Resilience: Women’s Fit, Functioning and Growth at Work: Indicators and Predictors

A meta-analysis of 103 studies, including 46 studies conducted in male-dominated work environments and 57 in general work environments, identified eight indicators across three levels of fit (work attitudes, sexism and sexual harassment), functioning (hiring and retention, health and performance) and growth (managerial level and compensation level).

This study was one of the four core programs undertaken as part of the Gender Equality Project and was published in July 2012. It was completed while the CEL was located at Melbourne Business School, and as such some of the periphery information regarding the CEL (such as contact details) may have since changed.

A briefing note of this study is available here.

Executive Summary

Considering the many reported benefits of greater gender diversity, the persistent under-representation of women in leadership roles represents a significant set of lost opportunities for companies and nations. Existing strategies for increasing the numbers of women in leadership roles appear to have peaked in their impacts. In the current report we analyse indicators that are typically considered when assessing gender diversity strategies and then analyse the personal and organisational factors that predict these different outcomes. The use of these indicators and the related predictors provides an evidence-based approach, supported by results from multiple studies, for improving the effectiveness of gender diversity strategies.

A meta-analysis of 103 studies, including 46 studies conducted in male-dominated work environments and 57 in general work environments, identified eight indicators across three levels of fit (work attitudes, sexism and sexual harassment), functioning (hiring and retention, health and performance) and growth (managerial level and compensation level). The analysis also identified the strongest and most robust predictors of each indicator, which formed the evidence base for the following recommendations for organisations:

  1. Conduct periodic audits of the fit, functioning and growth indicators shown in Figure 1 of this report.
  2. Target the protective and risk factors that are the strongest and most robust predictors of the specific fit, functioning and growth indicators with the most significant shortfalls.
  3. Ensure clear and consistent expectations for equality of treatment and opportunity are communicated through formal systems and processes and cultural activities and provide feedback on how actual work practices match expectations.
  4. Target low-level sexism through a range of strategies, such as a “no just joking” policy.
  5. Introduce a range of strategies for improving the performance of women through reduced sexism, and increasing the control women have over their work lives, particularly women in middle management roles, through delegation, project based tasks and flexible work.

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