The steep way to the top: Barriers to female leadership in tall hierarchical organizations

Sofia Schlamp, Fabiola H. Gerpott, Sven C. Voelpel

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


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 factorthat 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 PersonOrganization Fitperspective. 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.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWomen, Business and Leadership
Subtitle of host publicationGender and Organisations
EditorsAlexander-Stamatios Antoniou, Cary Cooper, Caroline Catrell
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781786432711
ISBN (Print)9781786432704
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameNew Horizons in Management
PublisherEdward Elgar

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