Women leaders sitting at a table

The Challenges Faced by Women in Business

In Leadership Resources, Strategy Resources by Brandt A. HandleyLeave a Comment

We hear a lot about the glass ceiling and women in the workplace trying to break it, which is unsurprising given the tiny percentage of women CEOs. This isn’t limited to management or positions higher up in a company, however; it is something that women face on every level in the workplace. From receptionists to middle-management to CEOs, women still face challenges because of gender inequality. While becoming less of an obstacle as the workforce becomes more progressive and inclusionary,  the struggle is still all too real.

Challenges Faced

Whether we like to believe it or not, gender equality in the workplace is still very much an issue. It might sometimes be more subtle than it used to be, but it still very much exists, especially on the rise to the C-level positions. Men are preferred for promotions because there are social expectations for women, which include familial responsibilities and maternity leave, and women often bear more of the responsibility for raising children and running a household.

There is also a huge struggle for women to be taken as seriously as men in the workplace. Although historically male-dominated industries like medicine and law are seeing a shift in how many women are in the profession, leadership has been slower to catch up. Many (or most, in some industries) higher-level positions are male-centric; a female sitting in on a meeting predominantly attended by men can find it hard to break into a “boys’ club” environment.

Finally, pay variations at each level just because of gender differences are a problem many women face, regardless of their position or industry. The gap in pay decreases as time goes by, and women keep fighting the good fight, but it is still a reality.

Finding a Balance Between Personal Life and Career

Frequently, women are often faced with the question, “How do you balance your work and family life?” This question alone is problematic because it represents preconceived notions of work-life balance that are less often attributed to men

Women, on the other hand, often feel like they have to give up on their dreams of either having a family or advancing their career. Finding that balance between work and personal life in an environment where historically achievement and advancement could be directly correlated to the number of working hours can be extremely difficult. However, as companies act upon the knowledge that work/life balance creates more productive, happier employees, prevents burnout, and decreases the repercussions from chronic stress, and as more Millennials—who prefer flexibility and balance in their jobs—join the workforce, it’s becoming increasingly possible to have a robust family life and lead at the office. This balance extends to all genders which serves to balance the workload outside of the office, too, as both partners have more flexibility and time for home life.

Going Forward

Although there is still a dearth of women in upper-level roles, we have seen improvement over the last several decades and the future is hopeful as companies realize the value of a less homogenous workforce. Companies can support women (and all their employees, really) by allowing for more flexible hours and/or opportunities for remote work, building in support like mentors and opportunities for sharing and hearing feedback, advocating for reasonable hours, and actively searching out qualified female candidates.

Having women with higher positions in the workplace needs to become a norm rather than an exception.  Like draws like: the more highly-qualified women in these roles, the more there will be. It is important to keep breaking these barriers and facing these challenges to pave a path for future female talent to be recognized. If you are looking to diversify your workforce to bring value and perspective to your company, ROI can help.

To hear stories from female CEOs, tune in to the following Into the Corner Office episodes:

Helen Fu Thomas, CEO of Touchjet – Episode 4
April Foster, CEO of Inked. – Episode 13
Susan Cameron, CEO of Reynolds American Inc. – Episode 14
Susan Lintonsmith, CEO of Quiznos – Episode 16
Jennifer Hughey, CEO of BPI Sports – Episode 22
Leticia Latino-van Splunteren, CEO of Neptuno USA – Episode 28
Kristen Knox, CEO of Data Sciences International – Episode 45
Lilian Radke, CEO of Unic Pro – Episode 54
Carey Jenkins, CEO of Substantial – Episode 66
Nicole Sparshott, CEO of T2 Tea – Episode 69
Diane Batayeh, CEO of Village Green Holdings – Episode 76
Joan Maxwell, President, Regulator Marine – Episode 90
Cheryl Bachelder, Respected Chain Restaurant Executive & Author – Episode 100
Lindsey Ueberroth, CEO of Preferred Hotels & Resorts – Episode 104

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