Gender and Organisations
Edited by Alexander-Stamatios Antoniou, Cary Cooper and Caroline Gatrell
Chapter 19: The steep way to the top: barriers to female leadership in tall hierarchical organizations
Women constitute about half of the world population and half of the workforce; yet, they are still largely underrepresented in leadership roles. Whereas early studies focused on individual-level antecedents (i.e., “fix the women approaches”) to explain what hinders female employees from climbing the career ladder, recent research has shifted toward including the role of societal or organizational antecedents (i.e., “fix the environment approaches”). However, a factor that characterizes every organization, namely its hierarchical structure, has received little scholarly attention. The authors provide a brief review of the hierarchy literature and subsequently discuss the advantages of organizing work in flat hierarchies, with a particular focus on the potential benefits for female leadership from a Person–Organization Fit perspective. The chapter closes with a discussion of short- and long-term practical implications that could help organizations to slowly transition from a steep hierarchical structure to a less hierarchical environment that promotes women and men equally.
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