Article: Monday, 14 November 2022
Management systems for quality, environment or, for instance, food safety allow companies to control and improve their processes in a systematic way, based on international standards. Certification of these systems signals this to customers and other stakeholders. Surprisingly, some businesses benefit more than others. Export firms managed by women benefit more from certification based on international standards than firms managed by men, especially in the service sector. Without certification, female-led companies have more difficulties to export. “This should be food for thought for all purchase managers – are your purchase decisions free from prejudice? If not, then they are probably suboptimal,” says Henk de Vries, Professor of Standardisation at Management at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) who, together with his colleagues Cesare Riillo and Prof. Ivana Mijotovic, went looking for more empirical evidence of the effects of management system certification on export success, and the factors influencing it.
The results of their research suggest that export companies can expect the achievement of certification based on standards for management systems to offset the effects of prejudices associated with having women in leadership roles. In unmasking this subtle form of discrimination, the research team may have found a starting point for solving the issue.
Standardisation provides rules and guidelines for businesses that tell customers what they can expect from a product or service. This helps to facilitate trade as well as helping the business to implement economies, efficiencies and interoperability. Standards for management systems help producing companies to do this in a systematic way. So standardisation enhances customer confidence.
One of Prof. De Vries’ fields of research is standardisation and how it is independently assessed by means of certification. Standards for management systems have two kinds of impact;
Directly because it helps the firm to run itself efficiently and effectively.
Indirectly because attaining a certificate of standardisation sends out a positive signal about the firm.
In this case, Prof. De Vries and his colleagues were interested in what standardisation does for export firms. “We wanted to have more empirical evidence of the effects of management system certification on export success, and factors influencing this impact,” he said.
Co-researcher Dr Cesare Riillo, a senior market intelligence analyst with Luxinnovation quantitatively tested the impact of certification on export, and the effect of women in leadership roles. He used data from enterprise surveys conducted by the World Bank in 2013 that included 4,111 firms from 25 Central and Eastern European countries in transition. These countries have the highest percentage of women in leadership roles, a relic of the communist period, explained co-researcher Prof. Ivana Mijotovic, professor of organisational sciences at the University of Belgrade.
The researchers’ results confirm that there’s a positive correlation between certification and export. What’s more, firms managed by women benefit more from certification based on international standards than firms managed by men, especially in the service sector. This suggests that certification offsets the effects of prejudices associated with having women in leadership roles. The effect was most prominent in the service sector where services are often provided face to face; managers in the service sector are less anonymous than managers in companies that produce and send out their products.
The findings provide an extra argument for women managers to implement a management system and get it certified: it results in a competitive advantage in export markets. The results also provide food for thought for purchase managers – are their purchase decisions free from prejudice? If not, then it’s possible that those purchase decisions are not as good as they could be.
Now that this research has unmasked this subtle form of discrimination, Prof. De Vries suggests it might become the starting point for solving the issue of prejudice against firms led by women.
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