Barsh, J., & Yee, L.
McKinsey Quarterly, September 2011
Area of focus: 
Unconscious Bias

This brief article is aimed at a business audience, and examines the invisible barriers holding women back. Structural barriers have largely been overcome through formal processes within companies, but women who leave companies in mid-career still refer to issues such as "politics" or "the organisation" in exit interviews, which may indicate unconscious bias and unhelpful mind-sets within the business.

Examples are provided of commonly occurring biases. The authors argue that companies must develop their own version of the business case, based on an assessment of the contribution and potential of women within the organisation, and that leaders must drive change after first evaluating their own mind-sets. Mind-sets are best combated with rigorous performance data, as well as comparing men's and women's answers to bottom-up staff surveys. The article includes a discussion of which sponsorship styles help and hinder women, and examples drawn from the experiences of US business leaders are provided throughout.