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Why there are so few women in business in C-suite positions


Donna RobertsonYesterday I read an article entitled Glass Ceiling: myth or reality, based on research by Professor Katleen De Stobbeleir of the Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School. She’d carried out studies of students on a young and middle management programme, men and women and they were assessed on 32 aspects of leadership – the article highlighted key findings about the women. 

What was interesting was the qualitative research around why there are so few women in C-suite positions. 

Her findings showed that women don’t lack ambition but role models.  At everywoman we’ve showcased hundreds of role models via a number of initiatives, including our Award programmes and we know the impact these women and their stories of achievement have on others. Having spoken to many women in business, I’ve found that very often women don’t consider themselves as role models and are unaware of the influence they can have. All women in business, no matter what level, have the ability to support and inspire other women who are making their way – which in my mind makes them role models. If we’re going to get more women to the top of organisations or running their own ventures, it is without doubt we need to inspire young women and girls into the world of work, opening their eyes to the variety of opportunities available and the amazing things they can achieve.  If you’re not doing so already, you can play a part in this too; take a look our Modern Muse project, which is all about inspiring the next generation.

The article also stated that women in business have a different attitude to networking and spend time with subordinates, while men focus on their peers and superiors. Thinking about it now, at the early stage of my career, most of my male colleagues were naturals when it came to networking upwards and although I was promoted, most of them progressed faster than I did. At the time, it didn’t always stand out as networking as often it could be a quick chat with someone senior by the drinks machine or a catch up in the corridor - but it was. If you’re telling people at the top what you’re up to and what you’ve achieved, it’s more likely you’re going to be front of mind when opportunities arise.

Finally Professor Katleen said “There isn’t just one way to the top. Women should realise that”. I agree, take a look at our free Navigator to see what our everywomanClub members all successful women in business have to say.

Download the Navigator: a practical guide to your future in business here:

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