Why women aren’t advancing at a faster rate in the workplace is a complex issue. In the past, I have talked about the sticky floor syndrome, which are the internal reasons women unknowingly hold themselves back. Today, we’re going to talk about three external factors, outside of women’s internal belief systems, that help explain why women aren’t advancing at a faster rate and why some organizations may be stuck.

Reasons Why Women Aren’t Advancing at a Faster Rate

Reason #1: The culture

The business environment for women is historically often more male oriented. This is true in many organizations. Most businesses and industries were made by men for men a long time ago.  Although times have changed, or trying to, there’s lots that hasn’t yet.

One man recently said to me during a men as allies gender workshop, “What? Are you suggesting I should just roll over and give some woman my place here? You’ve got to be kidding!”

Another man reported, “I’m so uncomfortable now at work. I have to be so careful about what I say and who I say it to. It’s just too hard with all this inclusion and diversity focus. I just want to do my job and not think about this stuff.”

Our work cultures are full of good well-intentioned men who are confused, afraid, mad, worried, frustrated and the like. If indeed the workforce in which many of us work are indeed changing to be more gender inclusive, this can be a time of confusion and uncertainty for both men and women.

Reason #2: Talent Systems

Historically, women are often not given equal opportunity for stretch assignments and promotions.

I regularly hear my male leadership clients say, “There are just not very many qualified women out there. I’ve looked. I don’t discriminate, I really do hire and promote the best person whether they are male or female.”

Really? I wonder. How are women ever going to have a equal seat at any table if they are not thought of when they are not in the room to advocate for themselves. How are women ever going to be more prevalent at the senior level if there isn’t a stronger effort to search for, develop, and offer opportunities to women as often as men. Men and women alike may have to look harder, longer or wider to find qualified women and build a true pipeline of emerging female talent.

Reason #3: Executive actions and engagement

Does the leadership in your organization lead by example in order to advance women beginning with non gender biased hiring processes and building a strong female talent pipeline? Is the executive leadership in your organization relentlessly committed to having a well balanced gender management team themselves and holding his/her team members accountable for doing the same? Are there rewards or repercussions?

I no longer think it’s enough for us to expect others to do “the right thing”. We have to begin by looking at our own actions as executives and make sure that we too, are building teams and piplelines of strong male and female talent. What are the actions your executive team have committed to take to make this happen? And do you hold each other accountable?

What kind of organization do you want and what are you willing to actually do to get it?

There is much we can do to address these external programs, processes and cultural belief systems to make the difference in diversity that we desire.  Doing business as usual is no longer the answer.

We can help. Check out our programs that help women advance in the workplace and organizations to build a stronger pipeline of female talent.