Management & Leadership

Women Still Face Challenges in the Workplace Today – Here’s What Leaders Can Do

While we’ve made strides when it comes to gender equality in the workplace, we still have a long way to go to tackle the complex challenges women still face. Women account for 47.7% of the global workforce, yet only 27.1% of women are managers and leaders.  

In order to combat this issue, business leaders should prioritize equality, which ultimately starts within the culture of a company. Leaders can help women overcome these challenges and lead by example to create a more fair and equal work environment.  

Five Challenges Women Face in the Workplace Today 

Let’s tackle five significant challenges that affect women in the workplace today and what leaders can do to take action to support their employees. 

Challenge #1: Unconscious bias 

Women can often be hindered from a promotion or other advancement due to unconscious bias relating to gender and other stereotypical thinking. Managers may make poor decisions such as overlooking a woman for a promotion because they are worried about her balancing her family with demanding work. Some women of color may experience racial bias because of someone’s attitude and beliefs. All of these actions can prevent women from advancing in the workplace. 

How can leaders act?  

Managers should have open and honest conversations with their teams to clearly communicate that any type of discrimination is harmful and goes against company policy.  Companywide training can help raise awareness about unconscious bias and how it can negatively impact decision-making. If someone spots any bias, they should report it or talk to a trusted supervisor, so these behaviors are not repeated. 

Challenge #2: Pay inequity 

While the pay gap may seem to be narrowing, women still get paid less than men in the workplace. According to an analysis conducted by Pew Research Center, women earned approximately 82% of what men did in 2022. There is still some work that needs to be done to continue narrowing this gap and enable women to have equal opportunities for pay and promotions in the corporate world. 

How can leaders act?  

Companies need to conduct regular audits to understand all employees’ growth, the management-level roles they fill, and any recent promotions given. This will help determine if all individuals were given fair opportunities and help identify any gaps in the workplace. Pay transparency is another example. More and more companies are creating a fairer playing field. Identifying equal opportunities, including growth and upskilling programs, are also effective in helping ensure that there is no gender bias and other inequalities. 

Challenge #3: Lack of sponsorships or mentors 

This one’s important. In order to continue to advance, you need to have professional mentors to vouch for you and break barriers to entry. Unfortunately, according to the Harvard Business Review, it seems that women are less likely to obtain this kind of sponsorship. This is when a mentor can step in and help support, guide and give advice on career goals and growth.  

How can leaders act?  

Leaders should design mentorship programs that will help professionals advance in their careers. Having a coach or a system where growth is encouraged will help women climb to the top and break through the limitations that arise due to a lack of guidance or sponsorship. Encouraging advancement opportunities among women will be key to creating a more equitable workplace. 

Challenge #4: Workplace flexibility 

When managing work and family, it can be frowned upon to take time off to care for children or relatives. Some companies don’t offer maternity leave, which is a major obstacle that women face after giving birth. These challenges can affect a woman’s ability to succeed in the workplace and can discourage them from going back into the workplace after they have children.  

How can leaders act?  

Providing benefits for all employees, including parental leave, shows your team that you care about them as people. Additionally, allowing for flexible schedules is proven to not only motivate and engage employees but also help with reducing turnover and improving employee happiness. When given the necessary time off and flexibility, women will be able to balance their work with their personal lives and be loyal to a company that trusts them and gives them the opportunity to take care of their families. Work-life balance is important for mental health, and all companies should have a policy in place to protect this for all professionals.  

Challenge #5: Harassment 

With so much awareness around workplace harassment and even mandatory training, workplace harassment still exists – and it disproportionately affects women. This can make the workplace an uncomfortable environment for women, sometimes resulting in quitting jobs or reducing hours so that they can avoid uncomfortable situations. Furthermore, the culture might make it hard for women to speak up for fear of losing their jobs or gaining a bad reputation.  

How can leaders act?  

While making sure that all training and education are up to date and taken seriously by employees is important, making the workplace a safe space for all professionals is the goal. This means that all claims should be taken seriously, and no one should be shut out or dismissed if they come forward. The workplace culture should reflect an environment where there is no harassment, and this will need to come from upper management. Guidelines and policies must be set in place and adhered to, and all employees need to be aware of the consequences and importance of behaving in a respectful manner.

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