As International Women’s Day approaches, it’s a time to reflect on how we treat women at our workplace. It is also a good time to understand the challenges they face in leadership roles and the steps we can take to overcome them.
According to a report by McKinsey & Company, companies with a higher representation of women in top leadership positions tend to have better financial performance. The report found that companies with gender-diverse executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to have superior value creation.
Women have come a long way in breaking through the glass ceiling, but there are still obstacles to be faced and conquered. One of the biggest obstacles faced by women and leadership is fear — fear of failure, fear of not being accepted or recognized, and fear of being vulnerable.
Where do these fears stem from?
The fear that women in the workplace face is not just a practical concern, it has deep psychological and emotional roots. Research has shown that women often experience imposter syndrome, a feeling of inadequacy and fear of being exposed as a fraud because for generations they are constantly scrutinised and judged for their actions.
This fear can be intensified in leadership positions where the stakes are higher, and the pressure is greater. Women in leadership roles may also face self-doubt and fear of failure, especially in a male-dominated environment where there are few female role models.
This fear can prevent women from taking risks, speaking up, and asserting themselves, leading to missed opportunities and hindered career growth. Furthermore, fear of not being accepted or recognized in leadership positions can lead to feelings of isolation and a lack of belonging. Women leaders may fear that they will not be taken seriously or that they will not fit in with their male colleagues.
This fear can lead to feelings of self-doubt, low self-esteem, and a lack of confidence in their abilities. A study by Lean In and McKinsey & Company found that although women are as ambitious as men, they face more obstacles and roadblocks in their careers.
The study found that women are less likely to be promoted and more likely to leave the workforce, in part due to a lack of support and sponsorship from senior leaders. The fear of being vulnerable in leadership also holds women back. Vulnerability means being open, honest, and exposing one’s weaknesses, which can be difficult for women in a competitive and male-dominated environment.
However, being vulnerable can also be a strength, as it allows women to connect with others, build trust, and form stronger relationships.
Where do we draw hope from?
The good news is that fear can be overcome, and purpose and motivation can be used to drive us forward. A report by the Catalyst organization found that companies with three or more women in top leadership positions tend to have better financial performance and higher levels of innovation.
The report also found that companies with more gender-diverse leadership teams tend to have better employee engagement and satisfaction. These insights highlight the need for continued action and progress toward gender diversity in leadership. By addressing the barriers and obstacles faced by women in the workplace, we can create a more inclusive and equal society.
Now that we know the why and what, let’s dive deeper into the how.
How do we take action and help women overcome their fears? How do we, as male or female leaders, support the women around us to rise to the top?
Five ways to help women make their mark in leadership
The major issue with women in the workplace is the lack of support from their peers and key decision-makers. A survey by the Pew Research Center found that several Americans believe that men have a better shot at getting ahead in the workplace.
The survey found that a majority of respondents believe that gender discrimination is still a problem in the workplace and that women are paid less than men for doing the same job. Here is how women can channel their inner drive and make it to the top despite the baseless criticism all around them.
- Clarify Your Purpose
Understanding your purpose is the first step towards overcoming fear. Knowing what drives you and what you’re passionate about can help you stay focused on your goals and keep your motivation strong. When you’re clear on your purpose, you can use it as a compass to guide you through the challenges and setbacks you may face.
- Develop a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset is a belief that you can grow and develop through effort and learning. Embracing this mindset can help you overcome fear and take risks because you know that even if you fail, you can learn from your mistakes and grow as a leader.
2. Surround Yourself with Support
Having a strong support system of friends, family, mentors, and peers can help you overcome fear and stay motivated. Surrounding yourself with people who believe in you and your abilities can give you the confidence and courage you need to pursue your goals.
3. Take Action
The best way to overcome fear is to take action. Start small with something that you’re comfortable with and work your way up. Taking small steps can help build your confidence and give you a sense of accomplishment.
4. Celebrate Your Wins
Celebrating your successes, no matter how small, can help keep you motivated and focused on your goals. Recognizing and acknowledging your achievements can also help you build confidence and overcome fear.
The fears faced by women in leadership roles are complex and rooted in both practical and psychological concerns. By recognizing and overcoming these fears, women can build the confidence and resilience they need to succeed in leadership positions and break through the glass ceiling.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report found that while progress has been made toward gender diversity, the pace of change has slowed in recent years. The report found that it will take another 257 years to close the global economic gender gap, and even longer in some countries.
And the best way to make progress is by identifying that progress is required. Now that we have established that, it is time to support the women around us and within us to thrive! If you know any woman leader who might need to speak to an expert to strive and thrive in their roles or business, let them talk to us. Let’s enter this Women’s Day with a new mindset and welcome more women into the top echelons of leadership.