“Don’t aim to break the glass ceiling: aim to shatter it” – Matshona Dhliwayo
While the world is evolving, when it comes to leadership positions, women are lagging behind. Dr Daniel Amen, author of Unleash the Power of the Female Brain, in his research has discovered that female brains are very active in almost all areas, especially in the prefrontal and limbic cortex. Women have 30 per cent more neurons firing than men do. This enhances strengths such as empathy, intuition, teamwork, and self-control. Though women have all the positive attributes required to be a great leader, why do we still have fewer women leaders?
The latest Fortune 500 list revealed that only 37 of the 500 companies ranked this year, were led by women. Women CEOs account for just 7.4 % of fortune 500 companies. According to a McKinsey study, organizations with women holding at least 30% of leadership roles, were 40% more likely to have sustained growth. Research also shows that when women are well represented at the top leadership level, companies are 50 per cent more likely to outperform their peers. Though women have begun to make their claims for leadership, there are many challenges and complexities that prevent many women leaders with qualification, skills, expertise and ambition from achieving their goals and making advancement into senior leadership positions.
Women have a lot to offer as a leader, owing to certain qualities, like being focused and clear in their decision-making skills, humility, empathy and such, apart from their qualification. But the internal and external barriers that women leaders have to handle are coming at a great cost. These internal and external challenges faced by women make them opt-out of further advancement to leadership positions and sometimes opt out of the workplace entirely too.
Women have to deal with more and different types of stresses than men do and face a different cultural environment. Research shows that women do more childcare and house chores than men. Significantly so much that, those women who are employed full time are often said to be working a ‘double shift.’ Quite often women leaders also encounter stressful interactions and culture at the workplace that makes the challenges severe. Not to mention the gender-bias which not only impedes her professional progress but also morally drains women leaders. An article by Ed Yong, “Everyday Discrimination Literally Raises Women’s Blood Pressure,” reflects a report that confirms how frequent exposure to moments of “disdain, distance and disrespect” affects the health of working women and this, in turn, leaves women leaders feeling exhausted, stressed and burned out.
Each and every woman should have the right and power to pursue her dreams, choose what she wants, clarify and realize her career goals, and work intentionally to make it happen. The need of the hour is to address the heightened challenges women are facing. It is essential that the underlying barriers and personal obstacles that usually pull women back from advancement to leadership positions are addressed. Lack of female mentors at the workplace and the difficulty in finding support too add to the distress of the women at work. Women leaders should help, empower and support each other.
Don’t just aim to break the glass ceiling, aim to shatter the glass ceilings and also your limitations.
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“All women, everywhere, have the same hopes: we want to be self-sufficient and create better lives for ourselves and our loved ones.” Melinda Gates.