Why are there such few women in leadership and why is it important to have more?
There is no doubt that women have started making their claims for leadership. For example, female held directorships in FTSE 100 companies in the UK was a mere 15% in 2012 but has gone up to 32.1% as of 2019. So, yes, the figures are improving, but why are they not improving fast enough? Research proves that it is crucial to have more women at workplaces but even as we climb the corp ladder, we’re faced with numerous challenges as a result of society and workplace norms.
Why are there such few women in leadership?
As women, we are privy to a glass ceiling which has been created by the norms established over decades. There are many factors inside and outside the workplace which impact our ability to reach leadership positions and showcase our full potential. For example
The demands of establishing a perfect work-life balance
We’re all aware that in comparison to men, women are more actively involved on the home front including upbringing of children. With our roles being almost pre-defined for us, there is constant pressure to be around and handle these personal responsibilities or risk being looked down upon. Now, the pandemic has made the situation worse with women being home and tending to their families a lot more, leaving them with minimal time to focus on work. The constant ‘tug of war’ frequently ends with many women having to give up work to return to ‘home base’ regardless of how bright their professional futures might be.
The Glass Cliff
A more modern concept referring to the tendency for women leaders to be appointed at companies which are on the brink of collapsing. Though there are stories of women who have beaten this hurdle, such as Anne M. Mulcahy - CEO of Xerox (which we love hearing about), most times it is a quick way for employers to set women up for failure.
Voluntarily stepping off the career ladder
It’s sad but it’s true; most work environments don’t make an effort to make women feel entirely safe and relaxed. We are expected to always maintain a positive stance as though we should be grateful for the opportunity we’ve received (even when we are well qualified for it). This leads to extra cautiousness and over time any responses and contributions become a lot less authentic and a lot more altered. Many women reported that this inhibition is straining and not worth the ultimate benefits. Regardless of the successful career trajectories we could have, women are pushed to cut their journeys short because of such minute yet relevant realities.
Why is it important to have more women leaders?
There have been plenty of attempts to promote workplace equality but there is still A LONG WAY TO GO. Many employers have approached hiring women in higher positions as a means to hop on the ‘trend’ and make their companies look more ‘in fashion’. Somewhere, they miss the point, failing to understand why having women leaders is truly important and how much it can add to the workplace. So, let’s talk about a few of them now.
Women serve as role models
It’s really just a domino effect; seeing women leaders inspires other women to reach similar positions and makes them believe that it is very much possible. This is an important step towards closing the very existent gender gap. You have to see it to become it.
Women have important soft skills
Research shows women score higher than men in nearly all emotional intelligence competencies which correlate with effective leadership and management. As a result of this, we make for better mentors and are able to have a direct and positive impact on employee loyalty.
Women bring different and innovative perspectives
By hiring qualified women along with men, companies automatically expand their pool of talent and skills, indirectly bringing in more expertise into the workplace. If a company does not support gender diversity, some other company might employ women and benefit from their education and experience. As per Mckinsey, research proves that company profits can be close to 50% higher when women are represented at the top.
All in all, we have been and continue to be aware that women in leadership is crucial and an undeniable asset for organisations. When we’re given the power, we add value to firms and are also able to champion the cause of racial equality and gender diversity. So, we’re left with the heavy question of why this gap still persists and why more isn't being done to fix it.
Though we’re speaking of this on International Women’s Day, we believe this is an important subject which needs no special day to be spoken on.
We would love to hear your thoughts... How does this gap make you feel personally? What do you think needs to be done to fix this gap quicker and more effectively? Are we talking about this enough as a community? Tell us in the comments below.