Women in Asia less likely to receive a challenging leadership role than men: Study

Women who participated in a new study said they hesitated to go after challenging assignments because of factors such as doubting their abilities or concerns about seeming overly ambitious.
Women who participated in a new study said they hesitated to go after challenging assignments because of factors such as doubting their abilities or concerns about seeming overly ambitious.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Women in Asia Pacific are less likely to receive a challenging leadership role than men, noted a report out on Friday (March 6).

It found that 58 per cent of women said they were likely to be offered such a role compared with 77 per cent of male respondents.

However, the research also found that 11 per cent of women would be more likely to turn down such opportunities while just 0.2 per cent of men would.

The findings were based on a survey by the Center for Creative Leadership which drew responses from 319 people in the region - about 30 per cent were men - and interviews with close to 50 respondents.

It found that challenges to female leadership are due to both "pull and push" factors - limitations women place on themselves, as well as external limitations placed on women by others.

These factors lead to women missing out on valuable opportunities to further their careers.

"There is the assumption - sometimes out of good intention - that women cannot take up challenging assignments because they cannot travel, they are weak or they have family responsibilities," noted the report.

Women who participated in the study said they hesitated to go after challenging assignments because of factors such as doubting their abilities or concerns about seeming overly ambitious.

The study found that both men and women agreed that ambition is key to success, but women were unsure how ambitious to be or to appear.

 
 

"While men consider ambition a necessary part of their lives, women seem to hate the word and associated it with egotism, selfishness, self-aggrandisement, or the manipulative use of others for own ends," the report noted.

Respondents said that creating a culture that embraces diversity is the best way to achieve gender balance in leadership roles.

Other key recommendations were for women to equip themselves with leadership competencies and to be more confident.

The study noted that male respondents placed greater emphasis than women on organisational-level change - creating a culture of diversity and implementing gender-neutral human resource processes.

Women on the other hand gave more weight to needing to be more confident, having a louder voice, building networks and having women supporting other women.

A tailored approach that aligns awareness with action, addresses organisational culture and systems, as well as engages leaders, will allow companies to reap the benefits of women in leadership roles and a diverse workforce, the report said.