Women make inroads into management ranks when firms downsize, restructure

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Washington, June 13 : Women are likely to be recruited at managerial ranks when companies that downsize restructure their scaled-back workforces, according to a leading sociologist.

Sociologist John Dencker from University of Illinois has revealed that this may be because downsizing whittles the pool of jobs available for both men and women.

The firms apparently make an effort to balance gender inequities during staff shakeups.

The study led by Dencker showed that women entered management ranks at rates up to 25 percent higher than men in some grade levels after downsizing, which created supervisory openings as older male managers took company-offered buyouts.

"It might be that they try to make up for past inequalities or they may be aware of other firms that have had legal difficulties and want to make sure they don't run into the same problems," said Dencker.

However, the gap closed within a year or two as management jobs became scarcer in the aftermath of restructuring.

"Everybody's rates of promotions slowed after downsizing because there simply weren't as many positions to promote people into," said Dencker.

"With fewer positions available, promoting women more rapidly than men would be more visible and the company may have been concerned about how male managers would react," he added.

Overall, women accounted for nearly 36 percent of the company's managers after restructuring, compared with an average of about 24 percent during the period from 1967 to 1993, according to the study.

But Dencker said women made less headway into top levels of management, composing about 17 percent of the highest salary grade level after restructuring compared with an average of about 11 percent during the 26 years studied.

He said a host of factors slowed the climb up the corporate ladder for women

"I think women are going to keep pushing higher and higher up organizational ladders. As far as CEO-level positions, I think it will be easier once it reaches critical mass. But that's a long way off," he added.

The study appears in the June issue of the American Sociological Review, the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association.

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