New AAUW Report Reveals the Barriers and Biases That Limit Women Leaders and Society

Barriers and Bias: the Status of Women and Leadership research cover art
March 29, 2016


Media Contact:
Lisa Goodnight

WASHINGTON — The American Association of University Women (AAUW) today released Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership, new research documenting why women are still woefully underrepresented in top leadership positions. The report demonstrates how that gender leadership gap limits both women and our society and details real solutions for lawmakers, industry leaders, and everyday Americans.

Moderated by journalist, commentator, and author Cokie Roberts, a panel of experts and industry leaders — including U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, and Rolls-Royce North America CEO Marion Blakey — will discuss the report’s findings. The panelists will share their own insights and experiences with a live studio audience of more than 100 stakeholders and influencers and a virtual audience of thousands more at watch parties across the country.

“This issue affects every American sector, every industry, and every worker. We know there’s no shortage of qualified and ambitious women who are ready to lead. What’s missing is opportunity,” said AAUW CEO Linda D. Hallman, CAE. “What can we do about it? Too much existing literature on women’s leadership wrongly asks how to ‘fix’ women leaders. Our report turns the lens around to focus on what society can do and why it’s important to do it, while also providing a tool for us to look in the mirror and confront our own biases.”

Barriers and Bias offers an in-depth and expansive set of findings and recommendations for policy makers, industry leaders, and individuals:

  • For policy makers, the report outlines ways to promote equity and diversity at the local and national levels and demonstrates why closing the gender leadership gap is good for both the country and lawmakers’ constituents at home.
  • For businesses, the report details both the bottom-line and cultural implications of losing opportunities to the gender leadership gap, while offering a set of recommendations that range from blind résumé reviews and flexible schedules to evidence-based diversity training.
  • For individuals, the report shows how closing the gender leadership gap supports a healthier work-life balance and illustrates the effects of the leadership gap on women from diverse backgrounds.

The report is being released in coordination with AAUW’s new Implicit Association Test about women’s leadership. The test was developed in collaboration with Harvard University’s Project Implicit so that everyday Americans and leaders alike can measure their own biases about gender and leadership — biases people may not know they have.

The bad news? AAUW’s initial findings reveal that, on average, most people have a negative bias toward women in leadership. The good news? Barriers and Bias provides real steps to confront those biases — and the barriers standing in the way of women leaders and society as a whole.

Barriers and Bias is made possible by the generosity of AAUW’s Mooneen Lecce Giving Circle and the AAUW members whose gifts to the Eleanor Roosevelt Fund help support AAUW research.


AAUW's new research report looks at stereotypes about women leaders and how to beat them.

Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership

Why do men still vastly outnumber women in leadership positions? AAUW’s research report Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership explores this question.

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By:   |   March 29, 2016