For decades, organisations have been trying to improve diversity in the workplace, albeit with little success. Despite the fact that studies and business cases show that it is desirable and beneficial to have women in top positions in organisations, in Portugal, as in the rest of the world, there is still a marked under-representation of women in decision-making and leadership positions in organisations.

hen you look at the numbers, you can see that women work longer hours than men, receive wages that are on average 18% lower and have fewer opportunities for career progression. According to the World Economic Forum's 2017 "Global Gender GAP Report", Portugal is in 33rd place for gender (un)equality in a total of 144 countries. This report also reveals that it will take 217 years until parity between men and women is a reality in the world.

We then ask ourselves, "Why are there so few women in leadership positions?"

A simplistic way to "fix" this issue would be to say that there are probably not enough educated women to perform such functions. However, such an argument falls apart when we see that the majority of people who finish their graduate or post-graduate studies are precisely women.

It is not a question of the existence of qualified female candidates, but probably of whether they are perceived as qualified or not.

Research on women's leadership has shown that this issue is related to biases that go far beyond sexism or prejudice, and which have implications for organisational practices and everyone's experiences of their work.  

When analysing the processes of selection, development or performance evaluation in organisations, studies indicate that the "homogeneity" in companies is due to an implicit cognitive bias which, even in the absence of economic incentive, seems to condition our decisions and lead to favouring the male gender.

It is therefore essential to train people about these biases so that fairer organisational processes can be created and, at the same time, to empower women with strategies to recognise and deal with these biases.  

Much has been said and written about women's leadership but, in my opinion, not always with the most appropriate tone or emotions. In fact, in many speeches the facts and arguments are lost in a tangle of anger, bitterness and rancour. I would say that we cannot, nor should we, replace one extreme for another and that the position against prejudice cannot be in itself prejudiced. However, we must recognise that gender inequality persists (gets worse?) and it is an economic, and above all a moral imperative to adopt concrete, serious and consistent measures so that we do not have to wait two centuries until men and women are treated fairly in the world of work.

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