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The progress of women in the workplace is at a standstill. How can we break through the glass ceiling?

August 3, 2023
By Louise Champoux-Paillé, Anne-Marie Croteau

This is an excerpt of an article written for The Conversation by Louise Champoux-Paillé, John Molson School Executive-in-Residence and co-director of the Barry F. Lorenzetti Centre for Women Entrepreneurship and Leadership and Anne-Marie Croteau, dean of the John Molson School of Business.

Silhouette of a person walking on a transparent glass floor from below Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

Women are promoted less than men because they are deemed to have less leadership potential than men.

These are the findings of a study published in 2022 by professors Alan Benson of the University of Minnesota, Danielle Li of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and Kelly Shue of Yale University and the NBER. Their conclusion is based on the consultation of 30,000 performance evaluation forms of employees working in a large American retail chain.

According to Prof. Shue, performance assessment is generally very factual and based on very concrete evaluation criteria. Assessing leadership potential, on the other hand, is more subjective and can give free rein to the biases that shape the perception of leadership as conceived by those who carry out these assessments.

“What we commonly talk about in terms of management and potential are characteristics such as assertiveness, execution skills, charisma, leadership and ambition. These are, I believe, real traits. They are also very subjective and stereotypical, associated with male leaders. What we have seen in the data is a fairly strong bias against women in assessments of potential.”

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