While more women are rising to the top of the corporate ladder, a question persists: Why do female CEOs still comprise such a small percentage of the highest leadership positions? Despite the fact that research underscores women's capabilities as corporate leaders and their positive effects on organizations.
An extensive worldwide survey showed that having women at the C-suite level significantly increases profit margins. And a study by the Harvard Business Review reported women scoring higher than men in most leadership skills.
But research also partly sheds light on why women aren't proportionately represented in corporate leadership roles. Reasons include male-domianted corporate boards and leadership stereotypes. Not to mention that women, in addition to having the bulk of at-home family responsibilities, can be seen as threatening to men when in leadership positions.
How can more women ascend to executive positions? Andreas Wilderer, author of Lean On: The Five Pillars Of Support For Women In Leadership, says it starts at home with a supportive husband who's willing to take on more of a household role while not worrying about reverse stereotypes—the stay-at-home dad or secondary bread-winner.
"Even though society is getting used to strong women in the workplace, men who take care of the house and kids are still often seen as an oddity," Wilderer says. "Old attitudes in society fade slowly, as many still believe that each sex should keep its place."
In many families, however, that place is changing. Change tends to begin not in the big arenas but in small places. And change starts within the family unit—long before many corporations and institutions recognize what is happening. Now more and more men are proudly accepting the role of staying home to fully support their wives and their career pursuits, and it's time more companies were supportive of women in well-earned leadership roles.
Four Ways To Make Leadership Opportunities More Accessible To Women:
- Gender equality training. "With evidence proving that women make excellent leaders," Wilderer says, "it is clear that not having these qualified individuals in leadership positions is a detriment to your business. Gender equality training within a company is a transformative process that enables women to be assessed on the basis of their skills, not restricted from upward movement by their gender."
- Gender equality training 2.0. Wilderer says normal bias training needs to go an extra step, emphasizing how companies can show support for male partners and the family of the female leader. For example, when companies sponsor events such as dinners for employees, they often buy gifts for the spouses attending. Wilderer says an important cultural shift can occur in the form of the gift. "It's a cultural shift to not assume that the spouse of a leader is a female," Wilderer says. "You can no longer make that assumption. Companies should make the gifts gender neutral, emphasizing the importance of the supportive spousal role."
- Recruiting. A company's commitment to promote women's advancements from within starts in the recruiting process. "Recruiting women on the premises of equal opportunity provisions is the first step to help women rise to important positions," Wilderer says. "Organizations should issue meaningful equality plans to absorb women members in proportion to men."
- Career-mapping. "Organizations should have an effective career-mapping plan in place for female employees," Wilderer says. "Being aware of higher-level opportunities within the organization and the path required to achieve them helps women to set out clearer plans for attaining these roles."
"Ingrained attitudes take years to evolve into acceptance," Wilderer says. "Acceptance starts with simple gestures like the gifts but has to go much further—flexible hours, provided daycare, a partial home office. As far as women have come in the corporate structure, there are still too many barriers, and too few of them getting to fulfill their potential as leaders."
About Andreas WildererAndreas Wilderer is the author of Lean On: The Five Pillars Of Support For Women in Leadership. A business leader and entrepreneur, Wilderer worked in the events and marketing field. As Gallup-certified CliftonStrengths Coach he founded GLOBULARiTY LLC, a business coaching company that helps leaders grow and learn how to strengthen their Adaptability Quotient (AQ). While working on his business pursuits, Wilderer stayed at home and cared for his two children while his wife pursued her career. Recognizing that women can be providers and men can be nurturers, Wilderer began focusing on coaching female leaders while teaching men how to actively support them. As a motivational Keynote speaker he is advocating for females in leadership and the system they can Lean On.
It is terrifying when you do not have all the answers, especially when you are a parent and your children are looking to you for safety.
We are living in a very chaotic time due to the fear of the unknown while a feeling of powerlessness and despair creeps over us. Some of us have many questions while others are not sure what to ask or what to do during this difficult period. The issue is that human beings seek comfort and once they receive that comfort, they either experience life lessons, are destined to repeat patterns until they learn from the lesson, or never understand the lesson at all.
While in crisis mode, we have the opportunity to recognize how to make improvements in our lives, but once the crisis is over, we often return to our typical behaviors such as disconnecting from face-to-face communication and quality time to focusing on technology and "socializing" online with strangers. As we are currently being asked to avoid unnecessary trips outside, the universe is asking us to go inward and identify areas in need of our attention that we have been neglecting. Now comes the test of our inner abilities of adapting and handling change as well as dealing with being out of control and powerless. We are going back to an era where family is a necessity for survival. Some families will break down further, while other families will rise to the occasion and hopefully work through their differences by focusing on what is most important to them.
Bear in mind that panicking is not equivalent to being prepared. Fear can result in illness. We highly recommend that you utilize this time wisely. First, it is imperative to do what we call a "self-check-in," to identify personal concerns and worries in order to avoid instilling those fears in your children and others. Once identifying your personal concerns, fears, thoughts, and feelings, we recommend that each household establishes routine family meetings with age-appropriate information. Prior to providing information to your children, we recommend asking them what they have already heard, what they are thinking and feeling, and whether they have any questions they would like to ask prior to adding more to their plate.
From there, you can provide a general overview of the situation such as stating, "There is an illness going around. Many will recover as there are many helpful nurses and doctors but some will have it worse than others, so it is important to be careful not to spread germs." An overview of proper handwashing would be beneficial as well as teaching ways to interact with others while promoting social distancing, i.e., staying six feet away from one another, waving hello rather than shaking hands, etc.
It is important for children to have guidance and the facts as well as a safe place to share their own concerns and fears. When researching answers to questions that you or your children may have, utilize credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as additional .gov and .org sources. Be mindful of overexposure for children, as the media can sensationalize these situations. Keep in mind that even adults can be overexposed to the chaos, so take breaks from the news for your own well-being. Some healthy ideas for taking breaks would involve quality family time such as: playing board games, building an indoor fort, reading, doing a puzzle together, cooking a meal, exercising, going for a walk, drawing or painting, etc. Children can also be encouraged to identify creative and healthy activities that they would like to do on their own as well as with their siblings, parents, and additional family members.
Should you want to process your concerns and fears with a professional, we highly recommend that you reach out to local therapists and mental health/family therapy centers in your area, as many have established telehealth sessions to accommodate the needs of the public.
This piece was cowritten by Hara Wachholder.
Hara Wachholder is a licensed mental health counselor with the State of Florida and received her master's degree in counseling from Nova Southeastern University. It was after the resolution of the long-winded custody battle between her parents that Hara recognized her calling to help others going through the same struggle. Hara Wachholder is currently the clinical director for a family therapy center located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Karen Kaye, LMHC and Hara Wachholder, LMHC are a mother-daughter team of therapists as well as coauthors of My Parents Are Getting a Divorce . . . I Wonder What Will Happen to Me, an interactive discussion book that helps provide a bridge of understanding between parents and their children based on the personal and professional experience from the authors. The book creates a safe space for children to share their innermost thoughts and feelings while also teaching healthy coping skills for children to empower themselves during a chaotic and confusing time in their lives. The goal is to take children out of the middle and provide them with a voice as well as the tools that will allow them to grow into healthy, balanced individuals. For further information, please visit www.imstillmebook.com.