|Where Are the Female Leaders?|
It isn't easy to tackle an issue like "women and leadership," where the problems seem intractable, the discussions often fraught.
Although women have made many gains over the years, they remain distressingly underrepresented at the top levels of institutions around the globe. In corporate America, for example, women hold only about 15% of C-suite jobs and 17% of board seats.
Explanations for the paltry numbers vary widely. Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive featured in an HBR interview in April, has famously argued that women must learn to "lean in"—to develop behaviors that will help them move up the ladder. Anne-Marie Slaughter, of Princeton, ignited widespread debate by contending that women can't make significant progress without fundamental changes to the structure of organizations and society.
Our Spotlight this month is dedicated to the problem. Rather than lament the lack of progress, we point to what we believe are practical new solutions.
In the lead piece, a trio of authors—Herminia Ibarra, Robin Ely, and Deborah Kolb—identify what they believe to be a central cause of the leadership gap. Their research shows that persistent gender biases in organizations and society disrupt the learning cycle that is normally part of becoming a leader. They suggest some steps companies can take to turn things around.
In a related article, Boris Groysberg and Katherine Connolly draw lessons from 24 CEOs known for their deep commitment to inclusion. They interviewed them to explore why they had made diversity a priority and how they had accomplished their goals. To a person, the leaders had adopted inclusiveness as a mission—as a moral imperative and, no less critically, as a way to stay competitive.
Our package grew out of efforts conducted by Harvard Business School over the past year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its decision to accept women to its two-year MBA program. HBS has initiated research projects, developed new courses, and convened a major summit, all aimed at accelerating the advancement of female leaders around the world.
Closing the leadership gap is a formidable challenge. But there's no excuse for accepting the status quo