Where are the women leaders?

“Where are the women leaders?”

Back in 1999 (last millennium!), I was at an internal training day chatting with one of the other female delegates between the end of the presentations and dinner…

We were trying to figure out how many women we knew of in our company that were on the higher rungs of the career ladder – how many were ‘black book’ (- they’d reached the pay grade where you were entitled to a company car and other benefits).

It didn’t take us long to exhaust our list of one or two…! and it didn’t take us long to figure out (as far as we knew anyway), they were all single and child-free (less?)

A few years later, as a team leader with two young children I explored the possibility of working part-time in order to spend a little more time with my children…

My husband was worried I’d never get promoted again(!)

My line manager was worried that was the end of my personal development(!)

We did not know anyone in my company at that time (in the UK) who was combining leading a team and working part-time.

Luckily I spoke with someone from the HR department (thank you Diane!) who thought it was definitely possible and found me one(!) other team leader in the same position. We met and she told me how brilliant it was to have Fridays off to focus on her children – I was sold!

I am so glad I took the decision to put the time with my children ahead of my concerns about work and enjoyed 5 years of working part-time while my children were young

– and got promoted to ‘black book’ while working part-time ;)


17 years on: Where are the women leaders?

Fast forward to 2016 and this all seems like ancient history until at a women’s leadership conference (in the UK), I noticed that one of the delegates had asked the question:

“Has anyone working part-time ever received a promotion……?”


What is your experience of juggling family and leadership? Let me know by adding your comments below..

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Best wishes!


10 replies
  1. Eileen Burns
    Eileen Burns says:

    Glad it was such a positive decision for you, I don’t have a family but had to work in my business around many health limitations, often having to refuse some wonderful opportunities, but like family, health comes first :-)

  2. Ray Moya
    Ray Moya says:

    Woman’s biggest obstacles are social and religious norms. Only when men and women outgrow the neanderthal idea that a woman came out of some guy’s rib, will women be seen as equals. The future of women, will not be determined by men’s compassion, but by their willingness to act as one.

  3. Brigid
    Brigid says:

    Great question, Sian! While I’m not sure about women getting promoted while working part time, I am seeing a trend of women choosing entrepreneurship as a way to create exactly what they crave, rather than trying to fit into a conventional framework. I hope that more organizations are becoming flexible and creative when it comes to the way in which employees can be of service & enjoy a successful career, so that everyone’s work honours their wholeness. Happy International Women’s Day!

  4. Sian Rowsell
    Sian Rowsell says:

    Thanks Brigid. Certainly I see working for myself as a route to enjoying the flexibility to work during school term times. Happy International Women’s Day!

  5. Melisa Sharpe
    Melisa Sharpe says:

    Good question Sian, I am not working part-time but I am working from home part-time and this question has come up for me. I feel “out of sight, out of mind” really applies. We work part-time and flex schedules for many reasons, family being only one of them, and it was hard just to get the flex schedule – I can’t imagine a promotion as well. There really is a corporate mindset (at least in some professions) that you have to work 40+ in order to see those promotions. Let’s change that! Work better not longer! :-)

    • Sian Rowsell
      Sian Rowsell says:

      Thanks Melisa. I agree we should be working better not longer – let’s change the mindset that it’s quantity of hours that counts!


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