Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders

Book_JacketBy Alice Eagly
and Linda Carli

Now, more than ever, women have gained access to high-level leadership positions. The “glass ceiling,” that perplexing barrier that once excluded women from the top, has finally shattered. But women in powerful roles are still rare, and in Through the Labyrinth, Alice Eagly and Linda Carli explain why. They also describe what needs to be done to give women better access to authority in the workplace. The book explores such questions as: Are men simply better, more natural leaders? Are women’s careers compromised by their responsibilities at home? Does discrimination against women still exist in the workplace? Do organizational traditions and practices create obstacles to women’s leadership? And do women have leadership styles that work for or against them? At the heart of the analysis is the metaphor they propose to replace the outdated idea of the glass ceiling: the labyrinth. This new concept better captures the varied challenges that women face as they navigate indirect, complex, and often discontinuous paths toward leadership. Eagly and Carli ground their conclusions in scientific research from psychology, economics, sociology, and management. Steadfastly resisting the temptation to provide simplistic boilerplate assessments and advice, Through the Labyrinth is also packed with engaging case studies and personal anecdotes drawn from media accounts and memoirs to illustrate the principles emerging from that research.

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Chapter 9: Do Organizations Compromise Women's Leadership

Most Leaders are Men. Predictably, people think about leadership mainly in masculine terms. These mental associations about leadership not only shape stereotypes about leaders but also influence organizational norms and practices. As managers follow precedents set by their colleagues, informal norms develop, consensus emerges about what is appropriate, and guidelines become hardened into bureaucratic rules. Over time, organizational leadership inevitably has come to embody the preferences, lifestyles, and responsibilities of the men who usually have held these leadership roles.1 In this chapter, we demonstrate that many of these organizational traditions disadvantage women.

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Author_PhotoAlice Eagly is Professor and Department Chair of Psychology at Northwestern University. Eagly has published widely on the psychology of attitudes, especially attitude change, attitude structure, and attitudinal selectivity in information processing. She is equally devoted to the study of gender, with a focus on the social behavior of women and men and a special emphasis on the study of leadership and on evolutionary issues. She has authored or edited several books and is also the author of over 130 journal articles and chapters in edited volumes. Eagly has received numerous distinguished awards for her work and has held several leadership positions in psychology including, among others, President of the Midwestern Psychological Association, and President of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology. Eagly received her M.A. in Psychology in 1963 and Ph.D. in Social Psychology in 1965, both from the University of Michigan.

Linda Carli received her Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she studied gender differences in interaction and influence. She has published and presented papers on the effects of gender on group interaction, communication and influence; leadership; and reactions to adversity and victimization. She joined the faculty at Wellesley in 1991 and teaches a variety of courses, including organizational psychology, the psychology of law, and research in applied psychology. Active in professional organizations in psychology and management, she serves on the Executive Board of the Association of Women in Psychology. In addition to her teaching and research, she has developed and conducted diversity training workshops and negotiation and conflict resolution workshops for women leaders and has lectured on gender and diversity for business, academic, and other organizations.

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