05 June 2020

What is standing in the way of your success?

You are working for an organization that loudly supports ambitious female managers. You get amazing performance reviews and they tell you you’re indispensable. Yet you can’t get promoted. Sounds familiar?

What glass ceiling?! It feels more like there’s a concrete layer between you and the corporate top of the business.

In many ways, women in the workforce have come a long way. There’s increasing commitment to gender diversity, more efforts to get more women on boards and gender pay reporting is gaining ground.
Yet, progress can be slow and difficult.

According to McKinsey’s 2018 ‘Women in Work report’, only 1 in 5 women make it to the executive positions and there are crucial gaps in the talent pipeline. 

What’s Getting In The Way?

Caroline Gosling, Director of Culture and Engagement at Rubica, thinks that organizational culture may be a crucial factor that’s hindering women’s progress.

“All too often, diversity training, quotas and development programs for women don’t lead to the step-change organizations are looking for,” she explains.

“That’s because the existing company culture, which is often unconscious, is putting the brakes on any moves towards greater gender balance.”

“If we want to change our behaviour, we first need to understand the beliefs and assumptions in our company culture that underpin that behaviour. Then we can change our work practices so they support a different way of doing things.”

5 Questions Necessary for Culture to Change

To start bringing about meaningful change in gender balance, Caroline recommends asking these questions.

1. Are all leaders vocal supporters of gender balance in business?
Do all senior leaders talk about the benefits of gender balance for organizational performance? And do reports show how gender disparities impact KPIs?

2. What are the underlying beliefs about gender in your organization?
Are there unspoken beliefs that women are less ambitious or more likely to have issues with work-life balance? You don’t need to attach blame, but you do need to uncover these assumptions through debate, conversations and techniques like appreciative inquiry.

3. Do you encourage people to talk about gender at work?
Organisations need to talk openly about potentially uncomfortable subjects related to gender, rather than simply mentioning the issue once a year in a report. Set up discussion programs, get single and mixed-gender groups involved, and ask people to come up with solutions together. The change starts with changing people’s mindsets.

4. How do you define and reward good leadership?
Is the definition of a ‘good’ leader in your organization heavily weighted towards more traditionally ‘masculine’ attributes, such as valuing competition over cooperation? Evaluate how you define good leadership and investigate whether you need to expand your criteria for leaders.

5. Are you reinforcing the idea that it’s just women who need ‘fixing’?
There is certainly a place for women’s leadership programs and training initiatives, but if there is nothing specifically for male leaders, you’re giving the impression that men are fine while women need ‘extra help’. One alternative is to offer gender-based programs that highlight the value of both masculine and feminine traits and support all leaders to develop strengths in the areas that will help the organization to be more successful.

If we want a more inclusive and diverse workplace where both women AND men thrive and are valued, something has to change. And it looks like it’s an organisational culture that needs to shift.  MAMFORCE supports companies in identifying common obstacles regarding female talents. We lead them toward solutions that provide an encouraging and prosperous environment in which everyone can thrive and reach their full potentials while respecting and synergising their differences.

Share this with your colleagues and help your company recognize the invisible obstacles toward progress.


    Be at the source of relevant topics in the field of diversity and inclusion, gender balance, and human and organisational development. Get special discounts on our education!