The Masterclass Series: The Key Challenges for Women Advancing in the Workplace

Women have come a long way in achieving greater visibility and opportunity in the workplace, yet significant disparities persist. On average, women still encounter more than twice as many obstacles in their careers compared to men. From struggling with work-life expectations to confronting harassment, women face systemic barriers that stifle their advancement and undermine their potential all the way up the ladder.

Work-Life Integration

One major struggle for women in leadership is finding healthy work-life integration. Working women still tend to take on a disproportionate share of caregiving and household responsibilities at home, even when they work full-time. This “second shift” leads to higher stress and burnout. It also hampers women’s ability to put in extra hours, take on special projects, and attend networking events—things that often lead to promotions for male colleagues who are not held to the same expectations outside of work.

Lack of Training

Another barrier is the lack of skills training and mentorship needed to get ahead. Too often, women do not receive the same coaching and sponsorship that prepares employees for management roles. They lack exposure to responsibilities that give visibility and opportunities to develop new competencies. Targeted training programs, a focus on upskilling, and intentional mentoring relationships early in careers can help close this gap, but many companies do not hit the mark.

The Challenging Climb

There is also the problem of the “broken rung” on the ladder up. Research shows the biggest obstacle exists at that first critical step up to manager. The 2023 Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey, finds that women, while making up nearly 50% of entry level positions, still only make up 40% of managerial positions. And the gaps only get wider as you move through the ranks.


Harassment in the workplace remains a major career-limiting barrier. Studies find more than 25% of women report being subject to harassment at work including sexual harassment and microaggressions. Such targeting takes a tremendous toll mentally and emotionally while also threatening job security and prospects for those who speak up.

The collective impact of disadvantages like these significantly constrains women’s advancement and contribute to lopsided gender representation the higher up the corporate ladder you look. We cannot maximize innovation and sound decision-making without diverse voices and talents represented equally at all levels of an organization.