‘Removing the Barriers to Gender Equality’ – The role of Society & Social Expectations and how it impacts Gender Equality.

Part 3

‘Removing the Barriers to Gender Equality’ – The role of Society & Social Expectations and how it impacts Gender Equality.


We all have a role to play in shaping the future

In my work as a business coach to women (and also from being a mum to three children) there is a common theme whereby girls and women report feeling increased pressure to outperform in order to be viewed as ‘as good’ as their male counterparts. For many females who experience this, it creates a series of challenges and pressures. There continues to be a broadly unbalanced set of expectations for men and women when it comes to balancing family and work.  Many women bear the bulk of emotional and organisational care which only serves to amplify the pressure and challenges at work to outperform.

Women are expected to simultaneously take on the responsibility of family life in addition to managing their careers. Women’s careers are often ‘embedded’ in other areas of their lives. In Ireland, it is reported that women take on 80% of the responsibility for family life, which is a rather startling thought.

How society views gender roles and hence potential, begins very early in children’s lives and it is reported that children as young as six years old have gendered expectations of themselves and their future potential in terms of education and employment. How we as a society collectively raise our children is a key responsibility and the messages of potential versus limitations must always be at the forefront of parents, educators and policy makers minds.


Innovative Policies –  Removing Barriers 

A further barrier that women face in the workplace is in the development of an authentic leadership style that satisfies their own need for authenticity and one that their male colleagues are comfortable with. Female leaders face obstacles through stereotyping which is referred to the “think manager-think male” paradigm, which can lead to obstacles from teams, peers and subordinates alike.

My work has shown me that women often find themselves having to compromise their value system to establish and progress their careers. In the short-term there may be quick wins, but I find this disparity between values and actions can have the long-term effect of eroding away self-confidence, leading to a lack of self-belief and developing a style that is at odds or incongruent with ones’ value system.


Girls are rarely rewarded for being fierce, brave or assertive 

Many women report experiencing a struggle with internal psychological barriers which impede their career progression and create feelings of isolation and loneliness. Internal barriers such as a lack of self-belief, a lack of self-confidence and a reduced ability to develop congruent value based authentic leadership styles further compound the challenges they face.  Unfortunately, this struggle can begin early in girls lives with society expecting them to be nurturing, quiet and comprising – girls are rarely rewarded for being fierce, brave or assertive. We must question how we can expect adult females to behave in this way, if the behaviours have not been encouraged, practiced, honed and rewarded in our formative years?

Business Leaders, Educators, Parents and Society at large need to provide more supports to women – be it in the form of Mentoring, Coaching, Developmental Programmes, ‘Return to Work’ initiatives.

For our girls, we must continue in making great progress in providing equal access to STEM subjects in schools, encouraging participation in sport, science clubs, maths competitions and whilst it must be acknowledged that many companies are partnering with and sponsoring female participation in STEM programmes for girls at primary, secondary and third level, more initiatives will absolutely help in removing barriers.

Finally, one of the biggest supports that can be put in place within society and business is the inclusion of boys and men in the conversation. Exposing them to the experiences of girls and women and the barriers they face can have a dramatic and swift impact on the increase of female participation in ‘traditionally’ male careers and occupations.


In my life and in my work, I have yet to meet a father who doesn’t believe that his daughter has both the potential and drive to succeed in any career of her choosing, our job is to make that so, for all our girls.


If you would like more information on this topic or like to discuss how we can help you or your business, please get in touch here

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