Glass ceiling not as strong in the developing world

INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images A new study of the effects of gender stereotypes around the world suggests that women in the developing world find it easier to advance professionally than their counterparts in wealthy countries. The survey was prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the 2007 Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society in Deauville, France. Samuel DiPiazza, ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
598671_071015_india_05.jpg
598671_071015_india_05.jpg

INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

A new study of the effects of gender stereotypes around the world suggests that women in the developing world find it easier to advance professionally than their counterparts in wealthy countries. The survey was prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the 2007 Women's Forum for the Economy and Society in Deauville, France. Samuel DiPiazza, global head of PwC, summed up the report's findings:

In some countries such as Germany and Switzerland, there are cultural and social perceptions of women that make advancement much more challenging. Whereas in the developing world, where there is a huge cry for talent, where there is enormous growth, you must be able to adjust to these norms faster."

INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

A new study of the effects of gender stereotypes around the world suggests that women in the developing world find it easier to advance professionally than their counterparts in wealthy countries. The survey was prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the 2007 Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society in Deauville, France. Samuel DiPiazza, global head of PwC, summed up the report’s findings:

In some countries such as Germany and Switzerland, there are cultural and social perceptions of women that make advancement much more challenging. Whereas in the developing world, where there is a huge cry for talent, where there is enormous growth, you must be able to adjust to these norms faster.”

Elisabeth Kelan of the London Business School agreed with the report’s characterization of her home country, Germany:

In Germany, we have the concept of the raven mother, which suggests they abandon their child if they go to work.” As a result, less than 16% of German women with children below six work full-time.

Germany’s first female chancellor, Angela Merkel, has no children, as another participant at the forum pointed out. This environment contrasts greatly with India’s high-tech sector, for instance, in which stereotypes are not as entrenched, the demand for talent is great, and women are having a much easier time advancing into higher ranks. Another finding that seems likely to generate controversy is the report’s assertion that China’s one-child policy has helped women because girls do not have to compete with their brothers for education and parental recognition. The policy is often criticized by women’s rights advocates for inducing parents to abandon, abort, or give baby girls up for adoption. 

The report would seem to contradict the modernization theory of development, which holds that developing countries emulate the social norms of more economically advanced countries as they modernize. In this aspect, the new arrivals seem to be leap-frogging the established powers. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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