Herman Ibarra, Robin Ely, & Deborah Kolb (Harvard Business Review)

Women Rising:
 The unseen barriers

This article is a powerful and insightful summary of the often-unseen barriers behind women’s persistent underrepresentation in leadership roles.  

Having spent the last decade coaching hundreds of women across all sectors of the market, the hypothesis presented rings true! Change happens when women are connected to their why, when they have the support of a trusted circle, coach or mentor, and when they have the opportunity to navigate, negotiate and influence the cultural assumptions and organisational structures that inadvertently benefit men.

This article promotes valuable discussion points and practical strategies for both women looking to step into broader and more complex senior leadership roles, and the men and organisations that want to support them.

View article

Even when CEOs make gender diversity a priority by setting aspirational goals for the proportion of women in leadership roles, insisting on diverse slates of candidates for senior positions, and developing mentoring and training programs, they are often frustrated by a lack of results. The authors argue this is because they haven’t addressed the fundamental identity shift involved in coming to see oneself – and to be seen by others – as a leader.

They suggest three actions to support and advance gender diversity:

  • Educate women and men about second-generation gender bias
  • Create safe “identity workspaces” to support transitions to bigger roles
  • Anchor women’s development efforts in their sense of leadership purpose rather than in how they are perceived.

“It is not enough to identify and instil the right skills and competencies …. The context must support a women’s motivation to lead and increase the likelihood that others will recognise and encourage her efforts – even when she doesn’t look or behave like the current group of executives.”

Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers