Women in Leadership and the Path to Parity

Ever wondered why the world of leadership looks a bit… monochrome? It’s 2024, and while we’ve made some strides towards mixing up the leadership palette, there’s still a long way to go before we hit that vibrant spectrum of diversity we’re all dreaming of.

Why does it matter? Well, aside from the obvious (hello, fairness and equality!), businesses with a rich blend of leaders tend to knock it out of the park when it comes to creativity, decision-making, and, yep, even their bottom line.

So, what’s the hold-up? And more importantly, what can we do to speed things up? 

Let’s dive into the current state of women in leadership – the triumphs, the roadblocks, and how we can all do our bit to help pave the way for more women to step up and stand out. 

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Table of Contents


The Lowdown on Women in Leadership Positions

Pop quiz: What do a FTSE 100 CEO, a tech startup founder, and a government minister have in common? 

They’re all roles where female leaders can excel but are likely to be overlooked. 

Right now, women in top spots are like gold dust in many industries. Sure, we’ve seen some fantastic firsts and broken barriers, but the overall picture is definitely more ‘work in progress’ than ‘mission accomplished.’

Here’s the current state of play…

While more women than ever are donning the leadership mantle, the numbers tell us we’re still playing catch-up. 

For every woman sitting at the boardroom table, there are still far too many waiting for an opportunity. And in some sectors, the gender gap is still as wide as it was a decade ago.1

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The good news is that the conversation is louder, prouder, and more persistent than ever. 

From global giants to small startups, the push for more women in leadership is happening. And it’s not just about fairness – it’s about brilliance, innovation, and the kind of problem-solving that happens when diverse minds come together.


Picking Up the Pace: How Fast Are We Moving?

So, where are we on the scoreboard when it comes to women in leadership? It’s a bit of a mixed bag. 

Globally, women are 41.9% of the workforce, according to LinkedIn.2 Sounds good, right? But when we peek into the leadership suites, the numbers tell a different story. Senior leadership spots (defined as Director, Vice-President, or C-suite) held by women? Just 32.2%. Yep, we’ve got more work to do

Before we get into the not-so-good stuff, let’s spotlight some wins. Over half of the leadership roles in healthcare and education are filled by women. And the Government and Public Sector aren’t far off hitting that sweet 50-50 mark either. 

But, let’s not crack open the champagne just yet…

When it comes to those high-level C-suite positions it’s a different story. Women’s representation is actually declining in all industries in what’s being referred to “drop at the top”.

Research from McKinsey found that women only make up 28% of c-suite roles (this doesn’t include Director or VP like the LI data). When sorted by ethnicity, the picture is even bleaker for women of colour, who only make up 6% of c-suite roles.3


Drop to the top, by industry, as of March 2023

The data presented in the graph below is ordered in descending order based on the ratio of women’s representation in both entry-level positions and C-suite positions.

women in leadership stats

Progress? Sure. Enough? Far from it.

Peeling back the layers, it’s evident we’re miles from gender parity.

With the current pace, the World Economic Forum gives us a timeline of 135 years to bridge the global gender gap in all sectors.5

How do we keep the momentum going?

  • Enhance Mentorship: Deepen support for mentorship programs.
  • Clear Hiring Goals: Establish and follow diversity objectives.
  • Targeted Leadership Courses: Provide specialised training for women.
  • Flexible Work Policies: Adopt policies that support all employees’ work-life balance.
  • Highlight Successes: Publicly recognise achievements by women leaders.

Don’t let your busy schedule hold you back from achieving your career goals!

Download our FREE Career Progression Toolkit for Women now to get a step-by-step guide based on research into the key drivers of women’s career success. With this toolkit, you’ll be able to identify your goals, create a plan to achieve them, and overcome any obstacles that come your way. 

Challenges to Closing the Gap on Gender Equality

Getting to the bottom of the gender gap in leadership positions isn’t always easy. Before we start digging in, let’s have a look at some of the main reasons keeping the gap wide open.

Women in leadership stats

1. Stereotypes and Bias

First up, we’ve got stereotypes and biases, those deep-rooted beliefs that women and men ‘should’ fit into certain roles. Despite progress, there’s still a hefty chunk of the old ‘leader = man’ equation in play. These biases aren’t just annoying, they’re like invisible walls blocking the way, affecting everything from hiring practices to promotion decisions.

In a Pew Research Center survey, 45% of respondents said that men were better suited to hold high positions in politics and 40% felt the same about corporate executive positions.6 No matter gender, changing perceptions and nurturing leadership potential remain a challenge.

2. Work-Life Balance

Then there’s the constant juggle of work-life balance. It can be difficult for women to climb the career ladder while managing family responsibilities. And with the added fun of societal expectations that women should be the primary caregivers, it’s no wonder the leadership path can feel like an uphill battle.7

3. Lack of Support and Mentorship

Stepping into leadership roles often means navigating the career landscape without clear directions or support. Many women find themselves charting their own paths, facing the added challenge of a lack of visible role models in top positions. It’s tough to aim for heights you’ve never seen someone like you reach.

4. Organisational Culture

Ever walked into a room and felt like you didn’t belong? That’s the vibe in some organisational cultures that haven’t quite shaken off the ‘old boys’ club’ mentality. 

A report by McKinsey & Company revealed that women often face a barrage of microaggressions (particularly those of colour), from having their judgment questioned to being overlooked during discussions.8

These environments can be less than welcoming to women aspiring to leadership, making it tough to break through the glass ceiling – or even get a foot in the door.

The below graph shows women’s experiences in the workplace in multiples of all men’s experiences. 

women in leadership stats

5. Policy and Pay Gaps

Lastly, we can’t ignore the nitty-gritty of policy and pay gaps. Despite laws and policies aimed at promoting equality, women often face an uneven playing field when it comes to pay, opportunities, and even basic respect. 

Marcus Aurelius was on to something when he said… “The obstacle is the way” Basically, every challenge thrown our way is just the universe’s way of pointing us in the right direction. 

So, when we hit a roadblock on the path to gender equality in leadership, let’s not back down. Instead, let’s flip the script and use those very obstacles as our roadmap to success.

Strategies for Accelerating Progress

Alright, we’ve scoped out the obstacle course. Now, how do we move from hurdles to high-fives? 

It’s time to talk strategy – not the kind that gathers dust on a shelf, but real, actionable tactics to propel our journey towards gender parity in leadership. 

Here’s how we can pick up the pace:

1. Cultivate a Culture of Inclusion

First things first, let’s get the culture right. A workplace where everyone feels valued and included is like fertile soil for diversity to thrive. This means going beyond token gestures to foster an environment where diverse perspectives are not just welcomed but celebrated. Think bias training, open dialogues about diversity, and policies that encourage inclusivity. It’s about making the workplace a home team advantage for everyone.

2. Implement Flexible Working Arrangements 

Flexibility is the future. Offering flexible working arrangements isn’t just a nice to have; it’s essential for attracting and retaining top female talent with 88% of young women eyeing the flexible-job ads first.9

Whether it’s choosing to work from their kitchen table, dialling down to part-time, or picking hours that fit their personal life, these shifts are game-changers. It’s not just about being nice, it’s smart business. Showing you’re all about the results, not just clock-watching, is a solid gold move for everyone.

3. Boost Support with Mentorship and Sponsorship Programmes

No one should navigate their career solo. Establishing mentorship and sponsorship programs isn’t just about offering a pat on the back or a casual good luck wish. It’s about providing real, tangible support. Think of it as having a seasoned pro by your side, someone who’s already navigated the twists and turns and is eager to share their hard-earned insights. 

What’s more, people with mentors are five times more likely to be promoted, underscoring the power of guidance and advocacy in accelerating career growth.10

4. Promote from Within

Aiming for gender diversity in leadership isn’t just ticking boxes, it’s about leveraging the talent we’ve already got. But, let’s be clear… it’s got to be genuine. We’re focusing on creating real opportunities, not just meeting quotas.

Transparency is crucial. Everyone should see that climbing the ladder is about skill and impact, not just filling a diversity slot. By openly sharing what it takes to advance and providing the tools – like mentorship and training – we make sure the path to the top is clear for everyone.

Remember, diversity isn’t about taking opportunities away; it’s about making our team stronger and more dynamic.

5. Address the Pay Gap Head-On

Money talks, and right now, it’s saying we’ve got work to do. The Young Women’s Trust Annual Survey 2023 found that 23% of young women reported being paid less than men for the same work.11 That’s nearly a quarter of the workforce getting shortchanged. 

Regular pay audits, crystal-clear transparency about who gets what, and making sure everyone’s getting their fair slice of the pie are non-negotiables.

Haptivate’s Role in Elevating Women in Leadership

As part of our dedication to balancing the leadership scales, we’ve developed The Women in Leadership Programme. It’s not just any old course; it’s a launchpad for women ready to take their career to new heights.

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1. Unleashing Potential

At the heart of Haptivate’s approach is the belief that every woman has an inner leader just waiting to be discovered. Our programme is designed to do just that—deepen self-understanding and shine a light on the unique values each participant brings to the table. It’s about uncovering potential, not just polishing resumes.

2. Creating a Safe Yet Challenging Space

Imagine a place where you can explore your leadership style, confront your fears, and stretch your limits – all without judgment. That’s the environment we cultivate in our Women in Leadership Programme. It’s a safe haven for growth, where challenges are met with support and encouragement.

3. Tailored for Women

Our program isn’t just another “for women” tagline. What really sets us apart is our blend of science and savvy, diving into the nuts and bolts of what makes leadership tick. 

We don’t just talk at you about leadership, we walk you through creating your own unique mix. It’s about turning the so-called masculine and feminine styles from either/or to a powerful combo. From cutting through bias with the precision of science to weaving work-life balance into your leadership DNA, our approach is tailored to tackle the real-world maze women navigate. 

4. Building a Community of Female Leaders

Leadership can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. Participants in our programme join a vibrant community of like-minded women. It’s a network of support, inspiration, and camaraderie that extends far beyond the course itself. Because when one woman rises, she lifts others with her.

5. Practical Tools for Real-World Success

We’re all about actionable insights and practical tools. Our programme equips women with the strategies they need to navigate the path to leadership effectively. From communication skills to strategic thinking, we’re here to ensure that when opportunities knock, our graduates are ready to answer.

In a world where the path to leadership is still under construction for women, Haptivate’s Women in Leadership Programme provides the scaffolding to support the climb. We’re not just talking about change; we’re building it, one leader at a time.

women in leadership course testimonial

Join the Leadership Revolution

As we stand at the crossroads of progress and tradition, the path to gender parity in leadership requires more than just hope and aspirations. It demands action, courage, and the collective will to forge a new direction. 

This is where you come in. Whether you’re an individual with leadership dreams or an organisation with a vision for a more inclusive future, the time to act is now.

For Aspiring Women Leaders

If you’re ready to take your place at the leadership table, to uncover and harness your unique strengths, our Women in Leadership Programme is your launchpad. 

This isn’t just about advancing your career; it’s about transforming your perspective on what it means to lead and making an impact that resonates. Embrace this opportunity to grow, challenge yourself, and connect with a community of like-minded women. 

For Forward-Thinking Organisations

For organisations committed to breaking the mould and leading the charge towards a more diverse leadership landscape, partnering with Haptivate is a step towards turning that commitment into reality. 

Investing in the Women in Leadership course is more than a development strategy; it’s a statement of your values and a testament to your dedication to fostering an environment where talent knows no gender. 

Let’s work together to build a leadership pipeline that reflects the diversity and dynamism of the world around us.

Related programme: The Women in Leadership Programme

Our brand new training course is designed specifically for high-potential women who want to excel in their roles. Gain access to a problem-solving toolkit and learn strategies to increase your influence and effectiveness. You’ll come away feeling inspired, supported, and ready for future success in your career.

The Time is Now

Whether you’re seeking to elevate your own leadership potential or to empower those around you, Haptivate’s Women in Leadership Programme offers the tools, knowledge, and support to make it happen. 

Don’t wait for change to come — be the change. Contact Haptivate today and take the first step towards a more inclusive and equitable leadership landscape.

Together, we can accelerate progress and create a legacy of leadership that future generations will look back on with pride. The time for action is now. Are you ready to join the revolution?

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Aysha Frost

Digital Marketing

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Whether you’re a woman aspiring to climb the professional ladder or an ally aiming to uplift the female leaders around you, this blog presents a wide array of strategies and best practices tailored to your needs.

  1. https://www.weforum.org/publications/global-gender-gap-report-2023/
  2. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-women-work-remains-issue-2040s-ideas-innovations-newsletter-mp64e/
  3. https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/featured%20insights/diversity%20and%20inclusion/women%20in%20the%20workplace%202023%20v2/women-in-the-workplace-2023-full-report.pdf?shouldIndex=false
  4. https://www.weforum.org/publications/global-gender-gap-report-2023/[/efn_note And honestly, who's got that kind of time?

    Now, for a slice of optimism…

    Change is brewing. From the smallest startups to the grandest governmental bodies, there's a growing recognition: diversity isn't just a bonus; it's essential. The reason? Diverse teams don't just shine; they innovate, make smarter decisions, and ultimately, drive better profits.4(Xiie et al., 2020) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0048733319302033

  5. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2008/08/25/men-or-women-whos-the-better-leader/
  6. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandwellbeing/articles/fullstorythegendergapinunpaidcareprovisionisthereanimpactonhealthandeconomicposition/2013-05-16
  7. https://wiw-report.s3.amazonaws.com/Women_in_the_Workplace_2020.pdf
  8. https://www.youngwomenstrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/Young-Womens-Trust-Annual-Survey-Report-2023.pdf
  9. https://mccarthymentoring.com/why-mentoring-what-the-stats-say/
  10. https://www.youngwomenstrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/Young-Womens-Trust-Annual-Survey-Report-2023.pdf

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