Noelle Ullery is a first-year economics major. She is a staff writer for the Newswire from St. Louis.
Some say one of the biggest issues about the business world is that it fosters consumerism and wealth, which then leads to greed and corruption. I would argue, however, that its biggest problem lies with the lack of women in leadership positions.
There are simply not enough women in the business world. Their voices are not being heard. While there are many factors to this problem, it ultimately stems from the gender breakdown in business schools like Xavier’s.
If we look at numbers, Xavier offers 11 undergraduate majors within the Williams College of Business (WCB). The dean of the WCB is a man, but the associate and assistant deans are women. The WCB has six different departments, and of those six, there is only one woman as department chair (in entrepreneurial studies).
In the Smith Scholars program, which is the business honors program, there are 16 men and 9 women in the 2023 class. More than half of the 2022 Smith Scholars class is also occupied by men. It is quite possible that more men applied to the program than women and, even if that were the case, were there that many men who were more qualified than the women who were not accepted?
The gender imbalance means more men are volunteering their opinion compared to girls. While there are definitely women who participate, having a male-dominated classroom means there will never be equality among gender participation. If there is not already a diverse set of opinions in a classroom, how would it be any different in the work force?
There has been a more even split between men and women in business core classes, like Accounting 200 and Marketing 300. While the gender ratio is more evenly distributed, men still seem to participate more than women.
Delta Sigma Pi, the business fraternity, also has a close 1:1 ratio with a handful more men. Its previous executive committee, though, only had three women out of 13 positions.
This is not to say that women feel completely unwelcome in offering their thoughts in the classroom. However, the fact that few women are able to express their opinions suggests that there is a sense of discomfort or inferiority.
The Smith Scholars program is intended as a cohort, yet it is common for men and women to eat lunch separately after cohort classes. In fact, the program was started and is now run by men. As a participant of the program, I am grateful for the opportunities it provides. But I cannot help but speculate how it would have been different if a woman were involved in the selection process.
While women were not purposely excluded, this separation is reflective of the real business world. For instance, I interned at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis this past summer and winter break and noticed how many cafeteria tables were filled by a single sex during lunch. Granted, certain departments are dominated by one sex more than others. However, it demonstrates that even an important, inclusive workplace, such as the Federal Reserve Bank, follows separation of sexes.
The only woman who has been Chairman of the Federal Reserve is Janet Yellen, who was appointed in 2014. It took almost 100 years of the central bank’s existence to be headed by a woman.
While there was a record high of 33 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in 2019, they still only made up 6.6% of the entire list. This only reinforces the point that there are not enough women in leadership positions.
It is no wonder that my experience in business classes parallels the gender breakdown within the college itself. Indeed, it foreshadows what women’s futures will be if nothing is changed.
As a first-year, I have already noticed the gender differences in various academic business exposures. Women’s voices and input are not being heard because they are a minority, both in the classroom and the professional world.
Early on, I contemplated whether or not the business school was for me. After recognizing these patterns, I realized that I’m in right spot to make a difference. The only way for change to occur is to go against the norm and stand one’s ground. Women are strong, and it will only become more obvious if they stand up for ourselves.
It is important that more women are in the business world, specifically in leadership positions. The world relies on business for the economy to work, and the people who lead companies have the power to make big influences. Do we really want men making most of the decisions when the world is so much more diverse?