Posted by: ginalazenby | March 11, 2011

OK, so what IS holding us women back?

There have been quite a few editorials in the UK press about the dismally low numbers of women on the Boards of British FTSE 1000 companies. Less than 10%. The idea of enforcing a quota like Norway is not taking off and I read a report in the Australian weekend paper relayed from the UK’s Sunday Times that maybe “men are not to blame for the glass ceiling” after all.

The idea being muted is that we might lack ambition and self confidence and we are more hesitant at putting ourselves forward for top jobs. I spluttered a response to myself when I read this but it is an interesting one to ponder on.

It is a really complex issue.

The words about men being “to blame” are emotive and can easily put an individual man on the defensive when this subject is raised for discussion. Consider this: the structure, routine and environment of the corporate world has largely been fashioned by men and for men with stay-at-home wives. With a full-on commitment to careers, most households do actually need a stay-at-home wife! So what happens to the wife who works outside the home?  In most cases she has to juggle many more chores and responsibilities than men.  Most career women with a family have a second job of home-maker and mother which not only is unpaid, is largely undervalued.

Any work that involves caring seems to be off the radar and is not counted or measured by society as valuable and valid input. There comes a time for many women I am sure when they have to make a judgement call about investing even more emotional, physical and psychic energy for their company if they want to pursue the higher executive levels. For many it is just too stressful and they make a choice to opt out …. maybe only for a while, a few years. But in that time window, male executives continue their trajectory up the career ladder. It can be difficult to step back into the career system and if you have been away caring for family and children it’s generally viewed as non-work….. ‘just’ looking after children. I think it is one of the most challenging complex jobs in the world and it is time we valued it as such. That way, those years juggling hectic family schedules, mollifying disagreements, nurturing individual educational needs and talents will be counted for what it is … a worthy use of executive time.

Well that’s just the issue of career conflict and the choices women have to make. When the biological clock is not ticking or child care is not an issue, there is still the matter of women’s mindsets.  Again the whole concept of career development throughout an organisation is devised by men with male candidates in mind.  The system is seemingly fair as equal opportunities are given to men and women. I think the reality is that the company culture is often masculine, aggressive, competitive and driven by testosterone which does not resonate with most women – certainly those who are striving to remain connected with their natural feminine ways.  So many women choose not to sacrifice themselves for the top jobs, some will leave and start their own enterprise.

Do you think women lack ambition? Is that what is holding us back … or are we just not designed to fit into a system that does not help us thrive?



  1. Beautifully written Gina! I feel its a combination of women doing some very, very important things that are not currently valued or seen as important AND that the way a lot of business is currently conducted is not in alignment with the way many women I know operate. From my own experience I pulled away from the corporate world because it didn’t feel right for me.

    These incredible world changes that are going on are heralding a new era in many, many different ways. People are realising we are all connected to each other and who could not open their hearts when they see the difficulties and challenges their fellow human brothers and sisters are facing. Its from this place that decisions will come from the higher mind with a higher, bigger perspective linked to the energy of the heart. The decisions that are made from these places are ones of abundance rather than fear and lack. Decisions that encompass beauty, wonderment, magic and miracles……. Its great time to be on the planet…..

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