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Female Leadership in 2024: How Can Companies Better Support Women and Mothers?

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Vietnam does better than many countries in terms of female leadership. A strong push exists to enhance gender equality and empower women in decision-making positions.

The government is a driving force here: by 2025, Vietnam aims for 60% of state management agencies to have at least one woman in a leadership role, reaching 70% by 2030.

According to a recent report by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, 30% of the National Assembly’s deputies, 29% of people’s councils at provincial and district levels, and 60% of key leaders at the governmental level are female.

Despite these advancements, challenges remain, such as the underrepresentation of women in top leadership positions in companies.

Women hold only 33% of senior leadership positions in mid-market companies, with the most common roles being Human Resource Director (36%) and Chief Finance Officer (30%.)

This is partly because companies don’t know how to support women in their leadership aspirations and support them on their unique journey, including pregnancy and motherhood.

A recent LinkedIn post on this topic drove a lot of engagement, so I thought I’d dive a bit deeper into the topic here.

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From Signing a “No Baby Clause” to Being a Pregnant CEO

The core of the story I shared was how, in my early years, I had to sign a “no-kid” agreement.

From the reactions, it was clear that signing a document so early in one’s career resonates with many women who have encountered similar barriers.

It’s a silent yet loud declaration that motherhood and leadership can not coexist and has long been a pervasive standard in the corporate world.

If we want women to lead, then we need to change deeply ingrained norms, such as supporting them even if they have a, completely natural, plan to have a baby.

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The 2023 “Women in the Workplace” report by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey highlights persistent obstacles preventing women from reaching the top levels of the corporate world.

The study emphasizes the issue of the “broken rung” at the first step up to manager, where women are promoted at lower rates than men, creating a persistent disparity from the start.

At least in the US, despite an increase in the number of women in senior roles from 17% in 2015 to 28% in 2023, women still represent only about a quarter of C-suite leaders.

Discounting women because of their baby plans and even letting them sign agreements stating they won’t have one is how we perpetuate the broken-rung syndrome.

Changing this currently prevalent regulation means proving that female leaders should not have to choose between their careers and motherhood.

Rethinking Support for Female Leaders: A Call for Inclusivity and Empowerment

The corporate world is at a crucial juncture of reevaluating its approach to supporting female leaders.

It’s not just about fairness; it’s about recognizing the untapped potential of a diverse leadership team.

As the Lean In report shows, systemic cultural and structural issues within organizations exacerbate women’s challenges.

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Women face microaggressions that undermine their professional presence and mental well-being, significantly impacting their career trajectories.

Despite high ambitions and qualifications, women often find their career progress stymied by outdated corporate cultures that fail to recognize or reward the unique contributions and challenges women face, particularly in leadership roles.

This creates an environment where women’s advancement is not just a matter of personal achievement but also organizational change and a cultural shift toward genuine inclusivity and equity.

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The Way Forward: Steps to Take

Companies must understand that fostering a supportive environment for female leaders, especially as they navigate motherhood, is essential for their adaptation, support, and empowerment.

Here are a few steps experts recommend to take:

  • Recognizing Untapped Potential: Embracing female leaders in all their capacities isn’t merely a moral imperative; it’s a strategic advantage. Companies stand to benefit immensely from the diverse perspectives and leadership styles that women bring to the table.
  • Balancing Work and Life: Creating policies and practices that acknowledge the multifaceted lives of female leaders is crucial. Flexible work arrangements, parental leave policies, and mentorship programs tailored to the needs of working mothers are pivotal in ensuring that women can thrive in their careers while embracing motherhood.
  • Cultivating Inclusive Cultures: Fostering an inclusive culture that values work-life balance, diversity, and equal opportunities is paramount. Initiatives aimed at breaking gender biases, providing leadership development opportunities, and offering support networks tailored to the needs of female leaders can significantly enhance inclusivity and empowerment.
  • Transparent Communication: Open and transparent communication regarding career progression, performance evaluations, and opportunities for advancement, ensuring that female leaders are supported and recognized based on their merit and potential.

I hope we can all work together to create more opportunities for women, companies, and society.

Get in touch if you have an idea for collaboration on this topic.

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