What to Read Next
In 1963 and 1964, two landmark acts — the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act — brought the promise of great change for women in the U.S. workforce. But 55 years later, the gender pay gap persists across all levels of the organization, and the lack of women at the top of organizations is acute. Less than 5% of Fortune 500 companies are run by women. While this gender imbalance is frustrating for women across all industries and jobs, the disparity in representation and pay is especially pronounced for women of color.
As a recent New York Times article points out, women often find themselves in a double bind as they navigate the corporate landscape — where exhibiting the same kinds of leadership qualities as their male counterparts can both propel them and set them back. Other research points to how the horizontal sorting of women and men into different job categories in the hiring process hinders women not only with glass ceilings but also “glass walls.”
The following collection of MIT Sloan Management Review articles provides insights and research into some of today’s leading issues for women in the workforce — from the subtle but pernicious biases that complicate an already complex hiring process (and how technology can play a role in fixing this problem) to the importance of women gaining not only a seat at the table but influence and agency.
In both practice and research, we are doing a better job at bringing attention to the problem of gender bias. But we haven’t established enough tangible suggestions for how to challenge it. New research has begun to investigate the efficacy of scripts — a set of words or phrases, such as, “Can you repeat what you just said?” that would signal to a peer that he has crossed a line, whether knowingly or unknowingly.
Kimberly A. Whitler and Deborah A. Henretta
The number of women on corporate boards has risen substantially over the past decade, but the growth rate is slowing. Authors Kimberly A. Whitler and Deborah A. Henretta describe how research indicates that the reason women aren’t making more rapid inroads is that few have been promoted to a post that would give them influence beyond their seat at the table. Research abounds on the full benefits of gender-diverse decision-making, and the authors argue that for real, lasting change that will win organizations these benefits, boards must look beyond inclusion toward influence.
Megan Beck and Barry Libert
Artificial intelligence is beginning to replace many of the workplace roles that men dominate. The parts of those jobs that will have staying power are those that rely more heavily on emotional intelligence — abilities such as empathy, persuasion, and inspiration — skills in which women typically excel.
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Stacey Philpot and Kelly Monahan
Many executives believe they are good at identifying leadership talent. However, when asked how they make their decisions, they often cite intuition or gut instincts. Social science research, on the other hand, suggests that individuals are often prone to cognitive biases in such decisions. Rather than just relying on the subjective opinions of executives, some companies are using assessment tools to identify high-potential talent.
Some women who feel like they won’t “fit” a stereotypical job description will talk themselves out of wanting it. This process of negatively evaluating promotional opportunities is due to a process called job crafting. As a result, managers who wish to employ female executives at the highest levels of their organizations should be especially careful of the signals they might be communicating to potential applicants.
Emilio J. Castilla
Rewarding employees based on merit can be more difficult than it first appears. Even efforts to reduce bias can backfire; disparities in raises and bonuses by gender, racial, and other characteristics persist in today’s organizations not only despite management’s attempts to reduce them but also because of such efforts. This article describes how managers seeking to foster a truly meritocratic workplace can utilize analytics-based approaches to address these concerns.