Climbing up the corporate ladder has proved more difficult for women, as we make up only 14.2% of the top five leadership positions at the companies in the S&P 500, according to a CNNMoney analysis. The sole reason for this startling statistic is infuriatingly simple: we are women. Yes, it’s that straightforward; women are still frequently subject to gender-based discrimination.
A new Pew Research study on “Women and Leadership” finds that women are not afforded the same opportunities for advancement into leadership as men. Despite the fact that the survey found that most Americans find women indistinguishable from men on key leadership traits, such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, women are in short supply at top business and government positions here in the U.S. Instead, Pew researchers found that four-in-ten Americans point to a double-standard for women seeking to advance their careers.
Notably, research shows that both men and women find that women are as capable, if not more, as men are to performing in leadership roles. So, what accounts for this discomfort when it’s not a lack of confidence in the individual? I puzzle over whether the real issue here is their uneasiness with someone who is fundamentally different. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, after all. When a high-profile company faces a serious challenge, nine out of ten times a man is chosen to address the crisis. When the pressure is high, it’s natural for folks to gravitate towards what feels comfortable and safe.
Even more likely a cause this discomfort is lack of representation in the top leadership ranks, something women must work hard to change in the coming years. Of course, it’s natural to gravitate towards what feels familiar, comfortable and safe. That explains why companies chooses a man nine out of ten times when facing a high-profile challenge.
In order to rise to the top women must demonstrate their own effectiveness in various business environments thus motivating other women to do the same. We must insist equal opportunity and examine how our own comfort levels and internal biases impact our choices and then, we must commit to make better choices. We must advocate for other women and only then will we at the head of the table.