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Women in Leadership: Recent Research and Resources

In honor of National Women’s History Month, here are some recent research findings and resources related women’s advancement in leadership positions.

With fifteen female Fortune 500 CEOs in 2011, one may argue that the glass ceiling is cracked, but not shattered. In fact, authors Susanne Bruckmiller and Nyla R. Branscombe report that a new metaphor has emerged to describe the current state of women in leadership in their article, How Women End Up on The Glass Cliff [HBR Reprint F1101B]. Their research and experiments found that attitudes about gender and leadership result in women more likely to be chosen to lead organizations that are in crisis than those that are doing well. This puts them on a glass cliff, where risk of failure is extremely high. They also found, however, that the glass cliff disappears in companies with a history of female leaders.

In Why Men Still Get More Promotions than Women, [HBR Reprint R1009F], authors Hermina Ibarra, Nancy M. Carter and Christine Silva report on a Catalyst study showing that mentoring, though helpful, is not enough to support the promotion of high potential women into the highest-level jobs. Rather, having a sponsor who is an influential senior manager is a more critical factor in women’s advancement. While mentors provide feedback, support and advice, sponsors advocate, protect and fight for their protege’s promotions. For more information on how companies are using sponsors and ideas on how to get a sponsor, go to

Developing Women Leaders: A Guide for Men and Women in Organizations by Anna Marie Valerio is an excellent resource for companies seeking to develop women leaders, as well as for women leaders themselves.

Finally, for additional ideas about the challenges women leaders face and how successful leaders are navigating them, read my September, 24, 2010 Blog post, Winning Strategies for Women Leaders.

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