Though progress toward gender equality in the workplace has certainly advanced in recent years, the ratio of women CEOs to their male counterparts remains overwhelming. As of May 2018, only 24 Fortune 500 CEOs were women. Because of this lack of diversity, women CEOs must face a number of challenges in order to succeed — and simply survive.
Sexism is unfortunately still prevalent in society, and the workplace is rarely an exception. For a woman in charge of a company, she must cope with male employees discrediting her opinions, painting her as emotional, or projecting other negative stereotypes on her for no other reason than her gender. Facing this challenge is not easy; a woman CEO must stand her ground and address bias when it arises in order to create an image of someone who is capable of overcoming adversity, which is something most men, especially white men, do not have to worry about.
Cultivating a Voice
In many environments, it is still commonly ingrained that women should be cautious of their volume and how much space they fill. Tasks like requesting funds or stating that a meeting must be rescheduled becomes more difficult than necessary because of this awareness and subsequent hesitation. When in a position of power, women must unlearn these lessons and teach themselves how to use their voices to express opinions, hold discussions, and disagree with others who might disapprove of her thoughts. Many women are fearful of negative reactions, but when a woman is a CEO, she must be willing and eager to make her ideas known. This is an obstacle for women that men, who are often raised to be openly opinionated and vocal, do not face, and it is one that requires constant practice.
Pregnancy & Early Childhood
Though not every woman CEO will experience pregnancy or motherhood while in a position of power, most men in leadership roles will never have to deal with the challenges that accompany childbirth and motherhood. Not only is managing time made difficult with raising children and prenatal doctors appointments, but making sure the mother’s health is taken care of in addition to controlling a company seems almost impossible. Still, women in CEO positions are expected to continue as normal in spite of their additional concerns. Fathers may take on some of the parental duties, but generally, it is expected that women care for their children which makes navigating a leadership role challenging in a way many men do not understand.
While women are taking command of growing companies and making a mark on the economic world, they still face unique challenges that hinder their progress. It is empowering to see how women CEOs struggle and fight to succeed, but they should be treated more equally and with more respect in order to encourage more women to seek greater accomplishments without unnecessary limitation.