Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Why are there so few women in leadership roles?

women in leadership.jpg

Why are there so few women in leadership positions? Why are men still ahead – especially within the corporate world? And how can we work to make sure that this changes?

These are just a few of the questions being asked at the BBC 100 Women debate on women in leadership, live in London today.

This year, there are only 26 women listed in the Fortune 500. Paltry, yes - but what’s even more depressing, is that this is the highest ever figure for women making the list to date.

Just last month, the World Economic Forum announced that it would take an excruciating 118 years to close the gender pay gap.

Although many insist that 'the battle is won' and that things are moving in the right direction, they simply aren’t moving fast enough.

While some suggest that women have a responsibility to ‘lean in’ and make their voices heard, if they want to smash the glass ceiling, perhaps it’s not quite as simple as that.

As we so often hear, when men assert themselves they are viewed as proactive, as leaders. But when women do, they are branded with sexist labels such as ‘bossy’, ‘bitchy’ or even ‘emotional.’

Here’s what the women at today’s debate had to say on the topic:


Does a lack of confidence or a lack of opportunity hold women back?

sheryl sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg launched the 'Lean In' philosophy

Alex Depledge, co-founder of Hassle.com, says:

“I don’t believe that women need to act like men, but I do think we need to grow a thicker skin.”

“It starts at an early age – not instilling in women the scrappiness needed to get on in today’s world.”

Natalie Campbell, founder of A Very Good Company, says:

“We are waiting to be given the opportunity. We need to be taking it, we need to be demanding it.”

Sophie Walker, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, says:

“What happens from a very early age is we don’t respect the views and behaviour of little girls. A lot of what’s being said is that women need to change and adapt, but we need to be saying much more about how, actually, men need to change.”


Would female mentors help?

female mentors

Are female mentors the answer?

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, says:

“We need to challenge the idea of the strong female role models. This is a language I detest. We’re creating this idea that we can only validate women if they behave in this way. We’re missing the whole range of female experience in doing that.”

Lubna Qasim, lawyer, banker and former UAE government official, says:

“It starts from home. Something which I have learned is that men who’ve had strong female role models understand strong ambitious women. Whether that be their mother, their daughter, their sisters.. men who haven’t had that are clueless as how to deal with ambitious women.”

“There’s the gender issue but there’s also the age issue. I was dealing with men in their 60s and 70s and for me, they didn’t know how to speak to me.”


Do women in leadership roles hold other women back?

mean girls

Do successful women hold other women back?

Natalie Campbell, founder of A Very Good Company, says:

“The myth of the queen bee who keeps other women down has been manufactured. But in my experience, every woman I’ve met in the workplace has been more than willing to help.”

Lubna Qassim, lawyer, banker and former UAE government official, says:

“The best bosses I’ve had have been male bosses. The female bosses I had taught me one thing: not to do as they did.”

Sally Boyle, partner and HR Director at Goldman Sachs, says:

“My experience is that women have helped other women along the way.”


Are quotas the best way to level the playing field?

WEP

The Women's Equality Party is calling for female-only quotas

Hannah McCloskey, founder of Fearless Futures, says:

“I am very much in favour of quotas, but not as a solo tool.”

“Statistically, we are over hiring for men.”

Sally Boyle, partner and HR Director at Goldman Sachs, says:

“I don’t agree with quotas. We’ve made enormous progress. We can do it through strong leadership and through sponsorship and mentorship. We don’t need quotas.”

You can watch all the 100 Women debates here.

Related

speak.jpg

Five wonderfully inspiring videos to empower you right now

103785024 (1).jpg

Facebook and Apple to offer free egg freezing to employees

jlaw.JPG

Read Jennifer Lawrence's call to arms on the gender pay gap

rexfeatures_3837923a.jpg

Time magazine proposes to ban the word “feminist”; good idea?

526056327.jpg

How to be a great boss by the most loved and lauded female managers

opener_rt.jpg

Sofia Vergara speaks exclusively to Stylist

rexfeatures_3380439a.jpg

The top 50 most empowering feminist quotes of all time

tech women.jpeg

Meet the 'wogrammers' breaking gender stereotypes in the tech industry

ThinkstockPhotos-487390388.jpg

87% of British women experience sexism at work, says Stylist study

Comments

More

Clueless nearly never got made because of Hollywood sexism

As Cher would say, as if

by Jasmine Andersson
23 Jun 2017

Starbucks are hiring 2,500 refugees across Europe

by Nicola Colyer
23 Jun 2017

Man carries out flower girl duties with immense pride and solemnity

His commitment is quite something

by Amy Swales
23 Jun 2017

Shocking US law says men can finish sex if woman withdraws consent

Shocking

by Moya Crockett
23 Jun 2017

Serial fans, Adnan Syed has been given a second chance in court

New hope for Syed supporters

by Kayleigh Dray
23 Jun 2017

The scientific reason summer turns you into a horrible person

A new study confirms that we’re not very nice when we’re too hot

by Moya Crockett
23 Jun 2017

The 5 most surprising things I learnt from appearing on First Dates

What's it really like to appear on First Dates?

by Jasmine Andersson
22 Jun 2017

Rihanna just gave a heartbroken fan the best relationship advice

The pop star took time out to give a fan this brilliant tip

by Stylist
22 Jun 2017

First Dates fans respond to “shocking” mansplaining incident

“A frightened, insecure monkey hanging on to his patriarchal perch for dear life”

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Jun 2017

Golden rules of work happiness from Europe’s female tech leaders

From nap rooms to therapists and no overtime

by Anna Brech
22 Jun 2017