The Business Case

Reinventing the workplace for greater gender diversity

Sandrine Devillard, Alix de Zelicourt, Cecile Kossoff, and Sandra Sancier-Sultan, McKinsey, January 2017

The case for gender diversity is compelling, but McKinsey research—including a new report, Women Matter 2016: Reinventing the workplace to unlock the potential of gender diversity—shows many companies are struggling to ensure women are represented fairly in top management. Progress toward parity remains slow. In Western Europe, only 17 percent of executive-committee members are women, and women comprise just 32 percent of members of corporate boards for companies listed in Western Europe’s major market indexes (exhibit). In the United States, the figures are 17 percent for executive committees and just under 19 percent for boards.

Realizing gender equality’s $12 trillion economic opportunity

By Jonathan Woetzel, Anu Madgavkar, James Manyika, Kweilin Ellingrud, Vivian Hunt, and Mekala Krishnan, McKinsey, May 2016

In 2015, the McKinsey Global Institute published The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth. This report, which focused on the enormous potential associated with narrowing the gender gap, found that if every country did so at the same historical rate as the fastest-improving country in its regional peer group, the world could add $12 trillion to annual gross domestic product in 2025. That’s some 11 percent higher than it would be under the business-as-usual scenario.

The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in the United States

By Kweilin Ellingrud, Anu Madgavkar, James Manyika, Jonathan Woetzel, Vivian Riefberg, Mekala Krishnan, and Mili Seoni, McKinsey, April 2016

The United States could add up to $4.3 trillion in annual GDP in 2025 if women attain full gender equality. In a new report, The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in the United States, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) finds that every US state and city can add at least 5 percent to their GDP in that period by advancing the economic potential of women. Half of US states have the potential to add more than 10 percent, and the country’s 50 largest cities can increase GDP by 6 to 13 percent.

Closing the Economic Gender Gap: Learning from the Gender Parity Task Forces

World Economic Forum, June 2016

In the 10 years since the World Economic Forum began measuring the economic gender gap it has narrowed by only 3% globally. In addition to the individual actions of employers and governments to address these gaps, public-private dialogue and collaboration are critical. To accelerate the pace of change, the Forum launched Gender Parity Task Forces in Mexico, Turkey and Japan in 2012. A further task force followed in 2014 in the Republic of Korea. The task forces have sought to generate collaborations between public and private sector stakeholders by examining barriers to female economic participation and progress, exploring and implementing solutions, and providing a neutral platform for continued dialogue and action in each country. This report sets out the experiences of each Taskforce and highlights examples of impact. The report also sets out key lessons learned from these pilot projects and makes recommendations for scaling this model in partnership.

The Issue

Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership

Catherine Hill, Ph.D.  


Women are not new to leadership; think of Cleopatra or Queen Elizabeth. Think of the women who led the civil rights and education reform movements. But women are still outnumbered by men in the most prestigious positions, from Capitol Hill to the board room. Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership examines the causes of women’s underrepresentation in leadership roles in business, politics, and education and suggests what we can do to change the status quo.

Leadership and Wages Go Hand in Hand for Women

Kevin Miller, AAUW, April 08, 2016

The gender wage gap — currently 21 cents on the dollar — has many causes: gender segregation across job sectors and industries, the science gap for women and girls, explicit wage discrimination, and expectations around parenting and caretaking, among others. But one important factor that contributes to the gender wage gap is the gender leadership gap.

The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (Spring 2017)

Kevin Miller, AAUW, Spring 2017

AAUW’s The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap succinctly addresses these issues by going beyond the widely reported 80 percent statistic. The report explains the pay gap in the United States; how it affects women of all ages, races, and education levels; and what you can do to close it. For 2016, the fifth anniversary of The Simple Truth, we’ve updated the report with information on disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

The Root Cause

Are You Biased against Women Leaders?

Kevin Miller

AAUW, February 2016

Research shows that treating women and men equally in hiring decisions, job evaluations, and leadership positions is more of an ideal than a reality. So if we agree that sex discrimination is wrong, why is it still happening? One answer is that many of us harbor unconscious biases that can affect our judgment, even though we may be unaware of them. Uncovering these unconscious, or implicit, biases can be the first step to eliminating them.

The Science behind Implicit Bias

Elizabeth Bolton, AAUW, May 19, 2016

Are you biased against women leaders? Most people reading this article would quickly and resolutely answer no. But when AAUW posed that question to members and supporters in February, researchers found a different answer. It turns out, most people still associate leadership with men more strongly than they do with women.

How to Fight Your Own Implicit Biases

Kevin Miller, AAUW, March 30, 2016

Implicit bias refers to bias that is subtle, unconscious, or hard to pin down. These biases are associations or mental connections that we may consciously believe are wrong or problematic, like racial stereotypes that cloud judgments in courtrooms or subtle preferences for men leaders versus women leaders. We learn these associations from the media, from our family and friends, and in our classrooms and workplaces.

The Color of Leadership: Barriers, Bias, and Race

Catherine Hill, Ph.D., AAUW, April 19, 2016

In preparation for writing our new research report, Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership, AAUW’s research team conducted an exhaustive (and exhausting) review of the recent academic and popular literature on women and leadership. For the most part, existing research overlooks the experiences of women of color. Yet we know that Asian, black, and Hispanic women are especially underrepresented in leadership. Fewer than 3 percent of board directors at Fortune 500 companies are women from these groups. In the legal profession, where 8 percent of equity partners are people of color, women account for just 24 percent of Hispanic equity partners, 33 percent of black equity partners, and 29 percent of Asian equity partners.

Why We Need to Stop Equating Leadership with Masculinity

Renee Davidson, AAUW, March 18, 2016

Have you ever immediately assumed that a doctor, politician, or professor was a man and then later realized your mistake? Maybe you walked into a meeting and assumed that the female client was an assistant or lower-ranking professional and not the CEO.

The Solution

When Performance Trumps Gender Bias. Joint Versus Separate Evaluation

Iris Bohnet, et al

Harvard University Press, May 2016

The authors examine a new intervention to overcome gender biases in hiring, promotion, and job assignments: an “evaluation nudge,” in which people are evaluated jointly rather than separately regarding their future performance. Evaluators are more likely to focus on individual performance in joint than in separate evaluation and on group stereotypes in separate than in joint evaluation, making joint evaluation the money-maximizing evaluation procedure. Our findings are compatible with a behavioral model of information processing and with the System 1/System 2 distinction in behavioral decision research where people have two distinct modes of thinking that are activated under certain conditions.

What Works: Gender Equality by Design

Iris Bohnet

Harvard University Press, March 2016

Presenting research-based solutions, Iris Bohnet hands us the tools we need to move the needle in classrooms and boardrooms, in hiring and promotion, benefiting businesses, governments, and the lives of millions.

How Can We Close the Gender Leadership Gap?

Katie Benson, AAUW, March 30, 2016

The relationship between women and leadership has been a popular topic recently. However, most of the discussion focuses on understanding the issue instead of ideas for action. Women make up more than half of college graduates and half the labor force, and have long careers in many fields — so there’s no lack of women to fill leadership positions. But we’re still not represented at the upper levels.