Women’s representation in Leadership Role

Women’s representation in Leadership Role



Why in the News?

LinkedIn’s Economic Graph data indicates that the overall representation of women in the workforce has risen over the years. Despite this, advancing women into senior and leadership positions have encountered several challenges. Notably, progress has stagnated since 2022 and has even seen a decline in 2024.


Major findings of the report:


  • The overall workforce participation of women has increased from 23.9% in 2016 to 26.8% in 2024, although there was a slight decrease of 0.5 percentage points between 2022 and 2024.
  • Women in senior leadership roles rose from 16.6% in 2016 to 18.7% in 2023 but fell to 18.3% in 2024.
  • Despite a strong presence at entry levels (28.7%) and senior independent contributor levels (29.53%), women’s representation significantly drops at managerial positions (18.59%) and continues to decline in higher leadership roles, with 20.1% at director roles, 17.4% at Vice President roles, and 15.3% at C-suite positions.
  • Sectors with the highest representation of women in leadership include Education (30%), Government Administration (29%), Administrative and Support Services (23%), and Hospitals and Healthcare (23%).
  • The lowest representation of women in leadership is found in Construction, Oil, Gas, Mining, and Utilities (11%), Wholesale and Manufacturing (12%), and Accommodation and Food Services (15%).


Why has Women’s representation declined in leadership positions?


  • COVID-19 Pandemic: The pandemic disproportionately affected women, particularly due to increased caregiving responsibilities. The hiring rate of women into senior leadership roles has notably decreased due to the pandemic. The percentage of leadership positions held by women has fallen to 32%, matching the level seen during the peak of the pandemic in 2020. This decline spans multiple industries, including Technology, Media and Information, and Professional Services.
  • Economic Recession: Economic downturns often lead to budget cuts and restructuring within companies. In such scenarios, leadership roles may be consolidated or reduced, impacting women’s advancement opportunities. A study examining economic responses to crises in developing regions discovered that economic growth shocks could cause a rapid decrease in female employment by 3 percentage points within the first five years following the shock, with these effects enduring over time.
  • Inflation and Cost of Living Increases: Rising costs can affect women’s ability to invest in their careers, such as through continued education or relocation for job opportunities. Financial pressures can also lead women to prioritise immediate income over long-term career growth.
  • Workplace Discrimination and Bias: Economic stress can exacerbate existing biases and discrimination in the workplace. During times of economic uncertainty, companies may revert to traditional hiring and promotion practices, which can disadvantage women.
  • Childcare and Education Disruptions: Continued disruptions in childcare and education due to economic pressures can make it difficult for women to balance work and family responsibilities, affecting their ability to take on and succeed in leadership roles.
  • Labour Market Changes: Shifts in the labour market, such as the rise of gig and contract work, can disproportionately impact women. These roles often lack the stability and career progression opportunities needed for advancement to leadership positions.

Constraints that affect women’s progress


Gender Stereotypes and Bias:

  • Leadership Traits: Leadership traits are often stereotypically associated with men, such as assertiveness and decisiveness, while women are stereotyped as being more nurturing and cooperative. This bias can lead to the perception that women are less suited for leadership roles.
  • Double Standards: Women in leadership roles are often judged more harshly than their male counterparts. Behaviours that are praised in men may be criticised in women.

Workplace Culture:

  • Exclusion from Informal Networks: Women may be excluded from informal networks or “old boys’ clubs” where important business decisions and career advancement opportunities are discussed.
  • Lack of Mentorship and Sponsorship: Women often have less access to mentors and sponsors who can advocate for their career advancement.

Work-Life Balance Challenges:

  • Family Responsibilities: Women are more likely to take on the majority of caregiving responsibilities, which can impact their availability and flexibility for career advancement opportunities.
  • Flexible Work Policies: Lack of supportive policies for work-life balance, such as flexible work hours and parental leave, can hinder women’s career progression.

Organisational Practices:

  • Promotion and Pay Disparities: Women often face disparities in promotions and pay. They may be passed over for promotions in favour of less qualified male colleagues.
  • Bias in Performance Evaluations: Performance evaluations may be biased, with women’s contributions being undervalued or overlooked.


Corrective Measures to increase Women’s representation


Organizational Measures

  • Inclusive Recruitment and Promotion Practices:
  • Blind Recruitment: Implement blind recruitment processes to reduce unconscious bias.
  • Transparent Promotion Criteria: Ensure that promotion criteria are transparent and based on merit and performance rather than subjective assessments.
  • Diverse Hiring Panels: Use diverse hiring and promotion panels to mitigate bias.
  • Leadership Development Programs:
  • Mentorship Programs: Establish mentorship programs that pair women with senior leaders who can provide guidance and support.
  • Leadership Training: Provide leadership training programs specifically tailored for women to develop necessary skills and confidence.
  • Work-Life Balance Support:
  • Flexible Work Policies: Offer flexible working hours, remote work options, and job-sharing arrangements.
  • Parental Leave: Provide equitable parental leave policies that support both men and women.
  • Childcare Support: Offer on-site childcare facilities such as creche facilities or childcare subsidies.

Policy Measures

  • Legislation and Regulation:
  • Gender Quotas: Implement gender quotas for leadership positions in both public and private sectors.
  • Equal Pay Laws: Enforce laws that mandate equal pay for equal work to reduce the gender pay gap as mandated by the Constitution.
  • Incentives for Gender Diversity:
  • Tax Benefits: Offer tax incentives to companies that demonstrate significant progress in promoting women to leadership roles.
  • Public Recognition: Recognize and publicly reward companies that excel in gender diversity through awards and certifications.

Educational and Societal Measures

  • STEM Education Initiatives:
  • Encouraging Girls in STEM: Promote STEM education for girls from an early age to build a pipeline of female talent in high-demand fields.
  • Scholarships and Grants: Provide scholarships and grants specifically for women pursuing higher education and leadership training.
  • Awareness Campaigns:
  • Public Awareness: Conduct public awareness campaigns to challenge and change societal norms and stereotypes about women in leadership.
  • Role Models and Mentors: Highlight successful female leaders as role models and mentors to inspire and encourage other women.


Download Yojna daily current affairs eng med 3rd June 2024


Prelims Based Question

Q. Consider the following statements:

1. The overall workforce participation of women has increased consistently since the last decade.

2. The education sector employs the highest representation of women in leadership positions.

Choose the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a). 1 Only

(b). 2 Only

(c). Both 1 and 2

(d). Neither 1 nor 2




Mains Based Question

Q. What are the social and economic constraints that led to lower representation of women in higher leadership positions? What could be the corrective measures to address this persisting Glass Ceiling phenomenon?


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