Why do women make up less than 20% of leadership positions?

A view on why men are still in the leadership lead across the globe and how to create a level playing field for all genders

Man and woman meet on both sides of glass wall

HR Director, Mouri Tech

Why do we see more men in leadership positions around the world while compared to their female counterparts? Have we looked at the data – Its astounding to note that even today, in this so called internet era and the diverse world we live in – women contribute to less than 20% of leadership positions across industries and sectors. Be it business, career or even the government sectors – we just see more men at the helm of things, and something has to be done to change this phenomenon, But before we attempt to make change – let’s take a moment to try and understand why things are the way they are.

Historically, the term patriarchy has been used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family; however, since the late 20th century it has also been used to refer to social systems in which power is primarily held by adult men. Sadly, even as we have evolved to a more diverse way of life over the past two to three decades, that age old patriarchal mindset still seems to linger on. There are certain stereotypes that need to be broken – For example, there is a general stereotype that men tend to be more assertive and dominant, whereas women tend to be more communal, cooperative, and nurturing. As a result, men are more likely to participate and voice their opinions during group discussions and be perceived by others as leaderlike.

Our bias for male leaders runs deep, research shows. A recent study showed it is not because women lack the competitiveness or risk-taking instincts that men have. Rather it is due to a general bias against female leaders that assesses them less positively and rewards them less generously.

Having understood the history and context of the prevalent thought process and unconscious biases that potentially exist, let’s explore what tangible actions can be taken to do something about the situation and how industries and sectors can be more purposeful about ensuring a more equitable distribution of genders at the leadership table.

Be truly inclusive in thought process and practice

Data suggests that the single largest reason for women to face a mid-career setback is motherhood and the potential gap in employment and job focus and commitment that this life event brings about is one of the primary reasons women are held back from managerial or leadership roles. Many corporate leaders are prejudiced against women in the workplace because they view a woman as a potential setback. This had to change by ensuring that policies and processes are crafted in a manner to accommodate this life event and that the only criterion of selection is capability.

One way in which organizations are promoting diversity at the leadership levels is to ensure that policies and benefits are crafted to suit women in the organization – whether it’s maternity leave, childcare support, caregiver support systems or career growth opportunities.

As more female leaders aspire to up take high-ranking roles, there is the need to implement leadership programmes aimed at propelling successful women in business

Invest in building and nurturing woman leaders

Women in leadership roles are at an all-time high. Still, stereotypes and challenges for female leaders continue to impact their growth and influence resulting in a leadership gap. As more female leaders aspire to up take high-ranking roles, there is the need to implement leadership programmes aimed at propelling  successful women in business.

The skills acquired from these leadership programmes for women leaders enable them to be more successful. Let’s not forget that a key trait that women leaders have been noted to possess over their male counterparts is empathy – a competency that is ever so important and critical to a leader in today’s post-Covid world. We have a fantastic opportunity  to tap into the immense potential of women leaders – be it their capability for visionary thinking, problem-solving skills and their overall confidence levels seasoned with that secret sauce of empathy.

Some other clear benefits of investing in women leadership programmes are:

Strengthen overall Leadership Skills: Leverage power, diagnose situations, and master successful negotiation tactics that prioritize professional growth goals.

Understand the Women’s Perspective in Business: Grapple with the impacts of gender on authority, business relationships, and effective leadership. Grasp and adopt the exceptional female perspective to overcome obstacles in personal life, company, and beyond.

Acquire New Business Acumen Tools to Cultivate Personal Fulfilment from Work: These interventions help discover tools to achieve work balance and reap greater rewards and personal satisfaction from your work.

Establish a Strong Professional Network: Learn tactics for building productive, supportive professional relationships, and business networks.

Develop Problem-Solving Skills: Act with power to address business challenges by developing problem-solving strategies for immediate application.

Start at home – Coach them young

There is a need to change the overall mindset of the ecosystem and society, as a whole. And we, as men, need to start thinking about the issues that affect our wives, daughters, mothers, sisters and female friends. I am a proud father of a 17-year-old daughter who has big dreams and wants to conquer the world. I made sure that during her formative years, she was constantly reminded that she is no less than boys and that she can do everything that her male friends could do.

Try these tips to help foster leadership traits in your daughters:

  • Remind her constantly that she is capable of anything. Even the sky isn’t the limit
  • Encourage her to play with boys – They are equals
  • Foster her independence. Give her the same independence (if not more) you would give your son
  • Encourage her to play sports – especially those that have been male dominated (I encouraged my daughter to play football and hit the ball out of the park)
  • Highlight female role models – this has an incredibly positive impact, these role models could be global, local or from your neighbourhood
  • Last but not the least – Be a role model yourself

Movember is perfect to commit to this! 

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