Do You Recognize Second-Generation Gender Bias?

In the September issue of Harvard Business Review, Herminia Ibarra, Robin Ely, and Deborah Kolb address research about the continuing lack of women in upper levels of senior management. They devote a significant portion of the article, “Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers,” to second-generation gender bias.

“Despite a lack of discriminatory intent, subtle, ‘second-generation’ forms of workplace gender bias can obstruct the leadership identity development of a company’s entire population of women.”

They define second generation gender bias as:

  • A paucity of role models for women.
  • Gendered career paths and gendered work.
  • Women’s lack of access to networks and sponsors.
  • Double binds (the mismatch between conventionally feminine qualities and the qualities thought necessary for leadership).

The good news is, they offer suggestions and paths forward to address that bias. They offer three specific solutions that call upon both women and organizations to make changes.

“The three actions we suggest to support women’s access to leadership positions are (1) educate women and men about second-generation gender bias, (2) create safe “identity work spaces” to support transitions to bigger roles, and (3) anchor women’s development efforts in a sense of leadership purpose rather than in how women are perceived.”

Read the detailed article online in the September Harvard Business Review.

[From Live. Learn. Lead., the newsletter of the East Tennessee Women’s Leadership Council.  Read the complete issue here or view our newsletter archive.)


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