Barriers to increasing the presence of women in the workplace

Increasing the representation of women in the workplace, is something that a lot of good companies are trying to do.

As we have seen from the figures released by Google, LinkedIn and Yahoo, some progress has been made in this area. 70% of Google’s U.S. employees are men, while the figure is 61% for LinkedIn and 62% for Yahoo.

However, there is still room for improvement. Speaking at a recent event, Lynda Gratton (Professor of Management Practice in Organisational Behaviour, London Business School), highlighted four persistent stereotypes that remain barriers to women in the workplace, especially those seeking leadership positions:

  1. Women as mothers: Balancing work and family is harder for women, since they often bear more responsibility for domestic matters. Mothers, whether or not they take career breaks, need more support from companies and better flexi-work arrangements.
  2. Women as poor career navigators: Studies have shown that women don’t negotiate much after the age of 35. This means that they lose out in areas such as compensation, promotions and career moves. Organisations can help by having better training, mentoring and other guidance available for women to navigate their careers well.
  3. Women as a minority: A minority of any sort, is not as well-off when compared to the majority. According to Professor Gratton 33% is the breaking point after which negative stereotypes and imbalances can be overcome.
  4. Women as poor networkers: Women tend to network with their peers, while men network upwards. Providing access and opportunities for women to interact with leaders in organisations can be useful here.

Organisation trying to promote equality and diversity frequently address one or two of these barriers. But all four are important and need to be considered for better progress to me made.

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