For the last five years I have extensively studied leadership, with an emphasis on women’s leadership—researching all aspects of the subject for my dissertation and post-doctoral work.

What intrigued me was how the workforce is comprised of about 50% females, or in the case of healthcare it’s approximately 75% female. However, at the executive-level women are only about 11% of CEOs in healthcare. And in Fortune 500 companies, women CEOs are even fewer, with only 20 women CEOs… which equates to about 4%. This disparity intrigued me and I wanted to know where all the women leaders were.

Evidently we are competent and capable of making it to mid-level ranks of leadership, as about 50% of mid-level managers are female. But what holds us back from advancing to upper level leadership ranks? What challenges and obstacles do women face when growing their careers?

Through two years of extensive research I have answered that question!

By combing through hundreds of hours of literature, studies, and interviews, I have found the 4 challenges that women go through when advancing their careers, regardless of the industry. And I’m going to share them with you.

The first challenge women reported was growing a family while advancing a career, with 100% of the women with children citing this as an obstacle they experienced. If you have children and work outside of the home, I’m sure you can relate to this being a delicate balancing act!

The second challenge reported was that 80% of women stated they were limited in their advancement and dealing with being challenged in their current situations, whether it be because of age, family limitations, or maybe they had gotten as high up as they could go in their organization and couldn’t go further.

The third challenge women reported was gender-based discrimination… because of experiences with both men AND women. I’d really gone into my research believing that the Good Ol’ Boys Club was going to be responsible for holding women back. And that’s true; however, more often than that it was the mean girls who were the culprits in holding women back (And I’ll address all of this deeper in future writings).

And the fourth challenge women experienced when advancing their careers came from dealing with their lack of self-confidence. An unbelievable amount of women discussed how they lacked confidence in their worth, gifts, and abilities.

Experiencing each one of these challenges does not necessarily occur in isolation; meaning, they are not mutually exclusive of one another. However, by getting a game plan for attack for each one is critical if women are ever going to advance in their careers.

And, ultimately, I believe that the root of all the problems stems from the fourth challenge, our lack of confidence.

Which is the challenge I’ll be discussing next month! But I won’t be discussing the challenge, I’ll be covering SOLUTIONS, as well!

I’d love to hear your feedback and what your experiences have been with addressing these obstacles. Contact me with your stories and successes: