Cecil Gibbs Seminar Series: Why Women don’t Lean in - Understanding how context constrains women's career choices

There has been vast improvement in workplace gender equality, but there remain marked differences in the roles in which women and men work. Explanations for this inequality have focused on the barriers women face. However, as small numbers of women begin to enter male-dominated roles, a new explanation has arisen: that remaining gender inequality must reflect fundamental differences between women and men, including differences in (a)ambition and desire for power, (b) needs for work-life balance, and (c)willingness to make sacrifice and take career risks. Central to this analysis is the assumption that the glass ceiling is broken and thus inequality must be due to women’s active choices. I will present an ongoing programme of research that demonstrates that women’s choices are shaped and constrained by the gendered nature of organisational and social contexts and how women see themselves within these contexts.

Bio: Michelle Ryan is a Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology and the inaugural Director of the Global Institute of Women’s Leadership at the Australian National University. She currently holds a European Research Council Consolidator Grant to investigate how context constrains women’s careers choices. She is involved in a number of other research projects. With Alex Haslam, she has uncovered the phenomenon of the glass cliff, whereby women (and members of other minority groups) are more likely to be placed in leadership positions that are risky or precarious. Research into the glass cliff was named by the New York Times as one of the top 100 ideas that shaped 2008, and in 2016 the term “the glass cliff” was shortlisted as Word of the Year by the Oxford English Dictionary.