Women in executive positions face a variety of issues that deter and discourage them from reaching top-level positions. Among the most prevalent issues that women worldwide face are uneven gender expectations, lack of access to professional networks, and family obligations.
For years it has been thought that having more women in the workforce would eventually lead to more women in senior executive positions. However, research has shown that the gender disparity in executive positions is largely due to gender expectations. Society today continues to hold on to traditional expectations of women, regardless of the industry they are in or the position they hold. There is a mismatch between the qualities attributable to a leader, and those expected of a woman. While leaders are expected to hold qualities such as assertiveness and confidence, women are expected to be sensitive and friendly. There is an inconsistency of expectations for women in leadership positions. The authoritative and assertive qualities that are expected of a leader are often viewed as unattractive and undesirable in a woman. Women are supposed to be “nice.”
Lack of Professional Networks
As they say, “It’s all about who you know”. Professional networks play a large roll in the advancement of a person’s career. The male predominance in positions of power, along with the differences in the composition of men and women’s social and professional networks allow men greater access to persons and resources that are conducive to career advancement. Women often have a difficult time becoming part of these male dominated professional networks. The lack of involvement in these professional networks causes women to miss out on these professional development opportunities.
The responsibility of caring for a family and maintaining the household is one that continues to fall mostly on women. Not only can family responsibilities discourage women from pursuing career advancement, but they also cause society to assume that women have less career commitment. These thoughts may be subconscious, but they nonetheless make executives feel that women are less worthy of mentoring and training. Leadership positions tend to require a large amount of excess hours, and this is a major reason why women step off the leadership track. Even if these are not their intentions, others assume that they are. Due to confirmation bias, people are more likely to recall instances and information that confirms their assumptions. Therefore, if an employer assumes that a woman is not as committed to her career due to her family obligations, they will remember the instances when her family obligations deterred her from work more than the instances when she prioritized work over her family.
While we are far from reaching gender parity, we are working towards it. Among the most beneficial things that women can do for their careers is form networks of like-minded individuals who will empathize and support each other in an unbiased manner and serve as trusted advisors to each other. The Key Women’s Leadership Forum was formed to bring together women in leadership roles. By facilitating thoughtful dialogue, positive reinforcement, and empathetic relationships, the forum pushes women to propel themselves to achieve their full potential in both their personal and professional lives.