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Holistic and integrative review into the barriers to women’s advancement to the corporate top in Europe

Rosalien Alexandra van ’t Foort-Diepeveen (Center for Entrepreneurship, Stewardship and Governance, Nyenrode Business Universiteit, Breukelen, The Netherlands)
Aikaterini Argyrou (Center for Entrepreneurship, Stewardship and Governance, Nyenrode Business Universiteit, Breukelen, The Netherlands)
Tineke Lambooy (Center for Entrepreneurship, Stewardship and Governance, Nyenrode Business Universiteit, Breukelen, The Netherlands)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 15 June 2021

Issue publication date: 21 May 2021

283

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to analyze the barriers discussed in the extant literature as to why women are underrepresented in the corporate top and explains how these barriers interrelate. An understanding of the interrelatedness of the barriers can help develop suitable and effective measures to improve women’s representation.

Design/methodology/approach

The systematic review method was applied. The search resulted in 51 relevant academic articles from multiple disciplines which were used for the analysis.

Findings

Barriers identified include gender stereotypes, bias in recruitment and promotion, devaluation of women, masculine and long-hours organizational culture, work-family issues and the lack of professional support. The interrelatedness of these barriers is analyzed by means of a conceptual framework.

Research limitations/implications

The adopted method requires the use of search engines and search terms and consequently relevant articles may have been overlooked. The study is geographically demarcated to Europe and, hence is only applicable to developing suitable and effective measures in a European context. More research is needed into which measures are appropriate and effective to overcome the barriers identified.

Practical implications

The insights can be used by companies to foster gender equality and by companies and governments to develop appropriate and effective measures to overcome these barriers.

Originality/value

This review contributes to the literature by uncovering the interrelatedness of the barriers. Understanding the interrelatedness is crucial for developing appropriate measures to overcome the barriers and ultimately to achieve gender equality at the corporate top.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Dr Sam Solaimani and Dr Ingrid Koning LL.M. for their provided feedback and Lucy Hooft-Balmer for the English editing. The authors gratefully acknowledge the insightful comments of the reviewers.

Citation

van ’t Foort-Diepeveen, R.A., Argyrou, A. and Lambooy, T. (2021), "Holistic and integrative review into the barriers to women’s advancement to the corporate top in Europe", Gender in Management, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 464-481. https://doi.org/10.1108/GM-02-2020-0058

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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