Glass Ceiling Less of a Barrier in the Developing World

Last Updated Oct 15, 2007 5:52 PM EDT

Glass Ceiling Less of a Barrier in the Developing WorldThis weekend the third annual Women's Forum for the Economy and Society was held in France. At the event PricewaterhouseCoopers presented the results of its study of women in the workplace across eight countries, including several European countries, China and India. The surprising results are reported in the Guardian today:
Women in developing countries find it easier to break through the so-called glass ceiling than their colleagues in the west, according to a global study by PricewaterhouseCoopers.... It said: "Our discussions with interviewees suggested that in developed countries, cultural stereotypes and perceptions may represent greater barriers to full economic participation by women than in many of the developing countries."
The demand for talent in fast-growing economies has helped to draw women into the workforce. In China, the government's controversial one-child policy has also aided female participation in the workforce.

So what's holding back women in the west? Besides traditional stereotypes, perceptions about working mothers hinder women in some countries. Elisabeth Kelan, the German head of research at the Lehman Brothers Centre for Women in Business at the London Business School, notes that in her country, for example, "we have the concept of the raven mother, which suggests they abandon their child if they go to work." Less than 16% of German mothers work full time when their children are young as a result.

Another culprit is business models designed for "middle-class men with stay-at-home wives". Take Spain's long afternoon breaks and late leaving times, for example. These hours are nearly impossible to reconcile with the responsibilities of childcare.

So what's to be done? The report suggests that establishing a diversity committee can help eliminate bias, and women-only networks are also helpful. Finally though, each society will require slightly different measures and solutions to help ensure a diverse workplace in which women can rise to their full potential.

(Image of (literal) glass ceiling by eddieq, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.