Despite the unique challenges female leaders encounter, women continue to push through barriers as they serve their mission and reach their full potential. Yet, with women underrepresented in the top ranks of leadership roles in government, administration, and business, we all lose. This sober assessment shouldn’t discourage us but should motivate us to identify and better understand the challenges female leaders face.

5 Challenges Female Leaders Face in the Workplace

  1. Being treated equally
    From being held to a higher standard than their male counterparts, to facing persistent gender stereotypes, women are systemically placed on an uneven playing field.
  2. Advocating on their own behalf
    Ambition in men is considered a sign of strength, but women cannot rely on their ambition being perceived as a positive attribute.
  3. Trusting their own voices
    Women often must push through internal and external barriers to find the confidence to express their ideas. For women in business, it may be a challenge to trust in the unique aspects of female executive presence and acknowledge them as personal and organizational assets.
  4. Building alliances
    Men learn to “play the game” through longstanding business conventions that help them build alliances and influence others. Women may need to find alternate routes to building mutually beneficial alliances and strategic relationships.
  5. Impostor syndrome
    When faced with systemic gender bias and inequality, women often have difficulty forming an accurate self-assessment, a situation also called “impostor syndrome,” which can interfere with their ability to stand confidently in their accomplishments.

Women in Leadership

The Women in Leadership Online Certificate program from the Kelley School is designed to help women understand and master these challenges and more. A broad range of expertise informs in-depth self-assessment, hands-on personal exercises, and interactive online discussions.

The online certificate program entails four courses of three weeks each, including:

Leadership and Self-Awareness: Students construct a personal profile pinpointing their strengths as leaders and areas for improvement. Masculine and feminine ways of thinking and communicating are explored, as well as ways of bridging the gap between them. A solid foundation for effective leadership is self-awareness. Establishing best practices for self-awareness and self-regulation rounds out this first course.

Women and the Double Bind of Leadership: The “double bind” for women in leadership roles explores how women who enact strong, confident leadership are often seen as competent but not likable. Conversely, women using a softer managerial style can be considered likable but not competent. This course examines the conscious and unconscious bias impacting the perceptions of female leaders. Participants learn to self-advocate for quicker advancement through their organization. The course also examines how to recognize and overcome the effects of impostor syndrome.

Effective Communication for Women: Effective communication is critical to effective leadership. This course rests on the idea that communication across genders often equates to cross-cultural communication. Many times, this leads to miscommunication despite our best efforts. In this course, participants identify and rehearse strategies that reinforce personal credibility, build trust, and create executive presence.

Negotiation for Women: This course defies the common myth that women are less likely to engage in negotiation than men. Research shows that when trained in the art of negotiation and self-advocacy, both women and men are equally willing and adept at successful negotiation. Participants plan and implement professional negotiations.

A survey of recent participants completing the Leadership and Self-Awareness course showed that 100% of participants felt the course met, exceeded, or greatly exceeded their expectations.

Leading by Example

Motivated female leaders will find no better place than the Kelley School to enhance their skills and advance their careers.

Named Dean of the Year for 2019 by leading business education news site Poets & Quants, Idalene “Idie” Kesner heads up the Kelley School of Business. Under her leadership, Kelley maintains its status as a top ranked business school.

Kesner is the first female leader of the Kelley School. Under her leadership, undergraduate enrollment has doubled. Enrollment for the Kelley Direct Online MBA and MSA has reached 1,000 students. Since Kesner took the helm, the Kelley School has also offered an expanded portfolio of additional master’s programs.

Kesner is an example of the excellence female leaders bring to their roles. “Caring and compassionate, sensitive to student needs and the difficult demands of an often impossible job, Kesner has succeeded at the soft and hard stuff that is leadership,” says Poets & Quants.