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Difficulties Women Face Becoming Managers

Organization overview

AF&L Insurance Company aims at providing the modern consumers with a complete end-to-end facility of healthcare insurance. The company is providing a 24-hour call-in facility where the customer can call to achieve healthcare insurance benefits from within the confines of their own home. The idea is to provide the customers with a courier service that would empower customers to choose their form of security as they wished and do it in shortest possible time. Our call center executives would also help customers planning a party or get together to put together the best possible security system under healthcare. All in all, the company is essentially an all-time available service of healthcare service delivery. The service provider and broker provide customers more flexibility in managing two core aspects of modern life, time and ease.

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Even though the idea of such services is not novel there are very few agencies running such businesses in US as a whole. Additionally, AF&L Insurance Company aims at providing customers with more flexibility in insurance. AF&L Insurance Company is not only a service broker but also a provider. The company aims at being one of the first of its kind in this sector and builds a reputation for having simplified the lives of its customers. The legal form for this business venture is a C corporation. Even though there are no major competitors currently or even if some more companies enter the market, later the company plans to establish strong identity in the market with a relationship based on trust with its customers in an effort to edge out any competition (Koufopoulos & Chryssochoidis, 379-382).

Human resource issue

However, though the company is stable and growing in its business there are certain areas in the Human Resource department that are needed a good amount of rectification. This problem in AF&L Insurance Company is identified as gender bias. Despite the expanded role of women in the workplace over the last three decades, the proportion of women continues to decline at progressively higher levels in managerial hierarchies the higher the level in the organization, the fewer women are found.

Nowadays, sex differences focus attention on individual characteristics as the primary explanation for the earning gap, and reductions in these sex differences as the major explanation for the narrowing gap. Recent estimates suggest that between 30% and 50% of the decline in the earnings gap is attributable to narrowing sex differences in a variety of human capital variables, change that has occurred primarily because of women’s increased labor force participation and because better educated and more experienced cohorts have replaced those less educated and less experience (Warner, 177-8).

It has been argued that Discrimination whether direct, indirect or institutionalized requires the supporting system that corresponds to the social culture. Therefore, many women have been treated differently on the basis of performance differences. However, women working on male-oriented tasks would produce lower expectations. Success would then be unexpected attributes to many factors such as luck or an effort of the woman. Failure to perform the expected performance would in turn become internal factors such as lack of ability of women to perform the job. What a man ‘is, what a woman ‘is’, what is right and proper, what is possible and impossible, what should be hoped and what should be feared. Some male managers find it difficult to relate to women as colleagues and equals, and especially difficult to accept a female manager. The relationship between the genders of those who do a particular job, the value put upon the skills involved, and the level of pay with which those skills are rewarded. In accordance with Newstrom and Davis (1994), the definition of job involvement is not only the degree to which employees engross themselves in their job but also involves the extent to which employees view work as being a central part of their lives. (Warner, 154) Some male managers find it difficult to relate to women as colleagues and equals, and especially difficult to accept a woman boss. Two areas were particularly damaging: notions of women as the weaker sex and as sex objects. Gender stereotypes are over-inclusive and pernicious, there is much evidence that gender differences in styles of communication and relating to others, do exist (Warner, p. 221).

Understanding the work environment is crucial to understanding what occurs there. Sexual behavior at work takes place in an organization having its own culture, its own norms and regulation, a hierarchy of job classifications, and diverse tasks carried out by a variety of people. While organizations differ along these dimensions – some have a rigid hierarchy while others have fewer formal levels of command or are organized along with a matrix – other aspects are relatively similar across companies. For example, people are more likely to think of an affair as taking place between a male manager and a female secretary than between a female manager and a male secretary because women tend to work as secretaries, men as managers. This is true in all kinds of organizations – hierarchical and non-hierarchical and AF&L Insurance Company is no different. Men and women are not randomly distributed throughout organizations. Each individual worker has identical productive characteristics like being ambitious, competitive, and dominant but in fact many restaurants ignore individuals because of their gender. Even though, law protects employee from discrimination but discrimination in restaurant still happen to each individual especially to women. It is not only because of their gender but also the wage gap faced by women nowadays. In fact, many men find it difficult to accept women managers in workplace just because they see those women as a weaker sex or as sex objects. One such distinctive case is the problem faced by Mary in AF&L Insurance Company.

One of the salient features of the AF&L Insurance Company culture is the emphasis on expertise and proving oneself and one’s expertise. Men are not used to seeing women managers as their work cultures and policy are still orthodox and traditional. The idea of women managers, especially young women, at an elevated post is new to society and hence it is unacceptable to them. Male dominance is a major player in the all countries and AF&L Insurance Company’s cultural background is no different, where at some places, even in these times, women are not granted equal status along with men. According to their beliefs, women are considered inferior and weaker. They are considered incapable of earning the living and are meant to be dependent on men. Male chauvinism is still very much prevalent and practiced in these countries. The presence of a young woman as their supervisor serves a severe blow to their blown-up ego. No matter how advanced their society has become around them, the dominating male egoism which they have inherited from their forefather, serves as a mental blockage in their workspace. The idea of being instructed around by a member of the opposite sex is highly unacceptable to the group.

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Also, the position occupied by Mary Harper is Supervision Manager. This position, according to the workforce’s belief should go to someone who has been exposed to the hazards employed at work, that is, someone who has practically faced the hazards themselves. The male workforce would be rather uncomfortable discussing their health and safety with a lady, especially a young one. Thus, conflicts arise among the men-folk and they resort to the age-old tricks of taunts and offensive remarks regarding her inexperience and sexuality to get rid of her from the post. Thus, to maintain the balance of the overall company structure measures must be taken and proper actions must be executed based on effective strategies and company policies.

However, it should be noted that the HRM personnel are generally instrumental in dealing with these sorts of issues but as the HRM of the company has consisted of only men (and no women), the perspective of the female managers is not properly conceived. That is why the HRM approach of the AF&L Insurance Company failed. One noted solution in this case would be the direct involvement of women in this position. In other words the AF&L Insurance Company should incorporate more women personnel in the HRM position.

Research summaries

There are several research materials available on the topic, however, in the present discussion five of the very best would be evaluated and analyzed.

a) “Gender-Based Analyses of Stress Among Professional Managers: An Exploratory Qualitative Study” by Yoshi Iwasaki, Kelly J. MacKay and Janice Ristock published in International Journal of Stress Management in 2004.

The study explored the parameters of stress in workplace and it applied to both male and female managers. The mode and experience of stress were also recorded including financial stressors, lack of sleep, levels of stress and positives and negatives related to stress. All the 36 participants in the study were from the managerial level and from different Canadian establishments, government and non-government. From this study it was found that the nature and degree differ distinctly on the basis of gender. Thus, it was established that women face a gendered related stress that is constructed on social and cultural basis. As a result, it was assumed that being a manager and a woman at the same time was much difficult than being a manager and a man.

b) “The Glass Ceiling Effect: An Approach to Assessment” by Karen S.Wickwire and Jan C.Kruper published in Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research.

The term ‘glass ceiling’ indicates the practice of excluding women from the upper managerial or authoritative levels where the fundamental decision making is operational. This study presents well-researched arguments that prove the practice wrong and financially ramifying for the company. The entire study is conducted keeping the U.S. Department of Labor criteria as a fundamental benchmark. By doing so, the research manifested the discrimination and practice against women that bar them any access into the upper managerial sections of the company. The authors specifically indicate, “Examination of the data on the representation of women in upper management supports the concept of a glass ceiling“. (Wickwire and Kruper, 32)

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c) “The Female Manager’s Experience: A Concept Map and Assessment Tool” by Kelly Schuck and Becky J. Liddle published in Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research.

For this study, 93 managers from the corporate sector participated and all were female. They provided the essential qualitative data required for the study. The entire data was subdivided into fifty-seven items and a concept map was prepared. The results were completely in favor of the thesis of the study that there is a substantial amount of difficulties that women face becoming managers incorporation world. The concept of “glass ceiling” was verified to be operational by many participants and indicated that there was a significant amount of discrimination in the workplace. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used in the study to make it full proof and the results indicated a positive consequence and were aligned with the thesis.

d) “When Fit Is Fundamental: Performance Evaluations and Promotions of Upper-Level Female and Male Managers” by Karen S. Lyness and Madeline E. Heilman published in Journal of Applied Psychology in 2006.

This study by Karen S. Lyness and Madeline E. Heilman examines the data available from different achieves and is focused on the complete performance of 448 managers of the upper-level management. The study also looks into the parameter of performance and subsequent promotion of the subjects. This study clearly indicated that there was a substantial amount of discrimination in the context of ‘glass ceiling’ against female managers. It was seen that men were able to get quicker promotions than their female counterparts even if their performances were not extremely distinguishable from the female managers. Incidentally, it was found in this study that promoted women needed to score more on performance rating than their male counterparts for promotions. The authors even stated, “The fact that this bias was evident in decision making about upper-level managers implies that even with women’s steady progress up the ranks of organizations, potential for their differential treatment persists.” (Lyness and Heilman, 784-785) In accordance with the findings and recommendations of this study it is suggested that an unbiased benchmarking should be adopted by the companies and it should be maintained throughout the lifespan of the company.

e) “Effects of Gender Diversity Management on Perceptions of Organizational Attractiveness: The Role of Individual Differences in Attitudes and Beliefs” by Luis L. Martins and Charles K. Parsons published in Journal of Applied Psychology in 2007.

This study was conducted among 231 candidates with an average age of 27.5 years. The participants were “43% female, and had average work experience of about 4.7 years.” (Martins and Parsons, 857) This study clearly stated that there was a clear gender-related attitude and it affected the fundamental reactions that required for the prompt action on behalf of the organization. There were also differences on the basis of organizational attractiveness based on gender differences. Thus, it was established that women face a gendered-related difference that is constructed on social and cultural basis. In accordance with the findings and recommendations of this study it is suggested that gender bias should be handled with care and it should be noted that there should be complete and specified benchmarks for promotions.


Once the mode of problem of the ailment is evaluated and understood, it would be comparatively easy to find the solution or cure. In this case, one primary solution would be the implementation of conflict management techniques in the company. Conflict management is a procedure that is regarded as a long-term management solution to visible obstinate conflicts. It can be formulated as a benchmark for the selection and range of ways by which managers control grievances. It is method of making people understand the view of the others and aligning the feel of rightfulness. (Black & Mendenhall, 517) Therefore, Mary Harper should be first counseled by the upper management, where all her grievances could be heard and all her suggestions are given ear to. All the problems which she encounters at her workplace need to be discussed and taken into mind. Dealing with diversity is the task of the managers and this should be explained to Mary in a calm manner. The grievances of the local employees should also be addressed such that Mary too is made aware of the problems of the locals and she can take steps to resolve them.

It can be stated that the workplace in modern world generally is comprised of people with diverse backgrounds, aptitudes, personality characteristics, approaches towards learning, and the way they react to the behaviors of others they encounter in day-to-day activities. Thus it is quite natural that conflicts come to pass within and amongst teams. Thus, in today’s management scenario, conflict management assumes immense significance.

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Secondly, in this context we need to analyze the current issues at the outset of the discussion. Team and hierarchy activities are vital features in every organization and need to be directed towards an ideologically shared goal. The lack of trust dynamics in the workplace results in the cropping up of conflicts. Dissatisfaction and annoyance start to creep in. Thus efficient team building should be in place to counter these misbalances. Teambuilding should organize the workforce and encourage them to acknowledge change and concentrate on incessant enhancement of initiatives and projects. It should also promote suppleness, improvement and creativity amongst the employees. Team dynamics facilitate the workforce to focus on designated tasks and inspire each other. They assist in building faith, reliability and enhance communication. (Black and Mendenhall, 523) The key to managing personnel is increasing character awareness of and understanding of differences of age, gender, and race.

It is a well-known fact that the basic ideology of a company is to make profit but each company develops its identity based on its vision and goal. It is here the aspect of amalgamation of vision and goal with system dynamics or ability comes into play. It is necessary to analyze and evaluate the potential of the company. It is also important to make the employees aware of the strategies to be incorporated by the management. The most effective and creative approaches and problem-solving strategies best used with a given problem are based on complete understanding of the problem and its related scenario. It is the full knowledge on a certain problem that makes it possible for managers and employee to device methods that is creative and effective at the same time. However, the managers and employees must be given opportunity to think freely.

Mary Harper, being the new inductee in the establishment, should be made to undergo a total training on how to communicate, understand, and empathize with the employees so that icy barriers which have developed between two groups could be broken and they be made comfortable communicating with each other. The task of the manager would be that he influences Mary to take charge of the diversity management herself and address the employees herself. It should be noted that Conflict is the consequence of individuals holding dissimilar conjectures. It is important to reflect on what beliefs one’s stance is based on and then analyze perspectives of the others involved. It is also important to concentrate on the issues rather than the involved parties. To a large extent conflict arises from underlying issues that manifest into problems in due course of time. Since they’re never brought to the fore, they never heal and leak out in all your interactions with that person. Thus as a manager, it is important that one encourages the subordinates to be open, direct and honest.

Additionally, one of the easier manners to solve this problem of gender bias and problem faced by women in managerial positions is to include female HRM managers. For AF&L Insurance Company, this would be the direct involvement of women in the position of senior Human Resource Manager. In other words the AF&L Insurance Company should incorporate more women personnel in the HRM position.

From the social and political ground, it would be best recommended to enact and implement the laws that are against any gender bias to protect women of managerial positions from any difficulties. Both the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 came into being as a complete package. They are together referred to as the Sex Discrimination Legislation. While the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 deals with common gender discrimination, the Equal Pay Act 1970 deals with acts of discrimination in employment plans, its different terms and conditions, job payments and eligibility of a person for pension plans.

The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 set up the Equal Opportunities Commission and its main duties are to promote equality of opportunities between men and women and constantly review the functions of both the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. The Equal Opportunities Commission has helped a huge number of people to present their cases in front of the various courts and also to the Employment Tribunals. The Equal Opportunities Commission can carry out formal and legal investigations and yield reports based on them. It can also bring out a non-discriminatory notice if the Act has been broken and also seek the order of the court to stop any unlawful Act from taking place twice. The Legal Services Commission mainly funds the Equal Opportunities Commission.

The Equal Opportunities Commission has a Code of Practice, which recommends the employers establish and employ reliable criteria for recruiting, training, promoting, demoting and discharge the employee. The employees should also know about these terms and criteria. But, the Code of Practice is not a piece of law by itself. The Equal Opportunities Commission has also set up the EOC Equality Exchange. It is a network system for the employment community and works towards achieving equal chances for both men and women.

The Equality Act covers the different areas of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equality and Human Rights Commission or EHRC, the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission. It also helps people from discrimination of goods and services based on an individual’s beliefs and religion. Through it the Government can also introduce different regulations to outlaw discrimination in goods and services that takes place on the basis of a person’s sexual preference. It also states various provisions that are related to creating public services in order to promote gender equality.

Finally, it can be stated that the proper use of the rule of the law and the company’s employment policy enforcement would negate all such problems. The U.S. Department of Labor or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are applicable to all employees despite their size, sex and other status and it also helps to protect every sect of the employees, from the agency workers to the vocational trainees. But, there are some exceptions to this law, which are completely legal. If the employee does not genuinely qualify for a certain job then he might be dismissed or not get promoted. Sometimes situations might be such that only a man and not woman or vice versa qualifies the requirements of the job. This case cannot be termed as discrimination. For example at shopping malls women require female assistants for their privacy and also decency. A man can never qualify for such a job. If due to some charity provisions only one gender benefits from it then also we cannot call it discrimination. It is the responsibility of the employers to see to it that in their presence illegal acts of discrimination do not take place. But if the employer has taken proper actions to prevent such situations then he is not liable for questioning. It is also considered unlawful to give special treatments and favors to a woman who is pregnant or is considering it. If a genuine occupational qualification can be justified for recruitment, transfer, promotion or training only then it will not be considered as discrimination. However, there is more need for research in this context for future researchers and emphasis should be given to all sectors of the food industry and not just confine the research with specific country-bound limitations.

Works Cited:

  1. Black, J. S & Mendenhall, M. “A practical but theory-based framework for selecting conflict management training methods.” Human Resource Management 28.4(2006): 511-530.
  2. Iwasaki, Yoshi., Kelly J. MacKay, & Janice Ristock. “Gender-Based Analyses of Stress Among
  3. Professional Managers: An Exploratory Qualitative Study”. International Journal of Stress Management 11.1 (2004): 56–79.
  4. Koufopoulos, Dimitrios N & George M. Chryssochoidis. “The effects of an uncertain country environment upon leadership and strategic planning practices.” Strategic Change 9.6 (2006): 379-395.
  5. Lyness, Karen S. & Madeline E. Heilman. “When Fit Is Fundamental: Performance Evaluations and Promotions of Upper-Level Female and Male Managers”. Journal of Applied Psychology 91.4 (2006): 777–785.
  6. Martins, Luis L & Charles K. Parsons. “Effects of Gender Diversity Management on Perceptions of Organizational Attractiveness: The Role of Individual Differences in Attitudes and Belief.” Journal of Applied Psychology 92.3 (2007): 865–875.
  7. Schuck, Kelly and Becky J. Liddle. “The Female Manager’s Experience: A Concept Map and Assessment Tool.” Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 56.2 (2004): 75–87.
  8. Warner, Mark. Comparative Management : Critical Perspectives on Business and Management. New York: Routledge, 2008.
  9. Wickwire, Karen S. & Jan C.Kruper. “The Glass Ceiling Effect: An Approach to Assessment.” Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 48.1, (2005): 32-39.

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