Issues For Women’s Leadership Pathways In Large Organisations


  • Maria Williamson Ministry for Women
  • Ruth Wilkie



Women, Workplace, leadership pipeline, cultural changes


This paper proposes that work cultural changes are needed to increase opportunities for women to achieve at the highest level, and stop them from dropping out of the ‘leadership pipeline’. The research identifies three barriers to women continuing to advance their careers at the same rate as men. These barriers have been identified as:

  • unconscious bias against women taking up leadership roles – this can affect recruitment, assessment and development practices (both formal and informal) at every level within an organisation, and can make it more difficult for women to progress into senior leadership roles.
  • employer attitudes to breaks in employment (for example, for child-rearing), or a non-traditional career path (for example, community leadership or executive roles), can make it difficult for women to re-enter the mainstream workforce and to maintain an upward career trajectory.
  • lack of options for flexible work, or workplace culture which applies informal or formal penalties for using flexible work options, mean that women can stop progressing in their career, or leave the workforce altogether.

The evidence behind this analysis, and the solutions available including actions that have the most impact, are set out in two reports published by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs: Realising the opportunity: addressing New Zealand’s leadership pipeline by attracting and retaining talented women (2013); and Inspiring Action: action plans and research to help you attract and retain talented women (2014).


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