Best Countries For Women Have One Strange Thing In Common

ex-communist womenWomen's standing in the upper reaches of business has stolen hundreds of headlines in the last few weeks, thanks to Sheryl Sandberg's new manifesto on the subject, Lean In. But the book by Facebook's chief operating officer is missing one key fact: A woman is more likely to enter senior management in almost any other country than the U.S.

According to a survey of 45 countries across North America, Europe, Asia, and South America by the international consultancy Grant Thornton, women occupied just under a quarter of senior management roles in 2012, after dipping for a few years during the recession. But this number varies vastly by nation. And the countries that score the highest have a strange thing in common: They once were, or still are, communist.

Developed countries: The worst for working women? In the U.S., just 1 in 5 senior managers are female. Japan, which has the third largest economy in the world, ranks dead last on the list, with a female representation of just 7 percent. On the other hand, China leads the pack, with women making up over half of its senior management.

This result may be slightly inflated, however, according to Dominic King, Grant Thornton's global research manager, because the results are self-reported, and there's no set definition of "senior manager."

But in many developing countries, he explains, "women are much more driven and much more ambitious at the moment."

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'Whatever male comrades can do, female comrades can do, too.' The only other countries where women make up at least a third of senior managers are Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, the Philippines and Georgia -- countries significantly below the U.S. on the development index. And 5 of those 6 once had socialist governments.

It's true that socialist governments generally advanced women's rights, by expanding public services like child care and kindergartens, and encouraging women to enter the workforce. After the Soviet Union crumbled, academics noted a curious rise in "communist nostalgia" -- a phenomenon more pronounced in women than men.

"There was a big push under the U.S.S.R. to give women equal employment rights to men," says King. "Those ex-Soviet countries, it's a hangover from that time."

Few truly wish for the return of the brutal dictatorships that marked this era. But evidently, economic growth brings more gains to men than women. Chinese women, for example, made great strides in the 1950s, reports The New York Times, under the leadership of Mao Zedong and his maxim "whatever male comrades can do, female comrades can do, too."

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But in terms of overall gender equality, the Nordic countries are best. The mass privatization of Chinese industry over the past few decades has brought enormous economic growth, but women's incomes have been falling relative to men's, the Times reports, and increasing numbers of people believe women's place is in the home.

Nordic countries such as Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden generally rank best for gender equality, overall. They top the charts on the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Index, for example, which analyzes political, economic, educational and health equality in 135 countries.

But as the Grant Thornton report shows, that doesn't necessarily translate to more women at the top of business. "There's not a great cultural drive for women to necessarily take senior management roles" in Western countries, says King.

And a taste of communism may make the difference too. Even on the Global Gender Index, Cuba, despite a GDP per capita a fifth the size, ranks three spots above the United States.




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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

Follow Claire on Twitter. Email Claire at claire.gordon@teamaol.com. Add Claire to your Google+ circles.

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rjnod80

Good luck having a career and family in China!

March 20 2013 at 7:25 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mahrmach

Communism is BAD for every single human being, TO suggest anything less is pure folly. It is one of the most EVIL of possible government.Just look at the history of human rights abuses by communist nations and you would never even suggest any value to a system that values government above human life! Only our Constitution gives priority to Personal Liberty and restricts government power, At least it did until Obama started to step all over it!

March 20 2013 at 7:16 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
weeziebathome

What is the statistic in the article that states China is number one? We better start to worry.

March 19 2013 at 10:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ron

I can't possibly agree more with most of previous comments....did you or your parents use LSD more than 10 times....unless this is a spoof....I think you must have gone to Yale Lock School. Senior management in most of those countries means you get to live a little longer.

March 19 2013 at 7:23 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
SweetfeetBaby

Heaven save us from studies based on surveys, especially those that are self-reported.
Considering that, & varying social and marital conditions & family values around the world, I find this study an exercise in utter nonsense, especially where comparisons to current & former communist countries is concerned.
Surely an individual's personal choices and preferences ought to be as important as what they find themselves doing professionally at the moment, & I find it highly likely that many women simply choose a valued & distinguished career of one-on-one motherhood.
When did that lose it's significance?

March 19 2013 at 5:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
barrendur

What an asinine article title! Communism is not good for workers PERIOD. It's a romanticised, idealised political philosophy that ignores a basic human reality: Someone always has to be on top... and someone always will be.

Pretending that Communist thinking is so "enlightened" that its practitioners are somehow immune to essential human urges is dishonest and dangerous. Communism is not an automatically ennobling belief, and the consequences of trying to demonstrate otherwise have had a huge cost in human life and human suffering.

Communism is fatally flawed. It's based on naive and inaccurate views of human nature and belief; it may be superficially morally appealling, but it's just... flat... wrong. People don't actually act that way, and we have witnessed (in the former Soviet Union, in mainland China, in present-day Cuba) what happens when the State tries to pretend they do. Death, misery, economic failure and eventual collapse of each "right-thinking Communist nation" are the wages of this particular sin.

Communism is the enemy of the workers, male or female, and of all thinking human beings... no matter what some half-literate computer columnist would have you believe.

March 19 2013 at 4:26 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to barrendur's comment
antiquepicker62

Great post. I thought the world was done with this scurge? Yet someone someplace figures it should be given another try

March 20 2013 at 7:00 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
MsDeeM

Funny but have thought about this too, what the article is discussing, thinking that McCarthy didn't associated pink w/ commies for no reason...seemed commie-pink0's was just another way of saying he was against economic empowerment of women by ensuring a fair and equal playing field would stifle productivity, and no matter how that is administrated there will always be problems, sure its obvious- but: Capitalism requires no shame or guilt at taking advantage of others, communism requires sharing in kind, something women do in their own families to help them thrive, women have always had to do with out...that is nothing new. The paradox though, is that capitalism cannot exist without women practicing communism in their homes among their family, and how ironic this is should not be ignored in any discussion because in male dominated political ideology, its better to demonize it and keep the status quo than acknowledge it for what it is and work to improve existing frameworks to better promote better social harmony, which is really all that women are really asking for - and why is that such a difficult thing for $powerful-money-men in politic$ to understand, it should not be, except it threatens their power and greed position and by hording wealth they can maintain control over who and which sections of society gets to eck out a living and who doesn't...clearly that is a violation of human rights carried out on a daily basis under so many layers that they assume average person won't understand it, but as time goes on people are more and more aware of just how harmful the effects have been on the entire world. Bottom line, womens issues are everyones issues, failing to support womens issues affects everyone who is nurtured, assisted and supported by them - ignoring that truth is to live in a world that denies women a place in the political process to make the world a better place for everyone involved, and its where we are at still, in todays day and age.

March 19 2013 at 3:11 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
chancellorsrun

What an idiot. Unbelievable uninformed. More needs to be done for equal pay for equal work and for promotion opportunities, but this is stupid.

March 19 2013 at 1:23 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
szab0413

Your premise is that communism is good. That's is completely false. You are starting with a false premise. Communism is good for no one, including women.

March 19 2013 at 1:17 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
dwarner513

Communism is good for nothing.

March 19 2013 at 1:08 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

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