Men are better at networking than women.
She was in conversation with POWER Talk’s Iman Rappetti about women’s disappearance from leadership positions in business.
Von Hirschfeld says it’s due to a number of complex reasons including behavioural patterns and institutional bias.
“There are a whole complexity of factors including women feeling an overt bias and a more second generation gender bias, like women not putting themselves up for promotion unless they feel they meet 100% of the criteria for the job, while men are more likely to put themselves up for promotion if they meet 60% of the criteria,” she explains.
The last year has seen global business take one step forward but one step back when it comes to gender diversity in leadership, according to Grant Thornton’s “Women in business: beyond policy to progress” report.
“The percentage of businesses around the world with at least one woman in senior management has increased significantly, rising from 66% to 75% in the last year. But at the same time the proportion of senior roles held by women has marginally declined,” the report says.
Simply put, “women are not good at networking”, says von Hirschfield.
“They are not good at building a social capital. They just don’t have the skills or the confidence and that confidence is such a crucial thing.
“Confidence builds slowly and over time based on success and if you don’t experience that early enough it starts eroding one’s confidence quite quickly.”
Often women are labelled for being assertive, while men are praised for the same behavior.
“If women are assertive, it is often perceived as aggressive whereas that same behavior may be read differently from men.”
Von Hirschfield says what happens during the early days of a women’s career can have a long-lasting impact.
Days of rife discrimination and deliberately not appointing women are gone, she adds.
“It is so much more subtle than that. It’s about who you know. Sometimes it is sexual harassment. It is often just a question of how we look at success.”
She says often CEOs are unaware of the gender-bias, further exacerbating the problem.
By Koketso Seloane