Changing The Narrative on Why Women Aren’t Reaching the Top (Talent Quarterly)

By Rob Kaiser and Dr. Wanda Wallace


Everyone is talking about the challenges that women face in reaching the top of the corporate world. This is an important discussion because, despite considerable effort to increase their representation in upper management, we’ve made little progress. According to the research firm Catalyst, women comprised 11.2% of corporate officers in Fortune 500 companies in 1998; 15 years later that figure had nudged up to only 14.6%.


We have created a narrative on the gender agenda—a story we tell over and over about why it is important to achieve gender parity and what prevents it from happening. This narrative is popular, largely because it provides a tidy explanation for a messy problem by playing on common stereotypes about differences between women and men. But gender stereotypes do not apply very well to corporate managers. We need a new narrative, one that better represents reality and leads to solutions that will help competent women reach the top.


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