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Symposium Background

Although in recent years, women have increased their representation in the labor market, they remain under-represented in leadership roles in many key industries and in key positions in well-paid growing occupations across nearly every country around the globe. For example, women only fill 4.6% of CEO positions and 19.2% of board directors at S&P 500 companies (Catalyst, 2015). Women hold only about one-fifth of the seats in Congress, Senate and House of Representatives (Center for the American Woman and Politics, 2015), comprise only 11% of Silicon Valley executives and only 20% of software developers. Empirical studies show that men are much more likely to find a job in STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) fields compared with women with the same mathematical reasoning ability (Lubinski, Benbow, & Kell, 2014). Only 26% of the college presidents in the U.S. are women, while more than 57% of the students in colleges and universities are women (Forbes, 2014).

Gender gaps in well-being and personal life, which comprise a holistic career perspective, are also evident across the economic spectrum. Studies show women heads-of-household are more likely to live in poverty and be single parents than male heads-of-household. Women at all levels are more likely to report depression and experience sexual harassment and report a less inclusive work climate than men. Compared to men of similar backgrounds, professional and managerial women are also likely to have fewer children than men. Women are also less likely to have a stay at home spouse, which has been shown to be valuable for career progression. Thus gender gaps in career equality occur not only vertically at the top and cross-functionally and horizontally in organizations, but in personal life experiences.

Yet to date, far more research has been done describing and documenting the problems that exist on gender and leadership than on how to transform leadership and organizational contexts. Organizational, employment, and human resource strategies to promote gender equality, diversity and career success and life well-being are evolving and often have a research-to-practice translation gap; more quality rigorous studies and new theoretical perspectives are needed to transform research and practice.