By Haley Martinsen


What holds women back from succeeding?

Equality in the workplace is improving. In 2014, 47% of the American workforce were female, yet as of 2019, only 6.6% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are women. What contributes to the disconnect between women in the workforce and women in senior leadership positions?

A study conducted by Bank of America reported that some of the top barriers to progression for women include lack of senior female role models, stereotyping, preconceived notions and lack of confidence.

Lack of Senior Role Models

In 1980, there were no women in CEO positions of a Fortune 500 company, and while the growth is small, there is a positive trend. The United States witnessed some of the greatest female change agents in the business world in the last three decades. Compared to 30 years ago, there are more female role models now than ever before.

In 2013, Lockheed Martin elected Marillyn Hewson as their CEO. Under Hewson, Lockheed Martin’s stock increased more than 310% and expanded from $30 billion to over $108 billion.

Marillyn Hewson
Marillyn Hewson by Franco Vogt/The Forbes Collection/Contour by Getty Images.

Other popular companies and start-ups: YouTube, Heineken, IBM and Bumble, have all experienced strong female CEOs.

However, strong female CEOs is just the start.

When Maggie Timoney became Heineken’s CEO, she said, “I know I have a tremendous amount of responsibility on my shoulders to deliver for Heineken USA, to deliver for the industry, to deliver for myself and my family and for female leaders and young girls everywhere who say, ‘Yes, yes, I can be there.’”

It’s important for women to have strong leads in their own companies, from small local restaurants to large multi-million-dollar corporations.

Stereotyping and Preconceived Notions

In an article titled “How Gender Stereotypes Kill a Woman’s Self Confidence,” Harvard Business School describes just that: a woman’s lack of self-confidence stems from gender biases. The article details various experiments with substantial evidence.

This stereotyping happens long before women even enter the workforce – it happens in school, and most notably, in college. On average, women are reportedly less confident in their majors, grades, even performance in class in general. This translates directly to professional life, as women with lower self-confidence are bound to perform worse on presentations and projects and less frequently negotiate raises or promotions.

Gender biases extend further than just affecting confidence. On average, women feel it is more difficult to advance in their job or career while being a working mother, whereas the percentage of men who find it difficult is much lower. This disparity of over 35% is just another battle that women face in their professional lives, and just one more hurdle we have to jump over.

Gender Gap at Work

Women Supporting Women

A strong female community is essential for women in the workforce. Whether it is connections that will help your start-up, or networking with female leaders in your company, research indicates that women in particular benefit from collaboration with other women, as opposed to competition.

Women understand the disadvantage and difficulty of leading a successful career in the workforce. With a strong female support group, it is easy to discuss shared experiences, receive advice from people who understand, and build confidence.

Fylí is just one organization that offers female empowerment by bringing together a diverse group of female leaders. Fylí embraces our differences to help foster community, accountability, confidence, education, and elevate women to their full potential. Building a strong female network is just one step women can take to overcome these barriers in the workforce.

Claire Wasserman, the CEO and Founder of Ladies Get Paid is notable for speaking out about the importance of female support groups.

“Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help,” she said. “Always be cultivating a support network so that when you stumble – and you will – they’ll be there to catch you.”

This short clip shows what Fylí is all about and how the organization inspires women to RISE (Renew, Inspire, Support, Empower) in every aspect of their lives.

Learn more about Fylí here.