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Do Companies Have a Secret Quota on Female Employees? This Study Says Yes

Do Companies Have a Secret Quota on Female Employees? This Study Says Yes

By Caitlin Moscatello

It would be easy to assume that working for a company with a high-ranking female executive would be a plus—the hiring of women in leadership roles suggests that said company recognizes and values women and is willing to put its money where its mouth is. But what if having one woman at the upper levels of management somehow made a company feel that it had done its diligence in promoting women—token female executive? check!—and therefore complacent in hiring or promoting more women to top positions?

recent study by researchers at Columbia Business School and the Robert H. Smith School of Business suggests just that. In fact, once one woman lands a top-level job at a company, the chances of another woman also being hired to a high-ranking position drop by about 50 percent, according to their findings. 

To conduct their research, the study's authors—Cristian Deszö, David Gaddis Ross, and Jose Uribe—analyzed Standard and Poor's data on top managers at 1,500 firms from 1991 to 2011. Their mathematical simulations showed that rather than showing "clusters" of high-ranking women, there was usually just one woman on an executive team. At first, the researchers considered the possibility that a "queen bee" scenario was taking place—i.e. female executives might perceive other women as rivals and therefore surround themselves with men. I truly hate the suggestion of this—so I'm relieved the authors rejected it. Instead, they found that after appointing a woman to a top management position, companies were fine to sit back and feel satisfied that they had that whole "woman thing" taken care of. "Once [a company] had appointed one woman, the men seem to have said, 'We have done our job," said Deszö in a released statement.

The harsh news: Some companies hiring or promoting women to leadership roles may be doing so to appearas though they value diversity—perhaps due to pressure from the media and other sources. As a result, once their so-called "woman quota" is filled, it may be even harder for other women to be hired to top positions. "They orient their efforts away from promoting women, perhaps to the point of resistance," Gaddis Ross told Business Insider." 

Can I get a collective ughhhh?

Obviously there are plenty of reasons companies should hire women to high-level positions—a "quota" being at the very bottom of that list (or not on the list at all). What do you think of the study's findings? Are you surprised? Not surprised? 

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