Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues (Print ISSN: 1544-0036; Online ISSN: 1544-0044)

Research Article: 2020 Vol: 23 Issue: 5

Women Leadership & Organizational Barriers: A Socio-Economic and Ethical Point of View

Fareeha Fazal, University of the Punjab

Ayesha Serfraz, University of the Punjab

Hina Saleem, University of the Punjab

Ahmed Muneeb Mehta, University of the Punjab

Farah Naz Naqvi University of the Punjab


The current study unfurls the absence of research about women Leadership and all those factors which help her attaining the role of a leader irrespective of gender in developing countries like Pakistan, which is very important for reaching the goal of social and economic development since 48.7 % of the population of Pakistan is female. This research investigates the experience of 15 influential females who accomplished prominent positions despite gender discrimination in Pakistan. Institutional attitude, man-centric culture, sexual orientation biasness stereotyping can confine the tasks of females all through their working lives, which likewise makes a hierarchical hindrance to their vertical movement in their profession. With diligence, hard work, and transcending all the stereotypes, these ladies advance toward the highest levels of their profession. Purpose: This study means to discover the comprehension of Women Leadership Development procedure and how the organization assist in this development progression and decide subsequent authoritative difficulties/hindrances they face in their journey and recommendations to enlighten the path for their followers. Design/Methodology/Approach: Semi-structured interviews were carried out. The methodology used in this study is phenomenological as this study relies on the lived experience of 15 female leaders. Depending upon the type of research, Purposive sampling has been piloted keeping the lesser number of females and complication in impending female leaders in the industry. All the meetings were recorded with consent. Thematic analysis has been applied using NVivo 12, recognizing the examples in the dataset and get the implications from the codes and themes produced and afterward clustering them into groups to figure a composite outline of female development improvement. Findings/Result: The conclusion and recommendation suggest the requirement for setting explicit family-accommodating arrangements and adaptability for female leaders on a hierarchical/organizational level to accomplish gender equality and equity. Which will have by and large constructive outcomes on the social, economic, and political states of Pakistan? Research Implications: Further useful suggestions have been examined and summing up the outcomes is that responsibility and vision of top administration is the helpful supportive aspect for females' profession.


Gender Equity and Equality, Social and Economic Structure, Family Environment, Organizational Policies.


Leadership is conceptualized in a broader term by the theorist to influence people autonomously to achieve a common goal irrespective of their hierarchical position in an organization (Derue & Ashford, 2010). Women Leadership roles raise two important questions; factors and support system behind their leadership roles and how their leadership is being perceived which is in-fact the most important part as this may also lead to different impediments towards their success (Goethals & Hoyt, 2017). Organizational factors play an important role in shaping their road map towards leadership development as they are less likely to receive both, specific job training for leadership and inclusion in vital networks. As leadership has been a male prerogative it has been disclosed that there exists a perceived incongruity between leadership roles and female gender roles (Eagly & Karau, 2002). This led to the male-dominated stereotypes and hindering females to attain the top positions in the organization.

Literature Review

Leadership is about the position and behavioural style that brings change and transform more leaders (Burns, 2012). Since the definitions have been evolved during the century. In the first 3 decades, it lays stress on control and centralized power. For instance, in 1927 a conference held on leadership was “the ability to impress the will of the leader on those led and induce obedience, respect, loyalty, and cooperation” (Moore, 1927). However as per 21st-century factors and global influences leadership takes the definition of an individual who influences others to achieve a common goal and utilizes value and caring principles to motivate others and teach them to confront problems and challenges (Allen, 1998).

The issues related to gender and leadership have brought many researchers to ask this question whether a woman can lead? (Carli & Eagly, 2001). With the increasing number of women in the organizations and politics such as Benazir Bhutto, Pepsi co CEO Indra Nooyi, can point out too many successful female leaders. Now the submerged question under the leadership umbrella is why women leaders have inadequate representation as compared to male counterparts in the top hierarchy?

Stats of Women Representation around the Globe

United Nations aims to attain sexual equality and to make all women and girls more powerful and confident. In the same context, the United Nations conducted a survey and carried out a report from 2009 to 2015 on 67 countries and figured out that below 1/3rd women were employed in executive and top management positions.

Gender parity in leadership positions is a global phenomenon. Mainly, the under-representation of women in Leadership positions are due to three main reasons (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Reasons for Leadership Under-Representation

1. The first reason is explained women perceived identity as child rearers and home caretaker (Eagly & Carli, 2007). And thus, abstain from obtaining developmental activities in training and work experience which creates a pipeline problem (Salas-Lopez et al., 2011).

2. The second reason is due to the causes described in Eagly & Karau (2002), theory “Role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders” which proposes perceived discrepancy amid the female roles of gender and leadership which leads to 2 types of biases: (1) women perceived as less favourable and capable candidate for a leadership role and (2) women demeanour in a leadership role is less favourable in its evaluation. One of the major reasons is less encouraging and positive attitudes towards females’ leaders than their counterparts.

3. Thirdly, the challenge of juggling all the balls perfectly. It is difficult to keep up with the pace of the workplace while taking care of all the household chores and the majority of childcare responsibilities (Coltrane, 2004). Women juggle work-life balance in different ways, some choose not to have kids or being too much involved in their career passion that they remain single and others take part-time jobs and quit their career or shift their career due to kids (Ragins et al., 1998).

Leadership Development Programs for Females

Mercer (2010), the world’s largest HR firm in New York presented a European survey report which depicts percentage of employee development programs in different organizations. According to that report 2/5th which is 41 percent of employers, does not offer any kind of programs regarding the development of female leaders. However, 21% of European organizations stated they arrange a few such programs, and 11% stated that they have a plan to incorporate such plans and activities. The development programs as per the women leader’s requirement are flexible work schedules, mentoring programs, hiring with diversity.

Many NGO’s are involved in strengthening and supporting females in Pakistan for entrepreneurial initiatives. But Leadership development training programs to support females or future leaders in the corporate sector within or outside the organizations are rarely in practice. Therefore, for women leadership development trainings and mentoring programs can be effective and helpful to navigate the path of leadership.

Mentorship for Women

As Ragins & Kram, (2007) stated, a mentor is a skilled, productive, and expert individual who connects properly with relatively inexperienced employees and simplifies their development process for the benefits of both employees as well as organizations.

Although mentoring has been associated with the improvement and development of men (Orth & Jacobs, 1971). The Mentoring role for women's career advancement is not clearly defined. For male’s initial adulthood years means initial career years but such linkages may not exist for women (Missirian, 1982). Afterward, selection of career, interruptions in career, lesser progression in career hampers women development (Shapiro et al., 1978).

However, in a culture like Pakistan Cross-gender mentorship is also impeded by many cultural, positional, and circumstantial factors. There are numerous hurdles including lack of access to important information in the organization, socializing customs, stereotype clichés, standards, and rules concerning cross-gender relationships that might hinder the mentorship development for women.

Moss-Racusin & Rudman (2010) also explain that women's self-promotion was suppressed due to the backlash they experience whether it's socially or economically.

For women leadership, there are different success factors identified in which building and communicating their value is topmost (Rosener, 2011). For this, they need sponsors, mentors, and specific training programs.

Pakistan Situation in Promoting Female Leaders

In Lahore, 25 years earlier, no females were hired in the banks (Nestvogel & Klein, 1986), however, currently, numerous companies inclusive of banks, have employed females even in the key positions (Faiza & Knox, 2008).

The effort and work of females are not appreciated in comparison to their male colleagues and they do not enjoy the same privileges as the counterpart does. It is due to our socio-cultural values and discriminatory norms which are deeply rooted in our traditions.

As Alavi (1991) described in his book "Pakistani Women in a changing society" that the economic potential of female workers is not being grasped fully in developing countries like Pakistan it has way more to go. They are being deprived of technological education and trainings (Gutek & Bikson, 1985). Patriarchal culture is exhibited as an inherent attribute of our society and men are more intelligent yet superior to the female. This mentality creates daunting challenges for women in the field.

Females also face mobility issues in their literal term and in their career as well which becomes a problem to reach higher management positions and economic stability.

Females Mobility in Pakistan

Mobility is a comprehensive terminology that portrays the implicit motion of objects, people, and energy in time and space (Urry, 2000). In this research, the author is taking the movement of people in their everyday walk of life, which is stated by Zelinsky, (1971) as ''circulation''. The fundamental role of mobility is to provide access to economic and social resources.

Now if we take gender with mobility which is a complicated genealogy terminology; that is connected to unequal differences between women and men and is tied with the power relationship, where the difference lies. There are two viewpoints to see gender, one who determines gender from a biological point of view and the other who views it as a socially fabricated phenomenon that is ever-evolving. Generally, women are less mobile than men and their spatial sphere is also less as compared to men (Kerber, 1988). Unfortunately, this mentality also exists in the case of Pakistan where females when trying to enter the job market they face different levels of harassment due to which either they give up the job or become bossy. Both the extremes are harmful not only for Pakistan’s growth but its relationships with other countries also get affected hindering import, export, free mobility, foreign investments, and affect the mental health of the females going through these extremes.

In Pakistan where social life is characterized as a conventional patriarchal combined family system where men act as the final authority and breadwinner however women have less or almost no power or authority and are considered to be homemakers (Mumtaz & Salway, 2009). With the aforementioned cultural context female mobility is also viewed as a social code of honour. Female travel requires permission and is closely monitored (Zeba & Shahnaz, 2000), especially in case of out of station traveling. The adherence to such practices varied in different localities families and geographical locations in Pakistan (Khan, 1999).

As per the study conducted by Faiza (2013), Females also face hindrances in their professional opportunities for occupational mobility due to cultural, social factors, gender segregation practices, and the notion of perceived Islamic restrictions on women.

Employment Opportunities for Females in Pakistan

Women working in Pakistan also face the challenges of equal opportunity which prevails in the organizations and is affected by many societal (legal & socio-cultural), individual and multidimensional factors (Faiza, 2013). The topic of equal opportunity has been in the mainstream of research in the west for a long time (Knorr, 2005; Rowley & Yukongdi, 2008). But this research leaves a significant gap in Asian and African countries.

Women selecting a specific career are also a disadvantage of the labour market. Preference theory by Hakim, (2006) suggests that gender inequality phenomenon (career, remuneration, etc.) is also moulded by women's self-priorities. Mostly working women target for work-life balance due to their other responsibilities than men.

Their contribution to Pakistan's labour market is also determined by the cultural, economic, and social factors. The innate gender biases limit the choice of their occupation. Due to these restrictions, women are more focused on the secondary section of the labour market (Syed et al., 2009).

Previous research points towards some elements of a legislative framework of equal opportunity in Pakistan (Faiza, 2013; Goheer, 2003; Syed et al., 2009) Introduction of the legislative framework is also considered to be a steppingstone for females which includes the articles about non-discrimination and equal employment opportunity.

It is also pertinent to consider Pakistani women heterogeneous statuses due to the intersection of various identities following their education, race, family status, and religion. The position of Pakistani women is not consistent due to the various identities they undertake (Syed et al., 2009).

However, still, there is a lot of progress to be done in Pakistan for the promotion and development of female opportunities and representation of females as leaders in different sectors of Pakistan.

Research Questions

The discretionary behaviour towards women led to the main questions of research which are as follows:

1. What is the development procedure of leadership for women and how companies facilitate the whole transition?

2. What are the barriers faced by the women leader and how are they overcoming those barriers?

Methods and Materials

The following research design shows the hurdles between female leadership developments in the case of Pakistan (Figure 2).

Figure 2 Hurdles for Female Leadership Development

Data Collection Technique

A semi-structured interview method is selected for more accurate screening, considering both verbal and nonverbal cues. All the interviews were audio-recorded with the permission of the participants. Thematic analysis is conducted by using NVivo 12. As it is eminent in identifying the patterns in the dataset and derive the meanings from the codes and themes generated by organizing and getting familiarized with the data.


Seemingly from the responses of the respondent, findings of this research distinctly suggest that leadership is not gender-based it can come from any gender. Females can also prove great leaders and sometimes better leaders than males, because of their empathetic nature in general. Being a mother also, they know the different needs of different people which enable them to have a strong understanding of what factors drive and motivate others and how to get performance from different people. They are better listeners. Gender should not be the judgmental lens for leadership traits. Mostly female leaders are of the view to nurture their team below and make them future leaders which also comes by nature in females. Wearing different hats in their personal life, managing their home, kids, other relationship, and their work automatically makes them good multitasked. If all the facilities are available to females in Pakistan then the social, cultural, traditional, political, economic scenario will completely change in a positive sense and Pakistan can achieve the status of a developed country.

Results and Conclusion

The study reveals the experiences of Pakistani women leaders working in Private, Multinationals and local organizations. Through the qualitative data analysis particulars reveals two factors, personal and organizational which considerably contribute to women leader’s development in the specific context. The factors come into play to encourage or hinder their career development. Most participants of this research state that taking a break from their career was not a voluntary choice rather the absence of a support system for their kids or prioritizing family demands over career. This slows down their career as compared to their counterparts who do not have to bear such responsibilities solely.

The first and foremost barrier these women stated in their advancement in career is “Being a women” which is also documented by many studies (Chugh, 2007; Halpern & Cheung, 2009). Other key reasons for inadequate representation of females at the top are lack of support in their personal and official domain, lack of guidance for their career progression, the lack of career strategy. Other challenges they face is to be heard and taken seriously, gender biases in opportunities, family commitments, dealing with difficult bosses and glass ceiling effects, absence of mentorship and networking opportunities, mental and physical challenges due to12 putting extra effort to prove themselves and juggling the balls to balance personal lives and career. Travelling and relocation challenges for working mothers.

For leadership development most important is to learn to communicate effectively and presentation skills, how to manage time and resources, getting out of comfort zone, and showing tenacity and persistence to all the barriers and hurdles they face in their journey. Learning situational management skills and developing emotional quotient dealing with your team member with empathy as they all believe that the building block of the leadership development process is building more leaders in your journey. Likewise, they also believe that showing perseverance and commitment to achieve the position despite all the barriers (Betters-reed & Moore, 1995).

The organizational factors women leaders leveraged to get themselves promoted further were organizational support, the vision of senior management to include diversity in a true sense in an addendum to the favourable policies and mechanism. It is noteworthy that these women show tenacity and persistence to make this organizational catalyst works for them and attain positions in these organizations. Which congregates the thoughts of Billing & Alvesson (2000) who also emphasized that organizational progressive force acts in harmony with women’s career advancement? And organizations are becoming more relationship-oriented and participative.

Future Research

Future research would be done with more extensive research to explore the cause of very minimal development of female leadership programs in the organizations inducting more participants from different sectors and different cities. Or the research could seek the same perspective from the organization point of view to better understand whether there is any impact of female leadership representation on top and if it has a positive impact then what steps could be taken by the organization to involve a higher representation of women in top echelons of the organizations.

Moreover, the practices in public organizations are different as compared to the private organization as lack of resources, delayed processes; the realization of gender diversity in Public organizations can also have an impact on the female leadership process. A thorough insight can also be a future research catering to all the organizations in Pakistan as this research is limited to one city due to mobility issues. Moreover, since the personal data is not obtained about their marriage and children, future research could also explore the impact of marriage and children on females' career development or they have to tread upon and trade-off on family and children to reach the highest run of the ladder.


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