Despite their growing numbers in managerial jobs worldwide, women earn less than men in those positions and hold just 2% to 3% of the top spots, according to a U.N. survey released today.
The report by the International Labor Organization said a so-called glass ceiling--an invisible barrier of male-dominated networks and prejudices--still prevents women from reaching the top jobs.
"Women today represent over 40% of the global work force and have gradually moved up the hierarchical ladder of enterprises," the report said. "Yet rarely does their share of management positions exceed 20%. The higher the position, the more glaring the gender gap."
In the U.S. and Canada, women make up 46% and 42% of management, respectively.
But the report cited a survey of the top 500 U.S. companies that showed that women held just 2.4% of the highest-paid management jobs in 1995. And weekly earnings of female managers in the United States averaged 68% of male managers', it said.
A survey of 300 companies in Britain last year showed 3% of board members were women. Earnings of female professionals were 83% of those of men--one of the highest levels in the world.
Although increasing numbers of women with children work outside the home in North America and Europe, in Japan most mothers still drop out of the labor force to care for their families, the report said.
Linda Wirth, the report's author, said she is optimistic that the remaining work force inequalities will be overcome in the next generation.
The report said women did better in the public sector than the private sector, and fared best in industries employing large numbers of women, such as health and community services and the hotel and catering industry.
Women in management tend to be concentrated in functions such as labor relations and personnel, which are less likely to lead to top jobs than those in product development or corporate finance, the report said.
Women in developing countries generally are not faring as well as their counterparts in the industrialized world, the report said. But there were exceptions. In Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela and the Philippines--where women have seized educational opportunities and taken advantage of extended families for child care--the number of professional women was higher than in many industrialized countries, it said.