Women in the Workplace

"In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders."

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook
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This Business English lesson plan on women in the workplace has been designed for business professionals or other adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Despite huge improvements in increasing equality at work, women still find themselves at a disadvantage when competing with men, and women are far less likely to receive equal pay or be represented in boardrooms. There are many reasons for this, including outdated sexist attitudes and the increased burden women still find themselves with at home like childcare. In this Business English lesson plan on women at work, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the additional challenges faced by women in their careers, why these challenges exist, and what solutions there could be.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

Catalyst | 10 Big Issues Women Face at Work and What Leaders Can Do to Help

The article lists a number of reasons why women face challenges at work and what bosses can do to help them. The list includes providing flexible working arrangements, ensuring there are no gender pay gaps, and acknowledging how unconscious biases. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was written? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below at home. In the class, the students will answer a number of conversation questions directly or indirectly related to the content of the video.

The video for this class is a TED Talk by Sheryl Sandberg called “Why we have too few women leaders” which looks at the problems women face when thinking of a promotion, especially with regards to having children.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means, if they agree with it and how it could relate to business. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including typical jobs associated with men and women, discrimination faced by women at work, and if there are differences in the way men and women communicate.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with women in the workplace such as glass ceiling, gender pay gap and mansplain. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the conversation questions. Before the conversation, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about women at work. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as sexism in job interviews, the benefits for a company that improves the balance between men and women, and whether there will be less discrimination against women in the future.


After the class, students will write an executive summary for a report suggesting ways in which their companies can improve the imbalance between men and women at leadership level. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise business-style writing as well as improving their grammar with the feedback from their teacher.


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