Women's career opportunities at the crossroads
Over the past few decades, women have made enormous inroads into schools and universities and have carved out a place for themselves in professional working life. Never before in Germany have there been as many well-qualified women as there are today, yet women are still significantly under-represented in managerial positions.
This situation might now change. Better opportunities for women are no longer demanded solely by women's networks and commissioners for women's rights. The issue is gaining currency at board level as well, where it is linked to the broader topic of managing diversity. Equal treatment of women is considered to be a key element in fostering diversity, which in turn is seen as a productive factor in itself. Modern-day companies are characterised by cultural and ethnic diversity and they make use of all the resources and potentials of their entire workforce. This desire for diversity reflects a fundamental transformation in the business world. In the process, the topic of ‘Women and Career' is attracting renewed attention.
Transforming the economy is about creating a new type of enterprise we call 'Enterprise 2.n.' This kind of company operates on global markets, has sales and production structures spanning the globe, and exploits the ‘information space' available worldwide. Internally, it centres on standardisation of processes and workflows and on a new type of industrialisation of work. Job descriptions, compensation systems and the career/promotion system are standardised on a global scale, the company aims to become a globally integrated enterprise. The differences between locations, cultures, generations and also between men and women are handled in the context of ‘diversity management,' the aim of which is not to eliminate such differences but rather to acknowledge and strategically harness them.
Changed conditions for women's career opportunities
The trend towards Enterprise 2.n is altering the conditions for women's career opportunities in a fundamental way. A new constellation of opportunities and risks is emerging. Thus, a new realm of opportunities for women is emerging - after decades of tenacious attempts to improve their chances of career advancement that only produced minor success. Women appear to benefit from formalised career structures and better transparency of performance assessment. However, there are signs that Enterprise 2.n also harbours new risks for women's career opportunities. Specifically, availability expectations in market- and customer-centred business units could become a criterion for excluding skilled women. In many fields, there may even be a ‘roll-back' of women's opportunities if certain risk factors are not met with counteractive measures at an early stage. Women's career opportunities in companies are approaching a historical crossroads, making it essential to to set the course for future development. The aim must be to exploit opportunities in a systematic, targeted manner and to identify risks early on, in order to develop effective strategies for women's advancement.