Skills stereotyping keeps women from the top

Sep 08 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Segregated into specific sectors and roles, women from middle management to director level agree that the biggest hurdle female professionals face is stereotyping of their roles and skills with male colleagues agreeing, claim new figures.

The final findings from the HR Gateway/Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Women and Leadership survey suggests that stereotyping is much more of a problem for women than even a lack of support for family commitments.

Half the 211 women and men from middle management to director level questioned said that the stereotyping of roles and skills was the major hurdle facing women compared to one in five blaming family commitments.

Almost one in five (19 per cent) chose a lack of role models or mentors while a lack of management or commercial business skills was picked by the remaining nine per cent.

The findings come as no surprise to EOC chief executive Caroline


"Stereotyping of women's roles and skills is still a significant issue for women in the workplace and, as this poll shows, it is also recognised as a problem by their male colleagues.

"Employers need to look at workplace culture to ensure that gender stereotypes do not hold female employees back from reaching leadership roles,” she said.

As Slocock points out, when broken down by gender, the findings suggest that more than a third of men (37 per cent) men support women’s concern over stereotyping. However, in second place they see a lack of support for family commitments while women chose a lack of mentors.

Jack O’Sullivan of the campaign group Fathers Direct believes that this reflects the growing concern among men of their own growing commitments. Men want the same as women but from different sides, he says:

"Men want to get out of stereotype boxes as much as women. Women want to be seen as business professionals while men want employers to understand that they want, and need, to take a caring role as a father.

"At management level many men will be married to professional women making this a real issue for them. Employers need to realise this and act. Workplace culture needs to change,” he added.

O’Sullivan feels the workplace is heading towards the Swedish workplace model where women do 55 per cent of the caring and men 45 per cent. However, he points out that we are still a long way off:

"Men in dual earning families with children under five take a third of parental caring responsibilities yet still they work some of the longest hours in Europe.

"If it is to change men need and women need to assert their desire to change to employers. We all want the same thing but currently we are a long way from reaching it," he said.