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Young women must start to see themselves as leaders

Karrieren international Leadership + Management |

Picture: LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS / fotolia

“More than 75 per cent of CEOs include gender equality in their top ten business priorities, but gender outcomes across the largest companies are not changing. Our research indicates, for example, that corporate America promotes men at 30 per cent higher rates than women during their early career stages and that entry-level women are significantly more likely than men to have spent five or more years in the same role,” says a recent report from McKinsey and LeanIn.org. Also, women still earn only 79 cents to every dollar a man earns. The gap is closing, but very slowly – at a rate of about half a cent per year. 

Alarmingly, though, a new study in Science Magazine shows that at a very young age, girls lose faith in their abilities, believing that “brilliance” is a male trait. The study’s authors note that, “these stereotypes discourage women’s pursuit of many prestigious careers.” Women must therefore be taught, starting in kindergarten, that leadership is not a “male” trait but instead a means of controlling their own destinies, concludes the Huffington Post.

 In the last few decades, the focus on self-esteem and not on perseverance – an attribute called out as necessary by the authors of the Science study – may have prevented women from pursuing leadership options with greater vigour. Administrators and educators must strive to create environments that show women they can achieve the same levels of leadership as men. And women who are already working should reach back down to the local schools and into their communities, serving as mentors and role models for young girls.

When women reach parity at the highest levels of business leadership, the pay gap might start to narrow more quickly and equitable career and salary progression and more flexible work environments may become more ubiquitous. But none of those things can happen without seeing one’s self as a leader at a young age, and pursuing the education that facilitates it.

Read more on Huffington Post, McKinsey and Science