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[WEBINAR RECORDING] The Three Barriers to Women’s Career Progression and How to Address Them

[WEBINAR RECORDING] The Three Barriers to Women’s Career Progression and How to Address Them

March 2024


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Did you know that only 4% of CEOs and 18% of CFOs are women? Women still face unfair barriers to entry into the C-suite.

On March 7th, 2024, Stanton Chase teamed up with Sharon Peake, the CEO and Founder of Shape Talent, for a webinar called “The Three Barriers to Women’s Career Progression and How to Address Them.” Shape Talent is a leading consultancy known for helping global companies become more diverse, fair, and inclusive.  

The Three Barriers to Women’s Career Progression 

Based on extensive research involving 2,352 women, Sharon shared three main barriers that unfairly keep women from reaching the C-suite. Let’s take a quick look at each. 

Societal Barriers 

Research tells us that children start to associate intelligence with men and “niceness” with women by the age of six. This perception forms the core of the societal barriers women face on the road to the C-suite. 

Reaching the C-suite is tough enough for women, but stepping into the CEO role can seem almost impossible. This is partly due to society’s lukewarm acceptance of female CEOs. In the UK, only 74% of women and 63% of men are comfortable with having a female CEO. In the US, those numbers are 70% of women and 54% of men. The figures drop further in India, with only 44% of women and 37% of men expressing high comfort levels. These statistics reflect long-standing historical stereotypes that continue to pose challenges. 

And parenthood introduces another challenge. A Bain survey showed that although 80% of women see men and women as equally competent caregivers, only 56% of men share this view. As a result, women often shoulder the full responsibility of childcare, even when a capable co-parent is present. This discrepancy is important because research indicates that women with supportive parenting partners are 21% more likely to advance professionally. That means that true gender equality needs to start at home. 

Organizational Barriers 

Intersectionality compounds discrimination for women in the workplace, especially for those with additional diverse attributes. For example, in the US, Black women struggle against more barriers and receive less managerial support. Because of this they are promoted less often than their peers and remain underrepresented in senior roles. 

Women’s access to high-profile business opportunities is often limited within organizations too. Research reflects mixed reasons—from reticence due to potential backlash to “benevolent sexism” that assigns them less challenging tasks. This narrative of perceived lesser ability could keep women away from roles that typically define the career trajectory towards C-suite positions. And it is an organizational problem each business that is serious about inclusivity needs to tackle. 

Personal Barriers 

What about ambition and self-perception? While ambition may not inherently differ across genders, it appears to evolve divergently. A study showed that women over time show reduced professional aspirations compared to men. But other research hints at gender norms influencing these perceptions—not an inherent difference in ambition. It may well be that as women are looked over for high-profile assignments and promotions, their ambition wanes over time. 

In matters of confidence, there’s a disturbing trend: women often undervalue their performance—a contrast to men, who tend to overstate theirs. For example, while 70% of MBA women students believed they performed on par with peers, 70% of male counterparts felt they outshone theirs. Businesses need to tackle these issues by encouraging women to be ambitious and by not mistaking confidence for competence. 

Watch the Webinar and Learn How to Counteract These Barriers 

How to Create a More Equitable Workplace 

We hope you enjoyed watching the webinar. At Stanton Chase, we’ve been helping companies achieve greater diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging through our dedicated DEIB practice for many years. Through executive search, executive assessment, leadership development, succession planning, and board services, we can help you to ensure your business supports women and advances their careers. Click here to reach out to one of our consultants

Shape Talent also offers a range of services to help your organization’s women to thrive, including gender equity consulting, women’s coaching, and parents@work programmes Click here to reach out to Shape Talent

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