Key Challenges faced by modern female leaders
Being a female leader in the modern day comes with its own unique set of challenges. Many of the challenges come from other people, the society and female leaders themselves – how we navigate through these issues is very important in a modern world
- Being ‘too’ aware of gender: Most female leaders walk into leadership positions being overly aware of their gender as a barrier. I dare say there are great leaders- period. Gender is not a pre-requisite to great leadership. Female leaders need to embrace their knowledge, skills, diversity and just lead. No apologies for being great individual.
- Society Definition of Success: There is an enormous pressure to perform well while in a leadership position because of the societal pressure that suggests that everything the female leader does is representative of the female gender. The pressure also implies that the female leaders’ actions determines how much opportunity other women get.
Clare Booth Luce once said ‘If I fail, no one will say she doesn’t have what it takes. ‘They will say, ‘Women don’t have what it takes. Society needs to start accepting women as capable to accomplish anything. Success should not be dependent on what gender you are.
- Reality of Other Responsibilities – Work versus Family: Female leaders wear multiple hats: the wife hat, motherly hat, the sister, the child and so on. Dealing with the pressure of raising kids and having a stable career is a real issue female leader’s face. Women arguably have greater demands outside of work competing for their attention. Generally, women tend to compete better at the junior levels. However, as they progress to middle levels with heavier work demands and higher travel frequency, they tend to leave to focus on family or pursue part-time work or other endeavors. Another challenge is the ability to get attractive career opportunities inspite of maternity breaks. The effect is that the pool of female leaders for top jobs gets smaller.
- Stereotyping and Leadership Style: Female leaders are often referred to as stereotyped. They can be accused of being / called emotional when it may just be being passionate and on the other hand a risk of being perceived as being overly controlling and confrontational. As Forbes recently noted, “Studies show that assertive women are more likely to be perceived as aggressive and that women usually don’t ask for what they deserve. When they do, they risk being branded as domineering or, worse even, “ambitious.”
- Being Authentic – in a different element: In a predominantly male environment, female leaders are faced with male dominated discussions that makes them feel odd and may lead to being treated differently. There is a lot of distractions to make female leaders dwell on what makes them different meanwhile everyone is judged by their results. Female leaders are however still faced with the need to stretch their experience from a functional background to a broader base.
- Limited access to Female Role Models and Female Leadership Groups: Many people prefer to have mentors of the same gender because they tend to understand the challenges most commonly faced. Sometimes, the needs of women from their mentors also tend to differ from the needs of men. There is a need for more encouragement, a role model to follow, and someone who have faced similar challenges to talk. Also female strong social networks also represent a tremendous, untapped opportunity that can be leveraged on.
- Globalization: Mobility is very key in a modern world. Female leaders are faced with challenges that comes with relocation as they move higher. Globalization presents many new barriers for women.
The reality is that, historically, men have been the ones to define ambition and leadership in the business world but women have come a long way into being represented in top leadership. What make a female leader strong will remain the natural abilities that is brought into leadership — a concerted/collaborative style, ability to multi-tasks, a talent for listening, and a natural ability to manage interpersonal relationships – what will keep it going on top of this skills will remain the ability to being authentic to oneself.
Supports Leadership Programs can provide:
- Platform for Leadership Coaching
- Bringing out the authentic side in leadership.
- Navigate through adjusting into a new culture with my move to the UK from Africa.
- Staying ahead despite multiples roles at home and at work.
Abimbola Siyanbola is a Director with a Global Multinational FMCG. She is very passionate about transformation initiatives that will support young leaders build confidence and leadership capabilities to succeed in a dynamic world. Abimbola likes to write, travel, watch a boxing or a football match.
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