The Challenges of Being a Woman in Leadership

The Challenges of Being a Woman in Leadership - The Challenges of Being a Woman in Leadership - Introvert Whisperer

The business world has long recognized the purchasing power that the female population has. As consumers, women have a lot of leverage to influence advertising, business, and product creation. In fact, some reports indicate that women make upwards of 94 percent of the purchasing decisions in their household.


Clearly, women hold a lot of purchasing power in the U.S. market. In fact, one could argue that women are the market that advertisers, executives, and business people are trying to attract in order to turn a profit.


But what about the other side of the equation? Who runs and leads the companies who produce items for consumption?


For years, it has been men, but this trend is quickly changing.


In January 2013, 21 of the Fortune 500 companies had a female CEO at the helm, and while this may seem like a small number, a number of women have also risen to the C-suite, becoming CIOs, CFOs, COOs, and entering into major management positions. Now more than ever, women are leading major portions of the companies that they work for.


Perhaps more impressive is the fact that women are now leading companies and industries that have been historically male dominated–most notably in the tech industry. IBM’s Virginia Rometty, Hewlett-Packard’s Meg Whitman, and Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer are all examples of women taking charge of major tech giants.


The trend isn’t just limited to major companies, however. All over the world, female leaders are becoming a workplace trend to take note of, taking charge of mid-level companies, being hired for management positions, and establishing businesses of their own–and research has shown that this new wave of gender diversity has been wildly profitable.


Released last year, a study titled “Is Gender Diversity Profitable? Evidence from a Global Survey” analyzed 21,980 firms globally and affirms the core notion that there are positive correlations between the proportion of women in corporate leadership and firm profitability.


“Whether that increased profitability results from the quality of female leadership, the benefits that accrue from more diverse thinking, or other factors, isn’t clear,” Forbes author Victor Lipman writes. However, he notes, “The report emphasizes that the amount of profitability shown by the data is significant.”


He’s not wrong. According to the report, “The estimated magnitudes of these correlations are not small. For profitable firms, a move from no female leaders to 30 percent representation is associated with a 15 percent increase in the net revenue margin.”

Although these trends are promising, women still face a number of challenges in spaces traditionally dominated by males.


For example, female business owners have traditionally struggled to attract the start-up capital necessary to assist in the growth and overall cost of their businesses.  In fact, according to business experts at QuickBooks, women entrepreneurs launch with 50 percent less capital than their male counterparts do.


Acquiring a healthy work-life balance is another unfortunate stumbling block that women encounter while moving forward in their careers–especially for those who are trying to maintain a healthy family dynamic while advancing in the workplace.


Women entrepreneurs also lack the necessary role models and mentors who will help them in their business endeavors. Without these solid networks and connections, many women struggle in the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey. Additionally, and perhaps most detrimentally to their success, women are more likely to lack the confidence necessary to become successful entrepreneurs or leaders. Not only does this stop them from accruing adequate funding, but it causes them to be more averse to risk and therefore less likely to innovate.


This aversion to risk is one huge factor for women’s success in the workplace, Kira Makagon, executive vice president of innovation at RingCentral tells Fast Company.


“To get a successful outcome, women can’t consider failure as an option,” she says. “We have fewer opportunities, so we have to take the riskier ones. But the more chances we get, the stronger we will become.”


She also offers sound advice for the business leaders of tomorrow, including the importance of finding a mentor, becoming comfortable with your leadership style, and forming strong relationships with other women throughout your professional career.


Women have long wielded purchasing power in the United States. But until recently, women had been a missing perspective both in the board room and in the business. Although women are more and more frequently becoming a part of the equation, they still face a number of challenges that their male co-workers simply don’t have to overcome.


Still, while women may face unique challenges on their journey to overcoming the glass ceiling, the future has never looked more bright.



Danika is a writer and musician from the Northwest who sometimes takes a 30-minute break from feminism to enjoy a tv show. You can follow her on twitter @Sadwhitegrrl


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