The German stock market index – Dax – is more female than ever, with Helen Giza and Belén Garijo among the most recognized women holding 59 board positions in Dax40 corporations; thousands more are also on a rapid ascent to leadership positions, and as entrepreneurs. Female leadership has made big strides in business as women are consistently demonstrating their exceptional skills and talents: passion, ambition, combined with a general shift in attitudes, are driving this change and opening up exciting new prospects for female leaders.

business coaching for female leaders

However, amidst these successes and blossoming careers, some fundamental problems remain, namely: gender gaps, lack of equal opportunities, and a male-dominated work culture. Business Coaching for female leaders is meeting the need to provide special support and empowerment to women in a competitive environment.

This article looks at the importance of business coaching for female leadership and women workers in general; it explores how to overcome gender barriers, strengthen women’s leadership skills, and pave the way for a more successful, equitable business landscape.

Table Of Contents

Challenges for Women in the Business World

Looking at the current situation, it is clear that we are still far from reaching our goal of making the presence of a female leader the norm, rather than an exception. According to figures published by the German Federal Statistical Office, the percentage of women in management positions rose from 25.8% to 30.3% between 1992 and 2011, marking a significant increase in female leadership. However, since 2012, progress has been more modest; by 2022, the percentage of female managers in the country had risen by only 0.3%. Globally, the picture is slightly more encouraging; as of January 1, 2023, a landmark event occurred: for the first time in its 68-year history, the proportion of women leading Fortune 500 companies exceeded 10%, with a total of 53 women at the helm. However, despite the fact that women are undoubtedly on the ascendancy in the world of work, they still face special challenges that make their path more complicated.

Four of the most significant challenges are:

Balancing family and work

Reconciling career ambitions with family responsibilities is something that is particularly tricky for women; despite changes in attitudes in recent decades, women still feel it is their duty to take care of children and the household – some because they want to, others because there is simply no alternative. To be professionally and personally fulfilled, a woman must master the art of balancing work and family life, which can make it more difficult to reach the top.

Impostor syndrome and self-underestimation

Women are sometimes more prone to self-doubt and feel they are not good enough despite good performance. This so-called Impostor Syndrome can lead to women underestimating their own abilities and holding themselves back unnecessarily. Annika Deutsch points out in an interview with Deloitte that women often avoid certain positions and areas of responsibility from the outset because they are not confident in them; a large part of this reluctance has to do with the feeling of not fitting the perfect profile for a role.

Sector-specific norms and lack of visibility

In traditionally male-dominated industries or corporate cultures, female workers may encounter prejudices and stereotypes that hinder their career development. This is not only evident when filling management positions, but also in everyday work: it can be challenging for women to effectively present their achievements and qualifications, which in turn can limit their career advancement opportunities and lead to frustration.

Lack of networks

The importance of networks and relationships in professional life is undisputed: contacts and cronyism often play a crucial role in someone’s career path. But since men still hold most of the key positions, they also have better established networks, making it even more difficult for women to build influential relationships that can help them navigate the corporate world.

Although things are changing socially, and the all-pervasive topic of diversity is putting pressure on decision-makers, there is still a lot of catching up to do in terms of gender diversity in leadership worldwide. In Germany, for example, the statutory quota for women has been in force since 2016, and while it has increased the proportion of women on supervisory boards, the executive board – where companies set the quotas themselves – the level of women remains largely unaffected by this regulation. Annika Deutsch opines: “At this rate we’ll probably still be talking about inequality in management bodies in 40 years’ time.”

All this shows that the business world is still waiting for visionaries and change-makers to take up these challenges and finally usher in an era of equal opportunities. These challenges are like clouds: they can block out the sun, but with the right business coaching and targeted strategies, they can be overcome.

If developments continue as they have in recent years, we will probably still be talking about inequality in management bodies in 40 years' time.

Annika Deutsch, Partner in Audit & Assurance at Deloitte Germany

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