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.
Motherhood, no matter how you slice or dice it, is never easy. Running after small children, feeding them, tending to their physical and emotional wounds, and just taking the time to shower them with love— that's a lifetime of internal resources. Now add a job on top of all of that? Geez. We spoke to 14 working mothers to get an open, honest look at the biggest day-to-day challenges they face, because despite what Instagram portrays, it's not all dresses on swingsets, heels, and flawless makeup.
1. “Motherhood in general is hard," shares Rachel Costello. “It's a complete upheaval of life as you once knew it. I have a 22-month-old due any minute and a baby. The hardest part is being pregnant with a toddler — chasing, wrangling, etc., all while tired, nauseous, and achey. Then the guilt sets in. The emotional roller coaster punctuated by hormones when you look at your baby, the first born, knowing that their life is about to be changed."
2. “I'm a work-from-home mom," shares Jene Luciano of TheGetItMom.com. “I have two children and two stepchildren. The hardest part about parenting for me is being the best mom I can be to someone else's children."
3. “I joined the Air Force at 18 and had my first child at 20," tells female power house Robyn Schenker Ruffo. “I had my second baby at 23. Working everyday, pumping at work and breastfeeding at lunch time at the base, home day care was rough. Being away from my babies during the day took a toll on me— especially the single mom days when they were toddlers. I had a great support system of friends and military camaraderie. The worst was being deployed when they were 6 months old, yes both, and I was gone for 90 days. Not seeing them every night was so depressing."
4. “Physically, the hardest part of the parenting experience (and so far, I'm only six months in with twins) was adjusting to the lack of sleep in the very beginning," shares Lauren Carasso. “Emotionally, the hardest part is going to work everyday with anxiety that I'm going to miss one of the twins' firsts or other milestones. I know they are in good care but potentially missing those special moments weighs heavy on my heart when I walk out the door each morning," she continues.
5. “The hardest part of being a parent is social media, actually," says Marina Levin. “Shutting out the judgmental sanctimommy noise and just doing what works best for you and your family in a given moment."
6. “Trying to raise a healthy, happy, confident and self-respecting girl, when I'm not a consistent example of those qualities is the hardest for me," explains Adrienne Wright. “Before motherhood I was a pretty secure woman, and I thought passing that onto my daughter would be a piece of cake. But in the age of social media where women are constantly ripping each other to shreds for the way they raise their kids, it's nearly impossible to feel confident all of the time. Nursing vs. formula, working vs. stay at home, vax vs. anti-vax, to circumcise vs. not, nanny vs. daycare— the list goes on and on. We're all doing the best we can with the resources we have. We should empower each other to feel confident in the decisions we make for our families."
7. “The hardest part is the sense of responsibility and worrying that comes along with it," says Orly Kagan. “Am I feeding my kids properly? Are they getting too much screen time? Are they getting enough attention and love? Are they developing as they should be? It goes on and on and on."
8. “For me, by far the hardest part of motherhood has been managing my own guilt. As many triumphant moments as there may be, the moments when I feel like I did badly or could have done better always stick out," confesses Julie Burke.
9. “Balancing work and doing all the mom things and all the home things and all the husband things are not the hardest part of motherhood (for me, anyway)," shares Zlata Faerman. “The hardest part of motherhood is trying to figure out just how to deal with the amount of love I have for my son. It can be super overwhelming and I'm either alone in this sentiment, or not enough moms talk about it."
10. “The hardest part for me is giving things up," shares Stacey Feintuch. “I have two boys, an almost 3-year-old and almost 7-year-old. I have to miss my older one's sports so I can watch the little guy while he naps or watch him at home since he will just run on the field. I hate that other parents can go to games and I can't. I also really miss going out to dinner. My older one can eat out but we rarely eat out since my younger one is a runner!"
11. “I think if I'm going to be completely real, the hardest part to date has been realIzing that I chose this life," shares Lora Jackle, a now married but formerly single mom to a special needs child. “I chose to foster and then adopt special needs, as opposed to many parents who find out about the special needs after their child is born. It's still okay to grieve it sometimes. It's still okay to hate it sometimes and 'escape' to work."
12. “I'm a work-at-home mother doing proofreading and teaching 10-20 hours a week. The hardest part for me is not yelling. I took the 30-Day No Yelling Challenge and kept having to restart. I love my kids, don't get me wrong," says Michelle Sydney, exemplifying the difficulty of balancing work with family.
13. “I'm a full-time working mom of a 2.5-year-old," shares Anna Spiewak. “I bring home equal pay, keep the apartment clean and take care of dinner. Still my male partner gets all the praise for being a good dad and basically sticking around. It's mainly from his side of the family, of course. What I do is taken for granted, even though I'm the one who still changes the diapers, bathes her and wakes up in the middle of the night on a work night when she cries. I wish all moms got credit for staying on top of things."
14. “I am a stay-at-home-mother and currently working full-time from home on my start-up clothing brand, Kindred Bravely," says Deeanne Akerson, founder of Kindred Bravely, a fashion line devoted to nursing, working mothers. “The hardest part of my parenting experience is the constant feeling of never doing quite enough. There is always more to do, meals to make, laundry to fold, kids that want my full attention, errands to run, or work in my business. And since there really always are more things to do it's easy to feel like you're failing on nearly every aspect of life!"
This piece was originally published July 18, 2018.