women in leadership

The challenges associated with women in leadership and gender equality

Women in leadership is a big topic in the workplace. Women have come a long way since the time they were allowed to vote. They have been able to break barriers and progress into positions of power. Yet, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before we can say that women are equal in society and in the workplace. They are often discriminated against and have to work twice as hard to prove themselves.

The good news is that there are many organisations working on these issues by developing emerging female leaders and promoting women into leadership positions.

In the early 1900s, women were not allowed to vote, were not allowed to attend university and were not allowed to work in professions beyond teaching, nursing and secretarial work. Now they are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, heads of state, and even astronauts!

The progress that has been made in women’s leadership is phenomenal. But gender equality is still a challenge. Women are still underrepresented in STEM fields and are paid less than their male counterparts for the same jobs.

Women also have a harder time balancing family with careers and often have to take care of children or other family members because there is no support system for them.

We need to look at the challenges that women in leadership face when it comes to gender equality, as well as how female leaders are trying to overcome these challenges.

1. Lack of Female Role Models

The lack of female role models in the workplace is a major factor in the lack of women in leadership. When entry level employees and emerging female leaders see women in leadership positions at their organisations, it sends a clear message that they can also reach the leadership level. This can inspire and motivate emerging female leaders to pursue what are realistically achievable goals.

The lack of female role models in tech is a problem that has been around for a long time. Research shows that females are less likely to pursue STEM careers as they grow up because they don’t see enough females in these roles.

There have been many attempts to solve this issue, such as the #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign by Women Who Code or the Women In Technology (WIT) campaigns by organisations like Facebook, Google and Microsoft. But these efforts have not had much success yet.

Companies should be actively developing and supporting emerging female leaders, via professional development programmes by experts with experience, in what it takes to become women in leadership.

2. Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is a term that has been used to describe the phenomenon where people are biased without being aware of it. This bias can affect hiring, promotion, and other decisions.

There are a lot of ways to reduce unconscious bias in the workplace. Some say that we should start by educating people about unconscious bias and its effects on society. Others say that we should try to change the way we think about gender roles and break down traditional stereotypes for both men and women.

It is widely accepted that this type of discrimination stems from the belief women are generally less competent than men as leaders. However, many studies confirm this is simply not the case and the differences in competence between female and male leaders is negligible.

3. Negative Stereotypes

There are many stereotypes about women in the workplace. Some of them are positive, but most of them are negative. There is a common misconception that women are often seen as less competent, less intelligent, less assertive, have lower confidence levels and have inferior management skills to men.

For many decades these misconceptions were left unchallenged, but history actually shows none of these common misconceptions are based in reality. It is becoming more apparent that these common misconceptions were perpetrated by male dominated board rooms as a way of maintaining the status quo. However, progress and reality cannot be suppressed indefinitely and in this rapidly changing world major breakthroughs are being made.

4. Sexual Harassment & Bullying

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination in the workplace. It is a form of gender-based violence that is directed at an individual because of their sex, and can include unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct.

Bullying at work is another form of harassment. It is a behaviour that takes place in the workplace by one or more employees against another employee. The behaviour can take many forms including verbal abuse, physical violence, social exclusion and/or psychological abuse.

Historically this type of discrimination and abuse was seen a normal, widely dismissed and swept under the carpet of historical shame. However, as we progress towards a more enlightened society, in which everyone is to be afforded the same rights and equality of opportunities are enshrined in law, these types of abuse and discrimination are being consigned to the dustbin of history.

What Positive Steps Can Emerging Female Leaders Take?

The skills needed to be a successful leader are not changing. Leadership is still about the ability to inspire, motivate, and empower others.

Some people believe leadership skills are innate and cannot be improved. But in reality, leadership skills can be developed and improved with coaching, practice, self-awareness and a lot of hard work.

Leadership is complex and encompasses many different characteristics. It can be hard to define leadership and even harder to know when someone is a leader. Leadership can be defined as the ability to inspire, motivate and organise people and resources in order to achieve organisational goals.

Traditionally, men have relied on networks of mentors, where emerging leaders were taken under the wing of experienced leaders and over time skills were developed and honed.

However, with the lack of women in leadership positions, female mentors are few and far between and much more emphasis has been placed on female leadership coaches.

The most effective female leadership coaches are not only certified as leadership coaches, but they also have actual real-life experience in facing and overcoming the challenges associated with joining the ranks of successful women in leadership.

The Rise of Imposter Syndrome with Female Leaders

In some Nordic countries they have imposed quotas, where companies are mandated to have a 50-50 split of male and female board members.

Whilst this has been seen as a positive step by some, it has also been heavily criticised by others. This is because many people see “Equality of Opportunities“ as the path forward and not enforcing “Equality of Outcomes“.

If emerging female leaders are promoted into leadership position simply becuase of their gender, rather than their abilities, it can lead to said leaders suffering from imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is a psychological occurrence that affects those who don’t feel like they deserve their success. People with the condition often have intense feelings of self-doubt, especially when confronted with success.

Imposter syndrome is especially prevalent among young professionals. A Varkey Foundation study found nearly a third of millennials felt intimidated in the workplace and self-identified as having Imposter Syndrome.

There are an estimated 17 million young professionals in the UK and a third of these is a significant number of people who are struggling to accept their place in a professional environment.  

Imposter syndrome is something I deal with in my coaching programme for emerging female leaders and help them deal with self-doubt and the negative drag this can have on performance.

Sarah Jones Leadership Coaching and Women in Leadership

I have personally overcome many challenges women face as they progress their careers on the path to becoming women in leadership. With over 25 years working in leadership positions within global organisations, I am perfectly placed to coach and prepare women for leadership roles.

If you are a woman, who is an emerging leader of the future, or an organisation looking to prepare your female employees for roles in leadership, then please contact me as I can help you achieve your goals.

The first step on your path to success starts with a free, confidential, 30-minute consultation with me, so don’t delay and book today.

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Women in Leadership

Women in Leadership

Women in Leadership