Is Your Family a Barrier to a Senior Leadership Position?

I get daily updates on any news that comes out related to leadership and women. Today, this release caused more than a pause. According to research from Opportunity Now, balancing work and family responsibilities is the biggest barrier women face to getting senior jobs. The study, which questioned over 850 line managers about female progression in the workplace, found that 82% of women believe combining work and family life is their biggest barrier, with childcare listed as another key obstacle.


Male line managers are far less likely to recognize any barriers to gender diversity and women's progression, according to the study. The organization has found little change in perceptions since similar research was carried out in 2005. Based in the UK, Opportunity Now is a membership organization of employers committed to creating an inclusive workplace for women. My question about this appalling statistic is this: What does research in the United States say is the biggest barrier for entry for women in senior level job?


According to Catalyst in a 2009 article, the women respondents in a survey stated that the top five barriers to advancement are:


  • Lack of significant general management or line experience (47%)

  • Exclusion from informal networks (41%)

  • Stereotyping and preconceptions of women’s roles and abilities (33%)

  • Failure of senior leadership to assume accountability for women’s advancement (29%)

  • Commitment to personal/family responsibilities (26%)


This report indicates that mentoring, sponsorship, stretch assignments, and ability to penetrate male networks are potential solutions for advancement. Thankfully, we will not have to forgo our families. What have been your observations regarding the inclusion of women in senior roles?

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