Institutional Bias’ Impact On Women Leaders

“The number of women in top leadership roles at Fortune 500 organizations has stagnated around 5% for many years, despite a host of programs and initiatives designed to facilitate the promotion of a new generation of women leaders. When you consider the fact that there is mounting empirical evidence that corporations display stronger financial performance with women in senior leadership roles, the fact that this number has remained relatively unchanged is puzzling. For instance, Fortune 1000 companies with a woman in the top role saw an average return of 103.4 percent over the women’s tenures, compared to an average 69.5 percent return for the S&P 500 stock index over the same periods. Hedge funds run by women had a 6 percent return between 2007 and 2013, beating both a global hedge fund index at the stock market. Numerous studies have also found that companies with women on their boards of directors perform better than male-only boards (source – Think Progress online, July 14, 2014).”

So, what’s going on?

One answer might be institutional bias, which is caused by systemic organizational procedures and practices (written or unwritten, subtle or overt) resulting in differential outcomes for members of different groups. For example, an HR Director responsible for hiring fire fighters could be completely free of individual bias, but may perpetuate institutional discrimination against women simply by adhering to the company’s minimum height requirements (process and procedures of the organization), which inadvertently promotes continuing bias against women.  More subtly, my good friend and colleague experienced this when she became a mother.  Once a mover and shaker, she was automatically given less prominent clients, post baby. Over time, she began to earn less in bonuses, worked with less visible clientele, ultimately creating fewer opportunities for promotions (based on her given portfolio).

Unfortunately, I’ve observed organizations address some of the symptoms of institutional bias rather than the real, underlying problems.  For example, many organizations have diversity & inclusion programs to address bias and discrimination by individuals. The problem is that bias occurs in various ways, not just through the practices of individuals.  Therefore, without reviewing and correcting the written and unwritten policies and procedures, women will continue to struggle for gender parity.

What’s your personal experience with institutional bias? What do you think can be done to address these issues within organizations?


Accelerated Talent Group is a Leadership Development and Executive Coaching firm dedicated to developing the leaders of today and tomorrow.  We specialize in developing and coaching women and emerging millennial leaders.

Have Goals But Don’t Know Where To Start? A Vision Board Can Help.

Visualizing what you really want in life can be one of the most powerful ways to manifest what you aspire to. Because a majority of us think in visual ways (pictures, textures, colors, even smells),  a vision board can be a very powerful tool in creating the life you want.

Vision boards are also known as goal maps, goal boards and treasure maps, and the concepts behind them have been used for generations. Still, they’re gathering renewed interest as people realize how powerful they can be in bringing goals to life.

Use these basic guidelines

A vision board begins with a foundation. This may be a poster board, foam board, tri-fold board, or cork board. Use what works best for you. Choose a foundation that speaks to you, one that you feel you can easily and effectively build upon.

A vision board includes imagery. You can clip pictures out of books, magazines, or the newspaper. If you prefer, you can draw the images yourself. What matters here is that images are present, because your vision board needs to be visual in nature. Seeing pictures of your priorities, aspirations, and goals will help you focus on them.

A vision board includes writing. Writing isn’t mandatory, but it can play a role in identifying the key pieces of information. You want to make sure that you can look at your vision board at any point in the future and know exactly what you intended by each picture, word or thought included on it.

Your goal map is limited only by the extent of your personal creativity. It may be simple and strategic or it may be a highly detailed work of art. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what best suits your needs.

General elements

Visual. Your subconscious tends to work in terms of images and pictures, and so your vision board should be as visual as you can possibly make it. Supplement the images with phrases and words as needed.

 Emotional. Every image on your goal map should evoke some type of positive emotional response out of you. Seeing it should fuel your motivation to achieve your goals.

Strategic. This tool should be placed strategically in a location where you receive maximum exposure to it. Seeing your vision board as often as possible will help you stay focused on your goals and plans.

 Personal. Your vision board needs to emit positive energy. If you think that you’ll be criticized or forced to justify yourself for your vision board, then keep it in a private location so nobody else can bother it or you.

Beyond these basic guidelines, let this tool be whatever you want to make of it. Ultimately, it’s yours to design, develop and utilize as you see fit. You can add to it and change it over time as your goals and focuses change.  The importance of engaging in an activity like this is to tap into the creative brain.  Research shows problems are almost always best solved through creative, outside-the-box thinking.  A vision board is a fun, creative way to explore what is really important to you, and clarify your true desires and goals.


Accelerated Talent Group is a Leadership Development and Executive Coaching firm dedicated to developing the leaders of today and tomorrow.  We specialize in developing and coaching women and emerging millennial leaders.