One of the biggest misconceptions in the 2019 business world is that women face unique obstacles in aspiring to obtain leadership positions. Whilst there is no denying that this was once true, businesses today around the globe have made commitments, implemented strategies, and developed pipelines to support women in leaderships roles. In fact, the gates have been opened wide. So why is it that men still outnumber women in leadership roles across every sector on the world? I am going to be brave and just say it, because I see it all the time. Ladies, the barriers are down, and the gates are open. The only thing limiting our potential as leaders is now ourselves.
Good Mums stay home
Research consistently demonstratesthat women in leadership roles are far more likely to continue to act as primary caregivers compared to their male counterparts. On a positive note, this shows that reaching CEO or director level as a working mum is highly achievable. But it also exposes the tension that all working mums at some stage suffer – am I doing the right thing by my children? Can I really have it all?
Women currently make up nearly half of the employed Australian workforce, with approximately 70% of them mothers. Balancing self-care with child care, and the inherent guilt that arises as a result of choosing self, is a common struggle. Rest assured, you are not alone.
Draw on family and community resources available to you to ensure the physical needs of your children are met. You can then focus and prioritize the delivery of emotional needs. Being totally present and holding space for your kids is a must; quality time will trump quantity. See yourself as a role model and make a choice about what you are modeling. For me, it’s passion, commitment and connectedness as I seek to make a valuable contribution to the world around me.
I won’t have the support I need
Despite the gates being opened, businesses continue to struggle to attract and retain women in leadership roles. When women are so poorly represented in senior leadership, the message is loud – if you make it, you’ll be with the boys. Cynthia Stuckey, managing director at the Forum Corporation succinctly states that. “Younger generations and those in mid-level leadership roles need to see and interact with senior-level female leaders to establish confidence in themselves and trust that businesses value women’s contributions.”
Find a mentor, andactively seek role models in the workplace. Decide what kind of support you need and choose to pursue it.
For those who seek shall find …
I will need to lead like a man
Many people associate leadership behaviours with assertiveness, aggression, competitiveness, dominance, independence and self-reliance; behaviours that are typically associated with stereotypical masculine traits. Let me be clear that this is a leadership style that is appropriate for certain situations and may be employed by either gender. The tension this creates for women is either “I need to be this kind of leader to be successful” or “People will think I am manly if I exhibit these traits.”
The truth is, leadership is gender blind. Great leaders are able to flex and adapt their leadership styles entirely dependent on the situation presented to them. And, although leadership shouldn’t involve making enemies on the path to success, not being an endearing person to everyone is a reality that’s worth accepting.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change” – Charles Darwin
The business world has made so much progress when it comes to women securing leadership roles. Structural, institutional and society norms have been tackled and changed leaving the call for women in leadership roles loud and clear for all who have the desire. The next step, ladies, is to question and break down the barriers we impose upon ourselves. Be brave, and when necessary, stand on the shoulders of those incredible women who have gone before us.