Women and leadership: Gender barriers to senior management positions

Virginia Rincón, Miguel González, Karle Barrero


Purpose: The purpose of this research is to show the representation of women in corporate leadership positions. It also aims to identify the key factors that determine the lower presence of women in senior management, as well as policies to achieve gender balance in decision-making positions.

Design/methodology/approach: In order to show the representation of women in senior positions, the information contained in the European Commission database Women and men in decision-making has been analyzed. This database contains information on the presence of women in key positions in the largest publicly-listed European companies. The analysis has been completed with the Economically Active Population Survey of the Spanish National Statistics Institute and Catalyst census, including Fortune 500 companies. A literature review was also conducted to find factors explaining the current situation of women in decision-making positions and to propose strategies that promote more women in senior management. The literature review was carried out by means of searches in Google Scholar and in the databases ABI/INFORM Global, Emerald and International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, which permitted the analysis of several journals.

Findings: This study highlights the gender imbalance in decision-making positions. Most barriers to senior management are related to gender stereotypes. Therefore, we propose combining short-term measures to provide the required support for women in order to access management positions with other long-term measures to boost analysis and the learning process throughout society.

Originality/value: The research assesses the magnitude of the gender imbalance still present in leadership positions today. It also highlights the need for short- and long-term measures.


leadership, gender balance, senior management, career development

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3926/ic.889

Licencia de Creative Commons 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Intangible Capital, 2004-2020

Online ISSN: 1697-9818; Print ISSN: 2014-3214; DL: B-33375-2004

Publisher: OmniaScience