Article | Academy of Management Learning & Education | September 2011

Taking Gender into Account: Theory and Design for Women's Leadership Development Programs

by Robin J. Ely, Herminia Ibarra and Deborah Kolb

Abstract

We conceptualize leadership development as identity work and show how subtle forms of gender bias in the culture and in organizations interfere with the identity work of women leaders. Based on this insight, we revisit traditional approaches to standard leadership topics, such as negotiations and leading change, as well as currently popular developmental tools, such as 360-degree feedback and networking; reinterpret them through the lens of women's experiences in organizations; and revise them in order to meet the particular challenges women face when transitioning into senior leadership. By framing leadership development as identity work, we reveal the gender dynamics involved in becoming a leader, offer a theoretical rationale for teaching leadership in women-only groups, and suggest design and delivery principles to increase the likelihood that women's leadership programs will help women advance into more senior leadership roles.

Keywords: Programs; Prejudice and Bias; Leadership Development; Identity; Organizational Culture; Gender Characteristics;

Citation:

Ely, Robin J., Herminia Ibarra, and Deborah Kolb. "Taking Gender into Account: Theory and Design for Women's Leadership Development Programs." Academy of Management Learning & Education 10, no. 3 (September 2011).