Why Women Leaders Often Find Themselves Overworked and Underrecognized

by | Aug 31, 2023 | Women Entrepreneurship


In a world that’s increasingly embracing gender equality, the persistent trend of women leaders being overworked and underrecognized raises questions about the true nature of progress. Despite the advancements made, women at the helm still face unique challenges that hinder their path to leadership and recognition. Let’s delve into this issue to understand the underlying factors and explore potential solutions.


The Double-Edged Sword of Expectations

Women leaders often find themselves walking a tightrope of expectations. On one hand, they’re expected to demonstrate competence, decisiveness, and strength traditionally associated with leadership. On the other hand, society still places expectations rooted in gender norms, like being nurturing and empathetic. This duality creates a complex challenge where women leaders are constantly trying to strike a balance, often leading to them taking on more tasks than their male counterparts. As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, aptly puts it, “We’ve got to get women to sit at the table, and we have to get men to stand up and lean in.”

The Recognition Gap: A Continuing Struggle

Despite their remarkable contributions, women leaders frequently find their achievements overshadowed. Research shows that women’s accomplishments are often attributed to external factors or luck, while men’s achievements are attributed to their skills and abilities. This recognition gap not only affects women’s self-esteem but also has broader implications for their career trajectories. Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, highlights this saying, “We teach girls to be perfect and boys to be brave.”

Case Studies: Unveiling the Disparity

1. Indra Nooyi – Former CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi’s journey to becoming the CEO of PepsiCo exemplifies the overworked nature of women leaders. She famously mentioned working long hours, often making late-night calls and early morning meetings. Her dedication and commitment paved the way for her success, yet it’s important to acknowledge the tremendous effort she put in to reach the top.

2. Jacinda Ardern – Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern’s leadership during the Christchurch mosque shootings showcased the empathy and strength that women leaders bring. Despite her poised response during the crisis, media attention often focused on her compassionate nature rather than acknowledging her strong leadership skills.

Empowering Change: What Can Be Done?

Cultivate Inclusive Workplaces:

Organizations must actively promote an inclusive culture that values diverse leadership styles. This involves recognizing that effective leadership isn’t bound by gender norms and encouraging a range of leadership qualities to thrive.

Mentorship and Sponsorship:

Establish mentorship programs that pair women leaders with experienced mentors who can guide and advocate for them. Sponsorship is also crucial, as having influential advocates can amplify women’s achievements and contribute to their recognition.

Equal Distribution of Tasks:

It’s essential to distribute tasks equitably among team members, regardless of gender. Women leaders should feel empowered to delegate tasks and avoid taking on an excessive workload to prove their leadership capabilities.

Redefining Success and Recognition:

Challenge traditional notions of success and recognition. Highlight achievements based on skills, competencies, and contributions rather than conforming to gender stereotypes.

In conclusion, the phenomenon of women leaders being overworked and underrecognized stems from a combination of societal expectations and implicit biases. Recognizing and addressing these challenges is vital to creating a more inclusive and equal leadership landscape. As former First Lady Michelle Obama wisely said, “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” It’s time to ensure that women’s accomplishments are acknowledged and celebrated, leading the way for a brighter, more equitable future.