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The traps that keep women from reaching the top and how to avoid them

Paul Vanderbroeck (Geneva, Switzerland)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 21 September 2010




First, this paper aims to demonstrate that there are specific obstacles to the progression of women to top positions. Second, it aims to give advice to individual women leaders and to organizations how to go about removing such obstacles.


The paper reviews current research on gender differences in leadership, career progression of women, gender diversity in organizations, and leadership development methods such as 360° evaluations. It also refers to case studies of successful women leaders as evidence.


Women on their way up the corporate ladder get caught in two traps: the assumption that women and men have the same leadership qualities and the belief that they must imitate male leadership behavior in order to succeed. These traps not only prevent women from reaching their full potential but also prevent organizations from maximizing available talent.

Practical implications

To avoid these traps, the business community must recognize that women and men have different leadership competencies, use those differences to their advantage, and learn how to effectively manage the variety of perceptions of women as leaders. At the same time, the paper identifies often used, yet ineffective strategies to develop women's careers.


The paper questions assumptions about gender diversity in leadership and methods about how to improve gender balance at the top of organizations. It identifies specific and tangible obstacles to women's career progression and offers concrete advice on how to remove those obstacles.



Vanderbroeck, P. (2010), "The traps that keep women from reaching the top and how to avoid them", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 29 No. 9, pp. 764-770.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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