Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women in Banking Leadership Roles

In the realm of corporate leadership, the metaphorical ‘glass ceiling’ has long served as a formidable barrier. Particularly for women striving to ascend to the upper echelons of power and influence. Defined as the unseen, yet palpable, barrier that prevents qualified individuals, especially women from reaching top leadership positions. Breaking the glass ceiling has become a rallying cry for gender equality advocates and organizational change agents alike.

What is the “Glass Ceiling” and How is it affecting women in the corporate world?

The glass ceiling is a metaphor for corporations preventing women from reaching executive-level jobs through practice, women can see the top jobs but they cannot reach them.

The first ceiling women face is in reaching board-level positions. Australian companies believe that women fail to reach leadership positions because women fail to balance work and family.

Men directors believe that women’s careers will be limited and slowed by managing both work issues and family commitments. Furthermore, some of them believe that women will prioritize family over work. Most men directors consider that women will be limited through competing with their priorities. Others believe that women choose a more balanced life over career advancement.

In reality, women face a lot of heavier responsibilities than men as they play a double role at home as housewives and professionally as career women. Women should be capable of managing both roles to avoid two-sided roles negligence.

In fact, women play a double-folded role. The external function is when a woman is a citizen of a country that supports fair deals for women in the labor force. On the other hand, we have the internal function, which is comprised of housewives and mothers. Both external and internal roles are the foundation for women.

Glass Ceiling: Finding the Right Balance

Losing the balance between both roles is due to some women desiring one role over the other. Choosing a career over family will lead to broken homes, i.e. divorce, and sometimes the person remains unmarried. On another note, choosing married life over a career path will lead to regrettable decisions. Especially if women have the potential and abilities to have a successful career. Both roles should be balanced, and women should fight against any challenge they face to keep that balance.

Women face multiple barriers and unfavorable experiences at work because of the stereotyping within the workplace. This stops them from reaching the top of their careers.
In addition, women face many negative assumptions, as they are considered incompatible for senior positions. Negative feedback is not taken professionally but personally, with a lack of a strong personality and a tendency to be emotional.

Women are considered to be soft and caring; men and women have many cultural differences, and they are considered to be incompatible in leadership style as “leadership” was always seen as “masculine”.

When women show their competent characteristics, they are disliked, criticized, and called dominating, aggressive, “power hungry”, mean, etc.

Is the “Glass Ceiling” the only obstacle hindering women from reaching leadership roles?

Gender diversity within boardrooms is increasingly recognized across countries. In France and Italy, actions are being taken to increase the number of women directors within the board. The latter highlights the fact of a “double glass ceiling” women face within the board.

Women are not quite seen in boardrooms especially in the East compared to the West and they are subject to discrimination.

Once they are appointed to the board, they face certain key positions within the corporate governance structure which is strongly dependent on the tough conservatism of boardrooms empowering men over women. Women were always considered to fit only for a few selected jobs. Men held most of the jobs, it was a man’s word for centuries and key positions were all occupied, hence they had the authority.

Women are not nominated for senior positions within the board such as non-executive and sub-committee membership. Although, women are considered to have the skills needed such as education, national and international experience, and all related requirements for senior positions. Instead, women directors are more likely to be allocated to public affairs or corporate social responsibility areas but not to key positions.

Are we still facing these obstacles nowadays?

The number of women is increasing and reaching almost half of the workplace. They are considered to play a major role in the economic growth of their countries. Yet, reaching executive levels and top managerial positions is still rare.

For centuries, women have stood up against societal expectations and cultural prejudices to gain recognition and equal opportunities in our patriarchal society.

Women have made remarkable progress in corporate, political, entrepreneurial, and various other field. Shattering the metaphorical “Glass Ceiling” that limited their access to leadership positions.

As per an article in Harvard Business Review, women in leadership positions in business are still uncommon. Less than four percent of women are in CEO, president, executive vice president, and COO positions. 10 percent of senior managers in Fortune 500 companies are women, and less than three percent of top corporate earners are among them.

The global average of women sitting on board banks today is 16 percent and in the GCC it’s a dismal 2 percent, according to a recent study by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (Acca) Middle East.

Another study from Harvard Law School shows that women occupy just 20% of board seats globally and continue to be excluded from the highest levels of corporate leadership.

Also, statistics imply that many women leave the business world frustrated or disillusioned as they reach the top of the corporate ladder. The COVID-19 pandemic made things worse by widening this disparity. Women made up 24 percent of the labor force worldwide before the pandemic. However, 28 percent of them lost their jobs, and as of November 2020, 43 percent of them still do not have paid employment.

Author: Lama El Kouba

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