Leadership Fictions: Gender, Leadership and the Media

Women are half the population, earn nearly 60% of college degrees, are 47% of the workforce and represent 53% of voters.[1-3] Although women have broken almost every glass ceiling at least once, women still occupy only 18% of the top leadership positions across all sectors.[4] While the representation of women in the highest ranks of political and business leadership has improved in some cases – for example, our record-breaking 20 women in the U.S. Senate (yet only 18% in Congress overall) – overwhelmingly, it is still male. The U.S. ranks 80th in terms of female representation in the legislature, behind most of the developed world as well as nations that are openly criticized for their treatment of women, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.[5] In 2012, Catalyst found that only 4.2% of CEO positions and less than 17% of board seats are held by women among Fortune 500 companies.[6, 7]

The status of the world’s women is not only a matter of morality and justice. It is also a political, economic, and social imperative. The evidence is irrefutable: when women are free to develop their talents and contribute
– Hillary Clinton, 5/12/2010

Compelling evidence across sectors demonstrates that having more women in senior leadership positions leads to excellence in performance. Research shows that companies with more women in upper management and on the board of directors are more profitable and have higher returns on equity. [8] More women in political office results in better decisions and poly-making. Highly-educated women and those who have the greatest capacity to become leaders represent a valuable economic, political and social resource that is wasted when systemic barriers exist that prevent them from being able to contribute their skills in senior leadership positions. Nevertheless, at a systemic and institutional level, much of the power remains largely controlled by men.

Although women have been repeatedly shown to be highly effective leaders, the growth of women in leadership positions in both government and business seems to have stalled at well under 20%. This raises the obvious question – why?

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TAKE THE LEAD prepares, develops, inspires and propels women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. It’s today’s women’s movement — a unique catalyst for women to embrace power and reach leadership parity.