Understanding Barriers to Gender Equality Essay Sample

Published: 2022-12-02
Understanding Barriers to Gender Equality Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Women Gender
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1705 words
15 min read

The advancement of women in corporate workplaces has made notable progress over the years. However, research shows that despite the employment of women in organizations' management, very few of them reach top positions. Mostly, women occupy mid-management positions, as men dominate the top positions. Generally, women aren't well-represented in executive positions (Ibarra and Kolb, 2013, 60). This assertion, however, seems to contradict the notable advancement of women on organizations' leadership. This paper, therefore, aims at solving this contradiction by exposing the invisible unpopular organizational policies, and individual practices that bar women from advancing to top leadership positions. The study will also try to unveil how women respond to the invisible barriers and also propose recommendations that can be used to rectify the problem. Allowing women to take leadership positions can help in promoting development in various ways which will also be elaborated in the study.

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Barriers that obstruct women from advancing to leadership positions

Barreto and Schmitt (2009, 39), explains the barriers that hinder women from advancing to leadership positions using the "glass ceiling" metaphor. According to their arguments, certain obstacles face women after they secure mid-management positions. These obstacles create a "glass ceiling" that bar women from advancing to the top leadership posts. The most unfortunate thing with these obstacles is that they are often unrecognized because most women chose to remain quiescent about them. The media in the current world explains that this "glass ceiling" has been crushed by contemporary programs and policies aimed at empowering women (Meltzer, 2018, 1800). Conversely, the "glass ceiling" is still existing in the contemporary world. An absolute example that can be used to prove that the obstacles hindering women advancement to top leadership positions is in the leaders of the Fortune 500 companies. Recent statistics show that over 80% of the corporate leaders and board members of the Fortune 500 companies are women (Meltzer, 2018, 1802). This implies that the percentage of women taking leadership positions in the Fortune 500 companies is less than 20%.

Labyrinth is another term that gender equality activists use to unveil the barriers that hinder women from advancing to executive positions. Labyrinth uncovers the difficulties that women often suffer in their efforts to advance to senior management positions Bassnett-McGuire, (2014, 89), explains that the few women who manage to overcome the labyrinth often do so at a cost. Markedly, the cost, in this case, does not refer to money but the discrimination and prejudice that these women have to fight for them to advance to the top leadership positions. In order to understand these barriers clearly, it is essential to review the particular organizational practices and individual practices that limit women advancement to senior managerial posts.

How organizational policies bar women from advancing to leadership positions

Women are often stereotyped as being ineffective in taking leadership positions. These stereotypes normally arise from the motherhood responsibilities that women have to consider. Traditionally, women used to be devalued whereby they were given small tasks, and men would take huge tasks (Schmitt and Branscombe, 2009, 54). Typically, women did not have the necessary ability to go to war and to perform difficult tasks that required energy. They were thus left at home to look after children as men protected the community, and labored to support the family. Unfortunately, it appears like society hasn't managed to change their perception of women even after civilization and technology advancement. Technology has caused jobs to change, but society has not accepted fully that women can be allowed to lead just like men.

Organizations create barriers that hinder women advancement to senior managerial positions by enacting policies that do not emphasize on gender equality. These policies subsequently cause women to be denied opportunities for advancement since they are not able to compete with men. Organizations also create barriers that hinder women advancement by enacting policies that are relaxed on gender discrimination. When organizations are not keen on introducing policies that discourage discrimination in the workplace, women are bullied by their fellow male colleagues, and thus their ambitions to advance to leadership positions are lowered. Organizational policies regarding payment also contribute significantly to creating barriers against women advancement. Existing statistics reveal that most organizations across the world pay women low salaries than men (Bassnett-McGuire, 2014, 89).

The pay variance is often influenced by traditional beliefs that men should be ranked higher than women. Payment disparity causes women to accept that they are less superior than men, and hence they don't make efforts to compete for senior positions with men. Despite the efforts being made to promote equality, payment disparity is a major barrier to women advancement that has remained unrecognized (Ibarra and Kolb, 2013, 60). Most organizations also tend to introduce policies favoring men advancement to senior management positions by assuming that the motherhood responsibility that women hold will limit them from being effective in senior positions. Organizational policies that do not encourage work-life balance also create a huge barrier to women advancement to top leadership. Women have more family responsibilities to take, and thus being denied the work-life programs causes them to lack the desire to excel in the leadership ladder.

Individual practices that obstruct women from advancing to senior management positions

Individual practices also create remarkable barriers to women advancement in leadership posts. Mostly, individual practices go hand-in-hand with organizational practices. When an organization implements policies that are relaxed on solving workplace diversity issues, women become the target of prejudice by their male colleagues. Every organization has an ethical responsibility of ensuring that there is positive integration between workers. Some organizations may, however, be too relaxed in solving workplace bullying thereby causing women to be discriminated by the male workers.

Usually, while working in an environment where the organization isn't keen on establishing workplace cohesion, bullying will occur. Men try to portray their masculinity by showing women that they are worthless in various ways. Cases of male workers trying to coerce their female colleagues into having intimacy with them are very frequent in contemporary society (Meltzer, 2018, pg.1802). In case, the female worker refutes the coerces of the male colleague, the male colleague may start spreading biased information about the female colleague. The biased information may affect the female worker psychologically, causing her to feel invisible.

The labyrinth as explained by Eagly and Carli (2012, 148), also causes women to experience difficulties in proceeding to top management positions. In contemporary society, a woman has to be very bold for her to advance to senior leadership due to the many obstacles she has to endure. Some of these individual obstacles that women have to endure in the struggle for leadership include prejudice, discrimination by co-workers, and pressure from society or intimate partners (Schmitt and Branscombe, 2009, 49). Research shows that many women who manage to overcome these obstacles are not in stable relationships because their partners fear being perceived by society as they are being controlled by their wives (Schmitt and Branscombe, 2009, 55). Most women thus opt to preserve they intimate relationships by avoiding senior leadership positions.

Recommendations for overcoming the organizational policies and individual practices that limit women from advancing to senior leadership positions

The initial step of eliminating the barriers that limit women from advancing in senior management positions is understanding the benefits that would arise if the barriers were eliminated. With the current emphasis on diversity in employment, an organization that embraces policies that are not gender-biased will often achieve higher performance. Gender diversity in the workplace leads to innovation as diverse employees make management decisions by brainstorming innovative ideas. Incorporating policies that encourage women to compete with men in senior positions will help an organization improve its productivity, as employees will consider that the organization is treating them fairly.

Women are good mentors, and thus giving them a conducive room for advancement will help to promote economic development as they will mentor other women who were almost giving up on going for their leadership ambitions. Women are also more trustworthy, and honest than men, and hence they can help an organization significantly in achieving its goals due to reduced scandals (Hoyt, 2010, 484). Besides, women are more ethical than men and excellent problem solvers, and reducing the barriers that limit them from progressing up the leadership ladder will be beneficial to both the organization and society.

Mainly, these barriers can be eliminated by organizations enacting strict regulations on employees who bully women. Bullying has been proved to be a primary factor that demoralizes women by making them feel inferior (Meltzer, 2018, 1802). Enacting strict regulations will, therefore, ensure that women are not intimidated by male colleagues from competing for senior leadership positions. The other major initiative that can help significantly in removing the barriers is through education on the importance of women empowerment. Society needs to be enlightened on why they need to change their negative perceptions about women. I think education will also help to enlighten men on why they need to stop their biased opinions and start supporting their wives in going for senior leadership positions. Organizations should also avoid making policies that discriminate women from advancing to top positions considering the many benefits associated with women leaders.


Gender-based discrimination is pervasive in the current society despite the efforts being made to promote gender equality. Most efforts of promoting gender equality have been put on other factors such as education, and employment, but little efforts have been put on unearthing the reasons causing women not to hold senior management. Factually, organizational policies and individual practices have been found to play a significant role in creating barriers that limit women from advancing to senior leadership posts (Meltzer, 2018, 1802). The most common organization policies that happen to create barriers against women advancement in leadership include gender-biased policies and policies that are relaxed in creating a bully-free workplace. The general individual practices, on the other hand, that were found to create barriers for women advancement to leadership positions included a labyrinth and segregation of the women who are bold to overcome the complexities. Mainly, these barriers can be solved through the enlightenment of people on the significance of supporting women in advancing to senior leadership positions. People have to stop stereotyping women for the barriers to be eliminated effectively.


Barreto, M.E., Ryan, M.K. and Schmitt, M.T., 2009. The glass ceiling in the 21st century: Understanding barriers to gender equality. American Psychological Association. pp.33-39.

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