As global experts working across Asia-Pacific, we see first-hand the lack of representation, inclusion, and belonging women from all backgrounds face in their career mobility journeys. Pay gaps, unequal opportunities for advancement, and an unbalanced representation in key decision-making are all examples of how differences between men and women persist across regions and income levels.
At the middle management level, women’s careers frequently stall. As they are still commonly the primary caregivers in our society, this stage of their career frequently corresponds with the decision to start a family or take care of their aging parents. The pandemic has been particularly hard on them, as many have had to choose not to work or work fewer hours in order to care for family members, friends, or elderly relatives.
A study from Florida International University found that leaders of both genders are viewed as equally effective. When examining feedback on leaders and the extent to which they are viewed as competent and capable, there are no statistical differences between men and women. Despite this, women in the workplace are still perceived as prioritising their families over their careers (89%), lacking of mentorship needed to land top jobs (83%), and not having access to the same personal networks that men do to advance their careers (75%).
Just 38% of women believe that they have the same opportunities for advancement to leadership positions at work as the majority of men (52%). Women’s unique perspectives and methods contribute to a more inclusive workplace and, in many cases, better business results, yet The Rockefeller Foundation reports that there are only 21 women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies today.
In response to the lack of gender diversity in leadership positions, there has been a significant increase in women’s leadership development and female empowerment programs. Customised mentoring and coaching programs are among the initiatives that enable women to work one-on-one or in small groups with senior leaders who have extensive lived experience.
For female leaders in their early to mid-career stages, our Emerging Leaders Program is a distinctive leadership development program that fosters exceptional performance, behaviors, and mindsets with practical frameworks, case studies, and useful insights. Participants are immersed in a holistic experience that draws on the most recent findings in gender diversity and inclusion research, leadership development, and wellbeing principles. This learning experience is rich and empowering, singularly focused on enabling each participant to realize their own particular vision of success.
However, the amount of backlash for female-only programs is increasing. One common objection is that implementing women in leadership programs runs the risk of endorsing a “fix the woman” philosophy. Another complaint is that by emphasising women’s personal development, women are viewed as both the problem and the solution. If women are then unable to advance, this may reinforce a “blame the woman” mentality, in which lack of advancement is attributed to the woman rather than structural obstacles.
While there is a very relevant place for these initiatives, in addition to equipping women with leadership skills, there is also a need to shift the culture to support their advancement and foster an environment where they can flourish. Instead of focusing only on the one person who experiences workplace inequalities, we must shift our attention to the organizational context in which they occur.
We must move beyond a “fix the woman” approach that focuses on the individual to a “fix the system” approach that focuses on our practices and allows us to address larger issues that may unintentionally maintain and reinforce inequalities. This can be achieved through equipping and empowering our leaders to influence and lead through allyship and positively impact the careers of those around them, particularly women.
We have developed the Empowered Allies Program to support leaders in realizing their full potential and fostering both their own success and that of those they support. By delving deeply into the leadership blueprint, this program will help you translate allyship into practice, resulting in better team and individual performance, influencing and impacting your business culture.
We must shift the cultural mindset that prevents the advancement of gender equality if we hope to change the current scenario, and activating an approach that enables both the women we want to advance and builds the right culture for them to work in, is a great place to start.
Register as an Empowered Ally or nominate a Future Leader from your company today and let’s change the Women in Leadership landscape together.
Written by Carina Castro, Marketing Coordinator at The Dream Collective