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Do Women Still Face a Glass Ceiling in Business?

Is the “glass ceiling” an outmoded phrase? First used in 1979 by a business woman, it became a popular catch-cry through the 1980s when the boys’ club business mentality meant women faced an invisible barrier to promotion and top jobs in business.

It could be argued that in a world where a million-dollar business can be started from someone’s lounge room, women have just as much access to the cloud-based technology boom as men. What’s stopping women, it’s argued, is life – having children, and staying home to look after them. It’s no longer the male-constructed glass ceiling, but the roles that women are expected to play in society that hold them back. Whether these two things – the glass ceiling and societal roles – are actually the same thing is open to debate, but for now let’s let the statistics speak for themselves…

The facts about women in business management

During Julia Gillard’s time at the Lodge, Australia’s governor-general and the prime minister were both women. But this rosy picture of gender equality says more about society’s general attitude to women occupying the top jobs. In the business world, things are different.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that in 2012, only 3% of the top 200 ASX companies had a female chair and only seven companies had a female CEO. However, there was an increase from 8.4% to 12.3% in the number of female board directors. Heartening as this may be, 12.3% is still nothing like the 50% that might be expected.

Show her the money: Female executive salaries

In December last year, the Australian Financial Review revealed that of our top 20 highest paid executives, only two were women. But what about business ownership? Are the freedoms of the internet and cloud-based technologies encouraging women to start their own enterprises?

The answer is yes. The latest American census shows 36% of business owners are women, up from 29% in 2007. It also shows the proportion of businesses owned by women (versus men) has increased substantially. In Australia, the figure for women business ownership is 33%, confirming that women are taking advantage of emerging technologies that allow business owners the freedom to work with fewer resources and even work from home.

Women with their heads in the clouds  

The global shift to internet or cloud-based technologies includes communication, and among these is online faxing.

Businesses can send a free fax via email and receive a fax through email by subscribing to a virtual fax number that assigns itself to an email client. Faxes are sent as attachments and received from traditional machines also as attachments.

The trick is the conversion process that turns the fax to a digital attachment, saving businesses the cost of buying and servicing a fax machine, and line rental. This is just one of the ways that technology is allowing remote working and the virtual office to become a reality.

Working smarter and knowing how to make do with less are the traditional strengths associated with women. Now, these skills are being applied to the business world, with the potential to shatter the glass ceiling, at least when it comes to business ownership.

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