Executive positions in the C-suite are highly sought-after positions. Many people, at different stages of their careers, aspire to be executive leaders, whether now or in the far future. Some of the skills displayed by those who make it include being team-oriented, having the capacity to multitask, assessing risks and rewards of ideas, communicating effectively, and learning how to prioritize objectives. Today, we know that only 5% of CEOs are women and a workplace study conducted in 2021 by McKinsey and LeanIn.Org detailed that women of color (WOC) composed just 13 percent of C-suite roles. So, what is keeping WOC out? There are a number of factors that can prevent women of color from making it to the C-suite. Some of the key obstacles they may face include:
- Discrimination and bias: Women of color are often subjected to discrimination and bias in the workplace, which can make it more difficult for them to advance to leadership positions. For example, they may be passed over for promotions, given fewer opportunities to develop their skills, or overlooked for leadership roles.
- Lack of representation: Women of color are underrepresented in leadership positions, which can make it difficult for them to find mentors and role models who can help them navigate their careers. It can also make it harder for them to network and build relationships with decision-makers who can help them advance.
- Stereotypes and assumptions: Women of color may face stereotypes and assumptions about their abilities, skills, and qualifications, which can limit their opportunities and create barriers to their advancement. For example, they may be assumed to be less competent, capable, or qualified than their white counterparts.
- Work-life balance challenges: Women of color may face unique challenges when it comes to balancing work and family responsibilities, which can make it more difficult for them to advance in their careers. For example, they may have to deal with greater caregiving responsibilities or face discrimination and bias when taking time off work to care for family members.
Women in leadership positions can serve as role models and inspire other women to pursue leadership roles, and there are several steps that companies can take to increase the number of women in their C-suite. Some of these include:
- Setting specific, measurable diversity and inclusion goals for the C-suite and regularly tracking progress towards those goals: This involves setting clear targets for increasing the number of women in the C-suite and other underrepresented groups and then periodically monitoring progress towards those goals. This can help ensure that the company is making real progress towards increasing diversity in its leadership ranks.
- Developing and implementing diversity and inclusion training programs for all employees, including those in leadership positions: Diversity and inclusion training can help educate employees about the benefits of diversity and how to create a more inclusive work environment. This can be particularly important for those in leadership positions, who have the ability to influence and shape the culture of the organization.
- Conducting regular audits of the company’s hiring, promotion, and retention practices to ensure that they are fair and unbiased: It’s important to regularly review and assess the company’s hiring, promotion, and retention practices to ensure that they are free from bias and discrimination. This can help identify any potential barriers to diversity and inclusion, and allow the company to take corrective action as needed.
- Providing mentorship and sponsorship opportunities for women to help them develop the skills and experience needed to advance to leadership positions: Mentorship and sponsorship programs can provide valuable support and guidance for women looking to advance their careers. These programs can help women develop the skills and experience they need to succeed in leadership roles and can also help connect them with potential mentors and sponsors who can provide valuable advice and support.
- Creating a supportive work environment that values diversity and encourages women to pursue leadership roles: Creating a supportive work environment that values diversity and encourages women to pursue leadership roles can be an essential step towards increasing the number of women in the C-suite. This can involve implementing policies and programs that support diversity and inclusion and creating a culture that values and celebrates diversity.
Additionally, women who have already made it to the C-suite can help other women make it to leadership positions by serving as mentors and advocates for them. This can include offering advice and guidance, providing opportunities for professional development, and recommending women for promotions and leadership roles. Women in the C-suite can also work to create a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture that enables women to thrive and succeed.
They can also help by speaking out against gender discrimination and bias and promoting policies and initiatives that support the advancement of women in the workplace. They can also use their positions of power and influence to advocate for greater gender diversity in leadership and to push for changes that will help level the playing field for women in the workforce.
Latina women may face similar challenges to women of color in general when it comes to making it to the C-suite. However, they may also face specific challenges and obstacles due to their ethnicity and cultural background. For example, Latina women may face language barriers and cultural differences that can make it harder for them to advance in their careers. They may also face discrimination and bias based on their ethnicity, limiting their opportunities and creating barriers to their advancement.
Additionally, Latina women may face unique challenges when it comes to balancing work and family responsibilities. For example, they may have to deal with greater caregiving responsibilities due to cultural norms and expectations. They may also face discrimination and bias when they need to take time off work to care for family members.
After 20+working in tech, I can clearly see that we cannot do this alone, we need more allies if we want to make real progress. We need partners to help promote women’s advancement into leadership positions, such as the C-suite, by advocating for gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This can involve speaking up in support of hiring, promoting, and mentoring women and challenging any biases or discriminatory practices that may hinder women’s progress in the organization. Allies can also help by providing support and guidance to women looking to advance in their careers by offering mentorship, networking opportunities, and access to professional development resources. By taking these steps, allies can play a crucial role in helping to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace and, in turn, pave the way for more women to rise to the top levels of leadership.