Why Aren’t There More Women Progressing To The C-Suite?

What factors hold women back from the top jobs?


There is an increasing number of women who want to make it to the C-suite, but often, something holds them back. The progress of women holding executive positions is modest, and according to data acquired by CNN Money, there are only 14.3% women executives in the Fortune 500 companies, with only 24 female Chief Executive Officers.

Even though an echo of sexism is still present in some companies, it doesn't seem to be the main obstacle. There is a confidence gap between men and women in the workplace, and since this quality is critical for leadership, as much as women want to be in the C-suite, many are unsure whether they can actually do the job. According to the research by consultancy firm Bain & Company, 43% of women enter their job with an aspiration to make it to become manager or on the C-suite, however, the research also found that after two years in the workplace, only 16% of women stayed loyal to their initial aspirations.

Climbing the career ladder is complex as people tend to have their own 'stress factors' and 'weaknesses' which may affect their work performance and confidence. So if a gender judgment is ever added to the list, the progress becomes almost impossible. As a result, a person is focused on dispelling gender-based myths, rather than on working towards a job promotion. There is a belief that in order to achieve gender parity at a workplace, women need to act and lead like men, but this kind of pressure and the seemingly confident behavior as a result, won't bring any good, nor will it allow for developing confidence naturally.

In her Huffington Post article, Sarah Deane, Design Leader and Founder of EffectUX defined confidence as a mixture of abilities and actions. Particularly, the ability to represent thoughts in a manner appropriate to one's audience, act and think in a way that doesn't represent logical contradictions, objectively analyze and evaluate an issue, be honest in both communications and actions, and the ability to make decisions quickly and firmly. In order to tick all these boxes, there must be the right type of encouragement and support from both the society and the corporate world.

On too many occasions, when people picture a CEO, the first thing they come up with is a white man in a suit. If you type 'CEO' in Google images search, out of hundreds of pictures of men, you'll only find a handful of women. With this vision being present in modern society and the digital space, there is little chance of gender parity. Thus, corporate cultures should be free from talent evaluation and hiring decisions based on gender features, as, after all, it's the skills that make a good or bad employee, manager, or executive. It's therefore worth ensuring that a company is the right environment where talent can thrive and build confidence, regardless of a gender.

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