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A cross-industry comparison of how women leaders experience gender bias

Amber L. Stephenson (Reh School of Business, Clarkson University, Schenectady, New York, USA)
Leanne M. Dzubinski (Cook School of Intercultural Studies, Biola University, La Mirada, California, USA)
Amy B. Diehl (Wilson College, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, USA)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 1 March 2022

Issue publication date: 20 February 2023




This paper compares how women leaders in four US industries–higher education, faith-based non-profits, healthcare and law–experience 15 aspects of gender bias.


This study used convergent mixed methods to collect data from 1,606 participants. It included quantitative assessment of a validated gender bias scale and qualitative content analysis of open-ended responses.


Results suggest that, while gender bias is prevalent in all four industries, differences exist. Participants in higher education experienced fewer aspects of gender bias than the other three industries related to male culture, exclusion, self-limited aspirations, lack of sponsorship and lack of acknowledgement. The faith-based sample reported the highest level of two-person career structure but the lowest levels of queen bee syndrome, workplace harassment and salary inequality. Healthcare tended towards the middle, reporting higher scores than one industry and lower than another while participants working in law experienced more gender bias than the other three industries pertaining to exclusion and workplace harassment. Healthcare and law were the two industries with the most similar experiences of bias.


This research contributes to human resource management (HRM) literature by advancing understanding of how 15 different gender bias variables manifest differently for women leaders in various industry contexts and by providing HRM leaders with practical steps to create equitable organizational cultures.



Stephenson, A.L., Dzubinski, L.M. and Diehl, A.B. (2023), "A cross-industry comparison of how women leaders experience gender bias", Personnel Review, Vol. 52 No. 1, pp. 145-165.



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