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Top Three Obstacles (and Solutions) to Women’s Advancement

Work-life balance topped the list of the most significant institutional impediments to the advancement of women in Corporate America, according …

Work-life balance topped the list of the most significant institutional impediments to the advancement of women in Corporate America, according to a 2010 study, “The Women’s Leadership Development Survey,” by Mercer Associates. Below are the three top obstacles along with recommended solutions and companies recognized by the National Association for Female Executives for their responses to the challenges.

OBSTACLE SOLUTION
WORK-LIFE BALANCE (42% cite as a challenge) Coaching. Kraft Foods boasts a new peer-coaching program in which current directors and VPs serve as internal coaches to provide developmental support around work-life balance issues for highpotential women and people of color.

Diversity-oriented financial incentives. To help women succeed, Kraft ties 10 percent of executive compensation to the achievement of specified diversity goals.

Bottom line. The percentage of Kraft’s female senior managers matches the female employee base at 36 percent.

LACk OF EXECUTIVE SPONSOR (41.5% cite as a challenge) Mentoring. American Express launched The Sponsor Effect workshop series to help women find and maintain mentor relationships. The Amex Women’s Interest Network has 21 chapters with three executive networks that stress preparation for senior leadership.

High-visibility partnerhips. Women Rule!, a partnership between O, The Oprah Magazine and The White House Project, is an intensive leadership training program for 80 women visionaries.

Bottom line. From 3,000 applications, the Women Rule! program identified 80 women with standout ideas to develop and mentor.

INSUFFICIENT BREADTH OF EXPERIENCE (28.8% cite as a challenge) Career positioning. Abbott, the global health-care company, aggressively moves women into top P&L jobs.

Action networks. Abbott’s Women Leaders action network focuses on building leaderships skills preparatory to key assignments.

Bottom line. Women run 27 percent of major divisions or country operations with $500 millionplus revenues. The number of female managers at Abbot has increased 90 percent over five years.

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