For decades women have been fighting a battle for fair and equal treatment in all areas of life. While progress has been slow, some evidence of change can be observed in education, government and business.
However, despite the victories won, the battle is far from over. It remains true that women struggle to access the basic right to equal pay or advance their careers as far as men.
Smashing the glass ceiling once and for all will take both women and men doing their part. As both individuals and leaders women have a duel role to play.
Three steps women can take
- Take opportunity
Self-sacrificing behaviour is a common trait that holds many women back from pursuing their career aspirations. All too often women choose to forgo opportunities because they feel obligated to put the needs of other people ahead of their own. Women are less likely to ask, let alone expect, their family to make sacrifices so they can achieve their career goals. Women need to choose to be as generous to themselves as they are to other people, and put themselves first as often as they are willing to put others.
- Step forward
Women can often be hesitant to ask for the opportunities that they should. It’s common for women to believe they need to be more highly qualified or experienced than they in fact do to apply for a role. Compared to many of their male colleagues, women are more likely to be hesitant to step forward for promotion. Some women fear being seen to ask for something they haven’t yet earned. More women need to have confidence in their readiness to take on a challenge and find the courage to ask for the opportunity.
- Ask for support
The realities of being a mother, wife or daughter can have a profound impact on a woman’s career. Time away on maternity leave can mean some woman miss out on training and opportunities to gain experience. Carrying a larger load of family responsibilities means some woman struggle to balance the demands of work and home. It’s critical that women choose to share the load and expect other members of their family to step up and do their part. It’s just as important that women ask for the support they need from their employer to progress through each stage of her career.
And the three steps leaders can take:
- Combat discrimination
Discrimination remains an issue in many organisations and change can only be driven from the top. Beginning with the CEO, every leader needs to do their part to ensure all decisions made are fair and equitable including who is appointed to leadership roles. Creating a workplace free of discrimination starts with understanding the beliefs, values and unconscious biases that influence decisions. Every leader needs to challenge their own approach as well as that of others they work with.
- Challenge conventional wisdom
It is common for organisations to reserve senior management roles for people willing and able to work full time. Many business leaders remain narrow minded to the flexible work practices that would allow more women to meet the demands of a senior role. For many women who are primary caregivers for children and ageing parents, this means opportunities for advancement are seriously limited. These and other traditional ways of thinking need to be challenged in order to open up greater opportunities for women.
- Value both masculine and feminine leadership traits
Many of the traits traditionally valued in a senior leader are masculine. Strength, aggression, competitiveness and drive are all qualities business owners, boards and CEOs typically look for. Valuing these traits will logically lead to more men being appointed to and considered successful in leadership roles. Recent years have seen a growing level of awareness of the importance of feminine leadership traits such as compassion and empathy. With this awareness is likely to come greater demand for a feminine approach to leadership and therefore more opportunities for women.