career women leadership

Women in the workplace: Hard Truths, Challenges & Solutions

In the last decade, the world has witnessed a lot of voices rising on issues like gender equality and feminism, yet the statistics show that women hold only five percent of CEO positions at the 1000 Fortune companies.

According to the data, females occupy 60 percent of junior positions, while the numbers descend in the upper levels of management. Only 20 percent of women are seen in senior positions, while less than 10 percent of women hold C-Suite leadership.

For some interesting perspective on this, have a look at the presentation below, or continue reading for the highlights.


So, what are the challenges that women face in the workplace on a daily basis?

Second-Generation Gender Bias

Organizations propagate gender equality principles widely, but during appraisals, a collaborative woman is viewed as weak, while an assertive one is seen aggressive.

This type of discrimination is very subtle and often is ignored by both genders.

Gender Stereotyping

Through the years, the image associated with the word “leadership” has evolved, yet the qualities of strong and powerful leaders are associated with men.

The common traits associated with leadership/power/influence include being well-built, assertive and dominant, while women are often perceived as affectionate and compassionate.

Career Vs. Family

The deep-rooted traditions of society tend to force women to choose between career and family.

These traditions have led to a lot of potential female leaders taking back their steps in the workplace and opting for flexible and convenient jobs rather than demanding leadership roles.

With societal pressures aside, there is great power in the leadership of women. It is evident that companies with women serving on the board make more comprehensive decisions and have higher returns on investments.

Women also tend to have a higher range of emotional intelligence, which is an important trait of a successful leader.


How can organizations and women themselves overcome the aforementioned challenges?

  1. Reassess and define what leadership skills the organization needs and values.
  2. Draw on a person’s individual strengths rather than stereotypical attributes.
  3. For women: Make a move within your organization or dust off your CV when you don’t see yourself moving forward. Define your career goals and take progressive actions.
  4. Create leaders who recognize diverse abilities and experiences to create a more productive workplace.

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” ~ Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of Lean In.


For in-depth research and interesting content on the topic of women in the workplace, take a look at the INSEAD Knowledge website. There’s some great stuff there.

Published by

Michelle Tan - Senior Consultant, Sandbox Advisors

Michelle has years of experience as a multi-lingual lecturer/trainer and has worked with clients such as Marina Bay Sands, Resorts World Sentosa, Comfort Transportation and Nanyang Technological University. She has attained an impressive array of academic qualifications, including a Master of Science in Industrial Psychology and Management, Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics, Professional Diploma for Teachers and Trainers, Associate Degree in Japanese Linguistics & Culture, and a Diploma in Mass Communication.

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