Why More Women Are Not In Leadership Positions

It’s pretty obvious that there are a lot more leadership positions help by men than by women. While some believe this is of women’s choosing, its reality is a complicated issue with lots of social factors at play. Such factors, as indicated by thought leaders like Sheryl Sandberg, include:

  1. Differences in how girls and boys are socialized, causing women to be much less assertive than men.
  2. An inverse relationship between a woman’s success and her likability by both men and women. This is primarily due to the discord between traits linked to success (competitiveness, assertiveness, etc.)  and traits linked to female gender conformance (passiveness, niceness, etc.).
  3. The lack of available mentors for women in leadership positions. Often, men are uncomfortable mentoring women for fear of how it might be perceived by others. Since men make up the vast majority of possible mentors, this limits the likelihood that a woman will have a mentor.
  4. Women who pull back from their careers in anticipation of having children.
  5. Spouses who do not share household and child rearing responsibilities.
  6. Social pressure to be a stay-at-home mother in order to be a good mother.

Each of these factors leads to the situation outlined in the National Business Research Institute’s (NBRI) infographic below. While diversity generally leads to higher performance, many businesses are wary of hiring women and many women are uncertain of their own capabilities. The best way to overturn this cycle is by being aware of the factors producing it. For more detailed descriptions of these factors and how they can be overcome, I highly recommend reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.



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