Women and the Power Structure of Western Nations

In June 2012, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a series of new gender indicators, covering the presence of women in top corporate jobs and parliaments, the gender wage gap, and entrepreneurship.

Despite efforts in many countries to promote their participation on boards, women are still under-represented in top corporate jobs. On average, women make up 10% of board members. The United States is only 2% higher at 12%. Quite a few countries do better. The highest is highest is Norway, at close to 40%, due to a mandatory quota introduced in 2006. In Sweden, France, Slovak Republic and Finland the proportion of women on boards is between 15% and 20%, while in Germany, Japan and the Netherlands, it is less than 5%.

Spain, Iceland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy have all introduced laws to promote gender equality on boards, setting targets of between 20% and 40%. While there is no conclusive evidence that a company’s performance is boosted by having more women on the board, it is increasingly recognized that greater gender diversity in firms would increase the talent pool for top executives.

The percent of women in the U.S. congress and senate is 17%, which is about 10% lower than the average of OCED countries parliaments. In the past ten years, the average proportion of women in US Congress and Senate has increased slightly as shown in the chart below.

The overall wage gap in the U.S. has been declining, but at 19%, it is three times greater than it is in Hungary. And it is about twice as large as most European countries. Overall, the USA wage gap has been declining slightly as follows:

Entrepreneurship is still highly gendered. The percent of women has been rising, but this is largely due to an overall decline in male entrepreneurs during the past 11 years. Entrepreneurship, which is the percent of people who run a business that employs people, is still highly gendered, as can be seen in the next chart showing an overall decline in entrepreneurs during the past 11 years in the United States. However, the decline is among men whereas the percent of women business owners as a percent of the total employed population has been flat at about 1.7%. This is considerably lower than the OCED average and most European countries. Two thirds of OCED countries studied had a higher concentration of women as entrepreneurs.

If one considers lack of participation in power positions of business as well as government to be indicators of injustice due to social processes like glass ceilings that prohibit advancement, then the U.S., as well as the rest of the OECD countries, have a long way to go to reach gender justice, both informal and formal.

From these charts of data from the United States of progress from 2000 to 2010, a simple linear projection would predict that women’s and men’s wages would be equal in about 150 years, women will have equal representation in Congress and the Senate by about 2060, and we don’t have enough data to project gender equality in corporate boardrooms.

Most studies find that women tend to make compassionate choices more often than do men. Given that, do we not want to speed up the slow progress of filling seats of power in government, as well as in corporate boardrooms, much more rapidly than the current pace of change.

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