men excluding us. How many mothers are prepared to forgo seeing their children grow up, miss sports day and other school activities? I believe I made the right decision that my family is more important to me than a career.
Caron, England

Of course women succeed. Marie Curie in medicine, Mother Theresa in charity, Florence Nightingale in nursing, Cecil Frances Alexander in hymn writing, Elizabeth Fry in prison reform etc. All useful activities. I could give a list of men who have recently lost millions of pounds of other people's money of whom several are now in prison. And yet these men are deemed to have succeeded in business.
Anthony, England

I can't employ women unless they apply

John, England
I can't employ women in senior positions in my company unless they apply for a job that I have available. I can't promote women if they don't already work for me. The facts are that less than 10% of job applicants at my company are women.
John, England

The most influential woman in British industry must be Patricia Hewitt; however that doesn't necessarily make her the best role model. Business people don't tend to be well-known outside their own environment so it is unsurprising that so few business women are house-hold names: how many FTSE-100 CEOs of either sex could most of us name?
Susan, UK

Can we please stop this "Women are so hard done by" nonsense? Men and women are different and excel at different things - face it! It's like a woman saying "When it comes to growing moustaches we have been dealt a bad card - men have it so easy"!
Craig, England


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