Three Reasons Why Women Don’t Progress???

Well, if all the research and statistics are to be believed we women are a feeble bunch and hugely lacking in confidence! And that lack of confidence in our own abilities is a significant reason in our not applying for the top jobs!

Hmm, yes, confidence is an issue for many women in all areas of life, not least when it comes to grabbing those higher income and high status posts. That’s what the research tells us and that’s what we tell the researchers, apparently.

But I believe it cuts much deeper than that. I think we shy away (are kept away) from some of those top jobs because:

Three Reasons Women Are Not At The Top

1) We physically have children and society has still not organised itself in such a way that child care is valued (think how much child carers, usually women, get paid). It’s a rare organisation where women are not penalised in the career stakes if they reproduce. And that’s not to mention the other pressures coming to bear on women once they become mothers. I just did a quick mental trawl of the senior women I have worked with and I can think of only one who has children.

2) By and large the decisions as to who to promote are still made by men, de facto, as there aren’t many women in those top positions.There is a well researched bias that we tend to gravitate towards people like us. And appoint them…

3) The world of work has been designed by men and suits men well but it doesn’t really suit women. There is a strong gender bias operating. We are continually adapting, whether we realise it or not, and that leads to a feeling of dissonance, which in turn can erode our confidence in the workplace. Often we react by opting out (I know I did!) or setting up our own businesses. Maybe we are misinterpreting that feeling ‘at odds’ with the system as a lack of confidence in our own abilities?

Your Views

What do you think?

Are you in a senior position?

How did you get there and how does it feel?

Have you held back from applying for a senior post and why?

What would help redress the balance do you think?

Please do share your views! Agree/disagree/don’t know/new insights!. I really look forward to hearing from you!


Posted on March 23rd, 2011 by

7 Responses to “Three Reasons Why Women Don’t Progress???”

  1. Michelle says:

    Three Reasons Women Are Not At The Top

    I really do think this comes down to choice. Like you say, many women in “top” jobs don’t have children. If you have children and have a top job something has to give. You can’t be in two places at once, so if you’re not at home to look after your children someone else has to be i.e. a nanny!

    Old fashioned as it sounds, many women want children, and want to be mums, so they put family life as their number one priority, above work and a ‘career’.

    Of course, many women choose to be mums and work, but the key is a happy work/life balance, and you often can’t have that if you’re an Executive and work 50 hours a week. The ideal scenario is to take your foot off the pedal work wise, which gives you more time for home. You don’t need to be the top dog, many women are happy doing a job they like, which pays ok, and then having the flexibility and time to be able to pick the kids up from school each night. Best of both worlds!

    So, I don’t think it has anything to do with confidence or lack of ambition. It is priorities and choice.

    A great saying is … you don’t lie on your deathbed wishing you’d spent more time in the office!

    • Jane says:

      Hi Michelle, thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree; I well remember that my desire to have children overwhelmed me and everything else. However, I think things would be different of the way work is structured had evolved taking that into account.

      It cuts both ways; my husband was desperate to be able to take time at home with our babies but the most he could get was 5 days discretionary leave. I, on the other hand, had to leave work as there was no maternity pay unless you had been working full time for two years and I hadn’t. Yet my brother in law in Norway had an entirely different experience with plenty of leave for fathers as well.

      We’re so steeped in how things are that it’s hard sometimes to think how they could be, with some imagination and gender equality built in from the outset. Some women want both motherhood and a career but the way our society is set up that is not an easy thing to achieve. And increasingly some men want fatherhood and a career…

  2. Michelle has an excellent point. It is all about priorities and values. Sure we’d all like to do it all, but given our human limitations we must choose and we choose based on our priorities. I chose to stay at home with my children and a “career” was not in the cards. But I sense a discrepancy in how the world “values” non-career endeavors. As you say Jane we have to look at things in a new way. As women we must value what we choose and what is important to us. We still tend to value ourselves based on a man’s value system, which is where a traditional career takes place. Men are often devalued in a different way. They may receive the big bucks but most people think there not such good caregivers. We’re fighting traditional roles when perhaps we shouldn’t be fighting but accepting who we are. In our generation we’ve learned we have value outside of the home, but does that mean a career is the only option? Men and women will always have different ways of doing things, neither way is right or wrong.

  3. Suzanne says:

    I like Jane’s comment that “we’re so steeped in how things are, that it’s hard sometimes to think how they could be”.

    Michelle makes some goods points and I agree, but then I thought …. ‘what if?’. We are very accepting of the fact that women ‘can’t have it all’, but why not? Life is what you make it after all.

    • Jane says:

      Absolutely! let your imagination run riot! There are all sorts of ways to organise working lives, if we really let go of the established ways of thinking and look at the world in a very gender neutral way.

  4. Sally York says:

    I have spent my working life progressing through a female dominated profession – physiotherapy, but have taken on a post at one of the top levels find myself surrounded by men! How depressing, its certainly not lack of ability, I think it is a lack of confidence putting ourselves forwards for the top jobs, on a practical note why do people (I presume without childcare issues) put the important meetings before and after school times?? Sally

    • Jane says:

      Hi Sally! I worked within PCTs for a while and while physios on the ground were predominantly women, as you say, the picture changes the higher you go. In the NHS it was very evident and the long hours culture was awful. Partly I think because of the 24 hour nature of the health service, but also because most of the men in charge had someone at home ‘keeping the home fires burning’ while they scheduled meetings whenever it suited without much thought. There was an expectation that everyone would work late. Challenging this made one look a bit wimpy and it certainly didn’t do your career any good! Thanks for your contribution.

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