A key to success for either men or women often hinges on the strength of a firm’s backing. When a woman manager receives training and the strong backing of her firm, she usually receives the respect commensurate with the position she holds and the firm she represents. For success, woman needs a title that gives immediate credibility in the culture in which she is working and a support structure and reporting relationship that will help her get the job done. In short, with the power of the corporate organization behind her, resistance to her as a woman either does not materialize or is less troublesome than anticipated. Once business negotiations begin, the willingness of a business host to engage in business transactions and the respect shown to a foreign businessperson grow or diminish depending on the business skills he or she demonstrates, regardless of gender. As one executive stated, the most difficult aspect of an international assignment is getting sent, not succeeding once sent.
The number of women in managerial positions (all levels) in most European countries, with the exception of Germany, is comparable to the United States. The International Labor Organizations notes that in the United States, 43 percent of managerial positions are held by women, in Britain 33 percent and in Switzerland 28 percent. In Germany, however the picture is less positive. According to one economic source German female executives held just 9.2 percent of management jobs, and these meet stiff resistances from their male counterparts when vie for upper level positions. But the good news is the indication that some German businesses are attempting to remedy the situation. One step to help boost women up the executive ladder is a so called cross mentoring system organized by Lufthansa and seven other major corporations. High ranking managers in one company offer advice to women mangers in another firm in an effort to help them develop the kind of old boy network that allows male managers to successfully climb the corporate ladder.
As world markets become more global and international competition intensifies US companies need to be represented by the most capable personnel available, from entry level to CEO. Research shows that global companies are requiring international experience for top executive positions. Executives who have has international experience are more likely to get promoted have higher rewards, and have grater occupational tenure. The lack of international experience should not be a structural barrier to breaking trough the glass ceiling in corporate America; to limit the talent pool imply because of gender seems shortsighted.
So what about our female Ford executive mentioned at the start of the chapter? She was having no fun in Japan when we left her story. However, by all accounts (from peers, supervisors, and even Japanese counterparts) that first encounter was not representatives of her continuing success with the Japanese. She attributes her subsequent effectiveness to the strong support of her male Ford Team members and her own recognition of the importance of building personal relationships with the Japanese. She explains.
Mr.H also Ford Manager working with Japanese client, and Mrs.H decided to have a few of our Mazda associates over for an All American dinner during their next trip to Detroit. So, they started out inviting three people to their home. They thought this would be a nice intimate way to get to know one another and provide the Japanese with an honest to goodness home made American meal. By the eve of the dinner word had gotten out and we had thirteen for dinner. They sort of invited themselves, they changed their meetings around and some even flew in from the Chicago Auto Show. They had a wonderful time and for the first time they saw Mrs.H as a person. A mom and a wife as well as business associate. They (Mr.H & Mrs.H) talked about families some business not particulars but world economies and the auto industry in general. The dinner party was a key turning point in their relationship with Mazda.