Human Resources
Human Capital Consulting Blog

Women in Leadership: Let’s Keep Advancing!


May 10, 2017 | by Eleni Lobene

There are a number of challenges that prevent women from advancing into higher-level leadership positions. One contributing factor is an increasingly recognized phenomena known by a number of terms including: “Just-like-me Complex,” “Similar-to-me Bias,” or – most officially - “Affinity Bias.” These describe a situation in which we tend to have more favorable opinions of those we see as being similar to us.  In an organizational setting, this could mean that those in power may have the tendency to promote people who are more similar to themselves. So if men are traditionally in power, a cultural shift or awareness is required to decrease the frequency of these behaviors so that women are given access to greater opportunity.

Additionally, although not secondarily, there are issues related to lifestyle choices surrounding motherhood. Thanks entirely to biology; women still bear the majority of the responsibility surrounding carrying and birthing children. There are a number of inherent challenges for women in this area – ranging from medical to practical. A broad range of social commentaries have emerged recently on related topics such as sleep deprivation due to infant care, understanding the challenges of balancing work and family commitments, and how fathers use parental leave differently than mothers. The data shows women tend to take off more time than men for parental leave, and men only take what is offered at full pay. Naturally, these differences in time away from work can impact abilities to hit goals and benchmarks in the short-term.  If there is no support for women who have dual-callings towards work and motherhood, they may be systematically disadvantaged in advancing. These are just a few sources of challenges, however. Many more were discussed at a related session at SIOP 2016! Please contact Eleni Lobene for more information, and in the meantime, consider the following…

If you are a woman:

  • Pick your organization wisely: Look for organizations that have women in leadership positions and programs in place to support the professional development and advancement of female employees.
  • Make it known that you are interested in leadership and have open conversations with your own manager about what that requires and looks like in your organization. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way which may position you for future leadership roles.
  • Before you assume you can’t “have it all” and take yourself out of the running for specific roles, consider what success looks like to you. No two strategies are the same and no single path is correct.
  • Know that having women in leadership is associated with positive business results and reflect on why that is… then, bring you to the table!

If you are a leader of an organization:

  • Have open discussions about the importance of women in leadership – raising awareness about the value of diversity in senior positions.
  • Create a culture that encourages healthy practices for women AND men (encourage taking leave, access to high quality medical treatment and flexibility to use it).
  • Create a culture that supports parents by increasing convenience and reducing stress so women have more energy and resources to advance (support groups, back-up care programs, remote working flexibility, in-office child care, mentorship opportunities).
  • Finally, again, know that having women in leadership is associated with positive business result.



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