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Making the invisible, visible: Women in leadership.

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

More women than men are now graduating from higher level education, women are over 50% of the workforce and yet “women currently hold just 5.2% of CEO roles and constitute only 11% of top earners on the S&P500” (Cortland and Kinias, 2019, p. 2). Whilst much interest is shown for workplace diversity, inclusion, and equality (DEI) programmes, in 2019 the World Economic Forum (WEF) reports that gender inequality persists and narrowing the gender gap is stagnating (cited in Hideg and Krstic, 2021). Despite industrial-organisational (I-O) psychologists disclosing that DEI is a top workplace issue for organisations in the 21st century, little has been explored in the journals of I-O psychology or it’s related field of management since 2000, as identified by Hideg and Krstic (2021, p. 2) they “identified 186 relevant articles, which translates to 2.41% of all articles in the reviewed journals”.


The psychological experiences of women in the workplace are known to compound gender inequities in leadership (Cortland and Kinias, 2019), from battling gender stereotypes to lack of role-models to plain sexism, synthesizing to negatively impact women’s confidence, engagement, performance, and ultimately top leadership participation. Furthermore, society burdens a disproportionate, vitriolic backlash on women who break gender leadership norms, not only have women to exceed in talent but also overcome those seeking to preserve gender hierarchies, typically those holding positions of power presently (Brescoll, Okimoto and Vial, 2018).


Since the seminal paper ‘Psychological safety and learning behaviour in work teams’ (Edmondson, 1999) identified key tenets for organisations to adopt to increase team effectiveness and high performance, little has been explored around women’s leadership participation and psychological safety, as identified earlier. Edmondson’s (1999) ground-breaking paper identifies that performance is hindered where there is a risk of embarrassment, humiliation, or threat. Women have faced such workplace obstacles for centuries and sadly continue to do so today. Are you prepared to tolerate this situation which impacts the women you work with on a regular basis? What is the one thing you can do today to effect positive change for your team, your colleagues, your peers?


Is psychological safety a key aspect on female leadership participation and does it impact women flourishing in the workplace? Delving deeper to review theories on why women are unduly underrepresented in the higher echelons of workplace leadership despite being highly educated and qualified, examine the phenomenon of the glass ceiling, the role of culture and are there other key factors at play deterring women’s voices being at all tables of work-place decision making? Can organisations cultivate environments to unlock greater female representation across workplace leadership tiers, particularly at the top? At TrustWorki we have the experience and 'know how' to support you in creating a workplace that benefits from what everyone brings!


If you're not sure what role you can play to be an active ally, feel free to follow TrustWorki as we plan to share articles and posts on this topic. If you are a leader that wants to unlock the potential of your whole team, or would like to attend a workshop or work with us on your Gender Equity strategic plans, please get in touch and we would be happy to have a chat.


References

Brescoll, V. L., Okimoto, T. G. and Vial, A. C. (2018) ‘You’ve come a long way… maybe: How moral emotions trigger backlash against women leaders’, Journal of Social Issues, 74(1), pp. 144-164.

Cortland, C. I. and Kinias, Z. (2019) ‘Stereotype threat and women’s work satisfaction: The importance of role models’, Advancing Gender Equality in the Workplace, 7(1), pp. 81-89.

Edmondson, A. (1999) ‘Psychological safety and learning behavior in work teams’, Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(2), pp. 350-383.

Hideg, I. and Krstic, A. (2021) ‘The quest for workplace gender equality in the 21st century: Where do we stand and how can we continue to make strides’, Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 53(2), pp. 106-113.

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