What holds women back (and what makes a difference) in their careers

Here's a summary of the current research on what makes an impact (positively and negatively) on women's careers.  


What holds women back

Unconscious Bias

The 5 Biases Pushing Women Out of STEM

The Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam

How Media Skews Our Perceptions 


Micro-Inequities 40 Years Later

Glass Ceilings and Cliffs

How Women End Up on the Glass Cliff 

The Gender Wage Gap

How wages by occupation differ by gender

Men with 2 years of work experience earn more than women with 6

Bro Talk

How Wall Street Bro Talk Keeps Women Down


Women in the Workplace by LeanIn and McKinsey reports that women's careers can be stymied by: pursuing staff roles instead of line roles; workplace culture, policies and processes; inequality at home; and a lack of networks with potential sponsors.

Madam C.E.O., Get Me a Coffee - Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant discuss the sad reality in workplaces around the world: Women help more but benefit less from it.  

The Myth of the Catty Woman - Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant debunk the myth that the biggest enemy of women is other women and provide evidence that in business and in government, women do in fact create opportunities for women.

Speaking While Female - Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant share three tips that can help women overcome the 'speaking-up double bind' they face in many organizations: adopting practices that focus less on the speaker and more on the idea (eg provide ways to submit suggestions and solutions to problems anonymously); leaders must also take steps to encourage women to speak and be heard (eg introducing, and enforcing, a no-interruption rule); and increasing the number of women in leadership roles.

When Talking About Bias Backfires - Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant discuss research that shows that making people aware of their biases is not enough to counter them - but when people are informed that the “vast majority of people try to overcome their stereotypic preconceptions”, levels of discrimination are reduced.


What makes a difference

Bias Interrupters

5 Questions for Executive Teams

Tips for the Workplace 

Women in the Workplace by LeanIn and McKinsey recommends the following actions for organizations: track key metrics; demonstrate that diversity is a top priority; identify and interrupt bias; rethink workplace programs; and create a level playing field.

Research on Quotas

Gender Quotas and Female Leadership: A Review

New Zealand’s boardroom blues: Time for quotas

Targets and Quotas for Women in Leadership


A sample of initiatives currently underway 

Examples of Unconscious Bias Training



NeuroLeadership Institute

Engaging Men


Male Champions of Change

Increasing Female Role Models in Media

See Jane



Why Diversity Matters - Catalyst

Why Diversity Matters - McKinsey 


Further Resources

Global Women

Lean In 



5 Tips for Getting Ahead

  1. Accept that you are biased (as we all are) and seek ways to mitigate it.  There are a number of resources on this page that provide advice on how to do it.
  2. Avoid becoming pigeonholed as the team note-taker/event organizer/insert-other-extra-tasks-that-aren't-part-of-your-role-and-that-won't-lead-to-promotion-here.  Concentrate your efforts on meeting and exceeding the kpi's/performance metrics for your role - as well as for the role you're aiming for.
  3. Pursue operational/line roles with P&L responsibility.  They will help you develop the skills needed to excel at senior levels.
  4. Proactively seek out supportive mentors, connect with potential sponsors, and expose yourself to inspirational role models (in both the media and real life).  Remember the Jim Rohn quote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
  5. Negotiatenegotiatenegotiate


If you know of any relevant research or initiatives missing from this list, please let me know.

Diversity Matters