According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women comprise 47% of the U.S. Labor force, yet lag substantially behind men when it comes to representing leadership positions. The good news is even though the gender wage gap has declined in most professions, the number of women climbing the ladder to management ranks has increased.  

Studies show the ideal leader today is ethical, honest, trustworthy, and fair regarding employee expectations. These traits earn the respect of followers and are closely aligned with women leaders.

Leadership barriers women face

The glass ceiling metaphor and other limited opportunity metaphors like glass door and glass cliff remain as popular today as they did ten years ago. Working on the glass cliff is dangerous and the risks are great if the group fails. Women leaders are likely to get blamed even if the failure was caused by events that took place long before they came on board. Women report not getting information they need at work, having insufficient support networks and not receiving acknowledgement for their efforts.  

Women are also more likely to experience burn out and become disillusioned with their jobs and organizations and may end up quitting as a result. Cultural expectations also work against women who aspire to become leaders. Many never seriously consider becoming leaders because the process of socialization has taught them leadership professions are only open to males.  

Negative stereotypes and discrimination can lower self-confidence for some women and make them reluctant to take risks or strive for leadership positions. And since our culture highlights nurturing roles of women, many enter service professions such as teaching, nursing, clerical work, or roles that support the larger organization.  

The horizon is changing

Fortunately, attitudes toward women in leadership are changing, especially among the younger generation. As more women succeed in management roles, stereotypes will continue to erode. When this happens, women will experience less prejudice and more opportunities. As global environments become more competitive, management styles are shifting away from old leadership styles to more transformational styles that emphasize communication, teamwork and responsiveness. And these differences favor women in today’s workforce.

About Our Author

Gail McShan-Elly

Gail McShan-Elly is a writer and blogger specializing in women’s health, careers, and emotional
empowerment. She is the writer and publisher of Glamour Girl newsletter, a catalyst of information and resources for young women. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune. She recently completed her Master’s in Communications from Purdue University and is a member of the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors. She lives in Chicago with her husband and spoiled Cockapoo and can be reached at gmcshanelly@gmail.com.

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