Facing and Overcoming Common Barriers: Tools

The most difficult obstacles in achieving gender balance are not usually the visible ones such as rules and policies, but rather the subtle set of beliefs held by people inside organisations. Social beliefs about how men and women should act are carried by all of us, and have not changed as fast as the social position of women today. Even though overwhelming research indicates that women are as ambitious as men and expect equal opportunities, leading figures in management and politics continue to hold stereotypic ideas. This is all the more so in cultures which have traditional ideas about gender roles. The ILO Women in Business and Management report ranks family responsibilities, gender stereotypes and masculine corporate cultures as the top three barriers to women’s advancement to leadership. (see ILO, 2015, p. 16)


EWoB report: Gender Diversity on European Boards, Realizing Europe’s Potential: Experiences and Best Practices provides numerous insights into the barriers: “The Gadhia Review cites research by Columbia Thread needle Investments which found that just seven per cent of funds in the U.K. are managed or co-managed by women. Even assuming that the dedicated environmental, social and governance (ESG) specialists within investors see board gender diversity as important, often the final voting decision sits with the fund manager not the ESG team; sometimes ESG specialists may not

attend company meetings with the fund manager. This contributes to gender diversity often being raised at best on an ad hoc basis. Also, some active fund managers may look primarily at financial metrics and diversity may not always sit easily within their current analytical framework.” (EWoB 2016).

Further reading



Gender Expectations

This is the most treacherous area; the beliefs held by both men and women that women do not want top positions enough or that there is only one kind of management style and career are beliefs formed early in life and widely shared in society.


Discrimination and Resistance

Explicit discrimination in Northern and Western countries is becoming more and more exceptional, but it still exists in much of the rest of the world.


Unintentional Bias

Gender beliefs go so deep that even those who are firmly convinced of the necessity for gender equality may find themselves nonetheless showing bias despite their best will.