The debate over gender equality has escalated in recent years. Equality dictates a path of progress in which it’s evident that there are equal opportunities and resources available to both men and women.
Gender equality is a staple point of discussion involving women and work – there were just 24 female CEOs of companies on the 2018 Fortune 500. There are several myths that frequently label women as the reason their leadership aspirations typically fall flat. These myths are used as tools to downplay the idea that gender inequality is an issue.
Today, we’re debunking nine of those myths that hold women back in the workplace.
1. Women prefer to be caregivers
The belief goes that there are more male CEOs than female because women give up the executive opportunity to start families.
While this may have been the case in decades past, it’s a seriously outdated notion by today’s standards. There isn’t any real evidence to make claims that women have given up their careers to focus on their family. It’s more likely that women simply aren’t offered executive roles as frequently as men. Many believe that if a woman chooses to have a family, then she won’t have the time or aspirations needed to uphold leadership responsibilities.
The U.S. Labor Blog reports the contrary. Working moms have quickly become the norm with 75% of mothers with children under the age of 18 working full-time jobs. Furthermore, 40% of households receive primary or sole earnings from the woman of the house. Today’s workplace standards make it plausible to be both a caregiver and a CEO.
2. Women are too emotional
A common misconception for why women are ill-fitted for leadership roles is that they’re emotional.
Some believe that women are run by their emotions, and especially in stressful situations, which will ultimately distract their ability to make logical decisions. Companies fear that having a woman in charge means that ideas will be skewed and result in setbacks. An unstable CEO is also an excellent way to cause discomfort and conflict within the workplace. With all these hurdles, some people might say that it’s no wonder there aren’t many female CEOs.
However, research has shown that this archaic idea is far from the truth. In fact, research from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences shows there’s less conflict when women are in charge. The study states:
“When employers foster an office environment that supports positive, social relationships between women coworkers, especially in primarily male dominated organizations, they’re less likely to experience conflict among women employees.”
3. Sexual harassment is a women’s issue
This myth stems from the reality that there are more reported cases of sexual harassment towards women than there are towards men.
While sexual harassment issues involve both men and women, it’s often seen as a women’s issue. With eight in 10 women suffering from sexual harassment at work (according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research), this creates a problem on a grand scale. Sexual harassment in the workplace can be anything from derogatory comments, to inappropriate body language, to physical assault. Some may believe that because more women experience this issue, it’s theirs alone to resolve. This is not true.
Sexual harassment does discourage women from seeking higher level positions. Today, senior-level male executives are coming forward saying they feel uncomfortable having one-on-one meetings with women for fear of sexual harassment claims. These thought processes prove exactly why it’s men’s responsibility to not only become educated on protocols involving sexual harassment, but also to be a woman’s ally and report cases they witness.
4. There aren’t enough qualified women to be CEO
This next myth can quickly be debunked by noting that there are more women qualified to be in leadership positions today than ever before.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Blog, 47% of women make up the workforce. Women are 10% more likely than men to obtain a bachelor’s degree by the age of 29. Women also own close to 10 million businesses across the country, which equates to 850 new companies every day.
Furthermore, there has been a huge expansion in the number of occupations involving women. One in three women are lawyers today, compared to the one in 10 women who were lawyers in the 1970s.
Despite these facts, women are statistically underrepresented in certain fields. STEM careers are still mostly held by men. In fact, the number of female computer-based workers has declined since the 1990s, likely attributed to the gender bias that follows these career paths, which then turns women off this line of work.
5. Women can’t generate as much revenue as men
Revenue disparity is a common misconception that comes from a long-established background of male entrepreneurs.
It can be difficult to compare data when less than 15% of chief executives are women, according to the Center for American Progress. It’s no surprise men’s numbers look better given the lopsided balance. However, with gender equalization under fire for contemporary businesses, it has become clear that women bring just as much to the table as their male counterparts. In fact, female-owned businesses bring in around $1.4 trillion every year according to the U.S. Labor Blog.
The controversy for women and work originates from ideals conceived long ago. As more women establish themselves across various fields, it has become clear that women bring unique assets to the table like empathy, nurture, and support. Women are shedding new light on skills such as critical thinking and creative strategies, as well as providing companies with new ways to generate revenue.
6. Gender equality isn’t a modern issue
The equality myth is a huge delusion generally attributed to one word – feminism.
Feminism is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights based on the equality of the sexes. Some may take that as “feminists hate men,” while others may believe women not having have equal opportunities is an obscured idea. Even based on the statistics shared thus far, it seems that female entrepreneurs are doing well for themselves.
However, that isn’t the issue. The issue is they could be doing better, but they aren’t always given the chance.
While companies are working to employ more women – particularly in CEO roles – it doesn’t dispute the fact the system is flawed. In fact, the International Labor Office ran an academic study that showed the rise in female employment has led to a decrease in gender equality. The reason behind this is most of female employment is associated with service occupations that are dominantly female, rather than high status or CEO roles. This, in conjunction with women just generally working more at any level, skews the numbers for priority roles in men’s favor. Why? Because women aren’t being offered senior-level roles. Gender inequality is real, and especially in corporate environments.
7. Women don’t have enough connections to get to the top
In short, this statement insinuates that women don’t know enough people, and therefore don’t have the proper networking skills needed to rise to the top of the corporate food chain.
Historically, men have held the power positions in companies, many of them getting there through informal connections or the “old boys club” as it was once known. Take Donald Trump, for example. He inherited his father's apartment rental company, as well as valuable industry connections, which helped Donald become a real estate mogul, and now President.
The claim that a woman’s lack of inner connections is holding her back in the workplace is simply inaccurate. Women everywhere know the benefits of networking, but most practice this on a professional or formal level. This means fashioning professional relationships through internships, colleagues, and mentors, whereas men are more comfortable using the personal or informal approach, receiving promotions through friends and family members. One method isn’t necessarily better than the other, though in some industries it’s all about who you know.
8. Senior-level women sabotage their female counterparts
Can there be only one queen bee?
Women stirring conflicts in a catty manner between one another is a common stereotype, and people may believe the notion that leading female figures prevent their fellow female colleagues from promotion.
Women in power not wanting to face competition is a silly suggestion. The facts show that most women are likely to guide their female colleagues to their aspirations, and a study conducted by two researchers for the Harvard Business Review states “There was only an upside to increasing the number of women in the group.”
Women have much more solidarity than the public likes to give them credit for. Some examples of how women are supportive of each other can be seen through global movements such as the #MeToo movement, the Women’s March, and Time’s Up.
9. Women lack confidence
Confidence is a vital quality that a person in a leadership position should cultivate. And not all women have it, so the myth goes.
The concept of confidence varies between everyone, whether male or female. Men may jump at the opportunity to apply for a role they aren’t qualified for, while women may take the honor route and wait until they can showcase their skills that are required.
This entitlement from men is likely related to subconscious knowledge that the gender gap and inequality in the workplace is real. Women, on the other hand, are in constant need to prove themselves because they see the numbers, and the numbers suggest women aren’t being hired.
Female employees shouldn’t be held back
Women make up more than half of the workforce. So why is it that only 4.6% of CEOs are females at Fortune 500 companies? What’s holding talented women back?
These myths about women and work are just excuses as they’re lined up to blame women for getting in their own way of success. It’s important to see that this is not the case as more and more women are pushing themselves for leadership positions.
The reason there aren’t more female CEOs is due to gender inequality. Women want to work, they want to lead, and we should let them.
- How To Design An Employee Experience That Empowers Women
- 5 Ways to Attract and Retain Strong Female Leaders
- Women Making Waves: Katerina Trajchevska, CEO of Adeva
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