In the public and private sectors, women continue to address multiple hurdles despite diversity and equity initiatives. Women have made tremendous strides in the workforce but are still a minority in leadership positions worldwide in multiple sectors, including nonprofit, corporate, government, medicine, education, military, and religion. In the United States women represent 60% of bachelor’s degrees earned at universities and outpace men in master’s and doctoral programs. However, a significant body of research illustrates that women’s upward mobility has been concentrated in middle management positions. Women hold 52% of all management and professional roles in the U.S. job market, including physicians and attorneys. Yet women fall behind in representation in senior level positions. In the legal profession, for example, women represent 45% of associates but only 22.7% are partners. In medicine, women represent 40% of all physicians and surgeons but only 16% are permanent medical school deans. In academia, women surpass men in doctorates but only 32% are full professors. Furthermore, only 5% of chief executive officers (CEOs) in Fortune 500 companies and 19% of the board members in companies included in Standard & Poor’s (S&P) Composite 1500 Index are women. Progress is even more elusive for women of color despite making up 38.3% of the female civilian labor force. Only two women of color are Fortune 500 CEOs and only 4.7% of women are executive or senior level official managers in S&P 1500 companies.
There are more women in leadership positions in the public sector than in the private sector. In 2014, 43.5% of women between the ages of 23 and 34 were managers at public companies, compared to 26% in similar positions in the private sector. In 2018, 127 women were elected to the U.S. Congress and 47 of those serving in 2018 were women of color. In addition, the first Native American woman, first Muslim woman, and Congress’s youngest woman were elected in that year. However, there is still progress to be made to close the gap, especially in senior-level positions. The significance of these statistics is staggering and confirms the need for attention. The percentage of women holding leadership positions in the public and private sectors, especially in business and education, has grown steadily in the past decade. However, subtle barriers like bias and stereotypes unfavorably encumber women’s career progression and are often used to explain the lack of women in leadership positions.