History reflects the tremendous progress women have made along their path to claim leadership positions and prominent roles in society. However, women in positions of power still are in the minority. In this article, Paulette Chaffee, Ambassador for Orange County 4th District and prominent local figure in the Fullerton community, answers critical questions about why this is still an issue and what barriers and biases women in leadership face.
What are some of the barriers and biases that women face?
Women face numerous barriers that can hinder their career advancement or fulfilling a leadership role. Outdated practices of utilizing masculine traits to determine who best fits the role of a leader have favored men over women, making the climb to leadership more difficult for a female.
Other barriers and biases professional women face when trying to reach their goals include sexism, lack of access to established networks, fewer connections and less development, and lack of flexibility in family or lifestyle responsibilities.
How can these issues be solved to create a fairer and equitable leadership?
Identifying the challenges that women face in leadership is the first step to solving the difficulties women face in higher-level roles. Providing the right resources and support to help women move past these barriers, biases, and disadvantages will create more equitable leadership opportunities.
For example, Indiana University provides a Women in Leadership Online Certification program through the Kelley School of Business that identifies obstacles women in the workplace face, such as being treated equally, trusting their voice, imposter syndrome, building alliances, and self-advocacy. The program then addresses these issues to give women leaders the adequate tools to overcome these setbacks in the business world. The curriculum also helps women develop their skills and careers with four courses that teach leadership and self-awareness, and effective communication and negotiation for women.
With the proper support, resources, and tools paired with an increasing number of women leaders, today’s barriers and biases towards females climbing the ladder can be a thing of the past. As the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former United States Supreme Court Justice, said, “Women belong in all the places where decisions are being made.”
What are the benefits of overcoming such barriers and biases?
Both men and women benefit when all are free to pursue any path without barriers and biases. For example, the stereotype of a masculine figure being more capable in a leadership role holds men back who would instead prefer to take on and embrace a caretaker’s position.
Businesses also benefit from women in leadership roles, both financially and performance-wise. For example, a Credit Suisse study revealed that companies whose board members consisted of at least one woman increased return on investment compared to companies that lack any female presence on their board. In addition, gender diversity is directly correlated with positive performance outcomes and better corporate social responsibility.
About Paulette Chaffee
Paulette Chaffee is an educator, children’s advocate, grants facilitator, lawyer, and member of various non-profit boards. She obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Redlands in Communicative Disorders and a California Lifetime Teaching Credential. She is currently the Ambassador for Orange County 4th District and a board member of All the Arts for All the Kids.