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Workplace Diversity and Challenges of Leadership Essay

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Updated: Jun 27th, 2020

Cultural and ethnic diversity in the European countries and the US is continually increasing, creating a need for a proper leadership channel that can handle this diversification (Love, 2010). Diversity is a driver of innovation since a diverse organization is expected to post 45 percent higher growth and a 70 percent chance of entering a new market (Hewlett, Marshall, & Sherbin, 2013). This paper discusses two articles on cultural diversity and gender diversity and its challenges to leadership.

Great Leaders Who Make the Mix Work

The first article reviewed is “Great Leaders Who Make the Mix Work,” published in Harvard Business Review. It discusses the interviews of 24 CEOs who have embraced diversification strategies in their organization (Groysberg & Connolly, 2013). The article aims to understand why diversity has become a priority for the CEOs of the companies, and the strategy they have undertaken to implement these goals (Groysberg & Connolly, 2013). The article also provides information regarding the implementation process and the prerequisite policy changes within the organization. The authors of the article point out that each leader had their way of approaching the issue of diversity within their organization. However, the importance of attaining diversification strategy within the organization was due to two broad reasons: (a) retaining competitiveness of the organizations after employing the diversity strategy and (b) morally, diversification of the organization is the right choice. Another reason for the organizations’ decision to embrace diversity is that it helps strengthen the company to meet the changing demands of a diverse customer base (Groysberg & Connolly, 2013).

The article is divided into three distinct parts. The first deals with the reason for diversity based on the personal experiences of the CEOs, which propelled the need to incorporate a diversification strategy. Second, it discusses the “persistent institutional barriers” that hinder the growth of diversity within organizations (Groysberg & Connolly, 2013, p. 71). Third, the article presents a section on the leadership style of women and examines if they have a different leadership style. The fourth section will discuss the inclusive culture and the organizational practices that make the culture inclusive.

The first section of the article presents the personal experiences of the CEOs. The CEOs belong to diverse ethnic, religious, and social backgrounds and are either men or women. The CEO of Avon is an Asian woman who points out that she was often the only Asian and a woman who sat with a masculine senior executives table, often faced the unnamed glass ceiling, and silently questioned about her authority as a woman and an Asian (Groysberg & Connolly, 2013). The CEO of MasterCard is an Indian Sikh named Ajay Banga, who faced a lot of inquiries and questioning after 9/11. Some other CEOs like Carlos Ghosn talked about the bias his mother faced as a girl child in her family and was unable to attend college even though she had the capability (Groysberg & Connolly, 2013). Some of the CEOs the authors interviewed were white males who had faced biasness and stereotyping because of their southern accent or some other problem. Hence, the article focuses on the need to develop a mode of functioning that would reduce the bias that people from the dissimilar background may face, to make the processes more just and efficient. Here the article points out that the 24 CEOs interviewed considered diversity as a “personal mission” and not as an “initiative that could be delegated” (Groysberg & Connolly, 2013, p. 71).

The presence of a continuous barrier to stop diversification from materializing poses a serious problem for the process of inclusion within organizations. The article points out that the “CEOs were generally disappointed with the lack of progress on diversity” (Groysberg & Connolly, 2013, p. 71). The lack of diversity in the corporate world can be exemplified by the lack of female CEOs (only 4 percent in 2013) in the Fortune 500 list of companies (Groysberg & Connolly, 2013). Further, there are other disparities in the senior level of the management of the companies. When the CEOs were asked as to the important reasons, according to them, for the glass ceiling in the organizations stopping women from assuming leadership roles, they replied that the inaccessibility of women leaders in the informal conversations and groupings that the male executives enjoy becomes a crucial barrier to their advancement in leadership roles.

The CEO of McDonald’s explains this “mechanism as “social cliquishness, “a pattern of interaction in which men seek out the company of other men and ignore women”(Groysberg & Connolly, 2013, p. 71). Hence, the glass ceiling does not work officially within the structure of the organization but through a process of informal networking of male colleagues where the women seldom get entry. An African-American male CEO points out that the strongest discrimination that is present in the corporate world is not based on race but gender. The male CEOs confirmed the neglect of female executives and their decision-making capability present in organizations (Groysberg & Connolly, 2013). The article further talks about the necessity of an inclusive culture and how corporates can become more inclusive.

I believe the article is a representation of the discrimination issues that employees face as they move up the chain of command. The issues with the difference in race, ethnicity, or gender become more acute as the employees move up the ladder and start assuming a leadership role. Gender bias is found to be stronger in organizations than bias due to any other form of otherness. The article, I believe, presents a strong argument against gender bias in organizations, especially when women start assuming leadership roles. The presence of a glass ceiling that stops people from other races, ethnic background and gender become leaders poses a serious problem for inclusive culture within the organization and creates a homogenous culture that cannot expand its thought process and thwarts innovation (Hewlett, Marshall, & Sherbin, 2013).

Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers

The second article discussed in the paper is “Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers,” published in Harvard Business Review. Ibarra, Ely, and Kolb (2013) argue that persistent gender bias within organizations is capable of creating a disrupted organization. They aim to identify the issues and provide a solution as to how a morally and psychologically broken woman executive can be trained to become the leader of the organization.

The authors argue that in the case of women, they seldom receive the opportunity to visualize themselves as leaders and are often “seen by others as a leader” (Ibarra, Ely, & Kolb, 2013, p. 62). This unique problem poses a great demotivating factor for the women executives who are left behind in the process of acquiring new skills to become a leader. They argue that to become a leader, it requires a “fundamental identity shift” which the women executives do not and often, not encouraged doing (Ibarra, Ely, & Kolb, 2013, p. 62). The article narrates the story of the process of developing a female leader to demonstrate how normal executives become a leader. They argue that the process entails “internalizing a leadership identity and developing a sense of purpose” (Ibarra, Ely, & Kolb, 2013, p. 62). The person selected to become a leader shows assertive actions in meeting and decision-making situations, thus, helping in reviving latent projects or stopping an ineffective process. Hence, as an executive show more leadership orientation, high-profile projects and assignments are automatically allocated to him/her, thus paving the path towards leadership.

The story that the authors recount is of a female executive whose career reached a stagnation when she was in her thirties because she was assumed to be nonexistent in front of the clients (Ibarra, Ely, & Kolb, 2013). However, her presence in meetings significantly improved when she worked for two female CFOs who were women. Once, she received positive and responsive appreciation from her clients, this female executive’s career started to progress and increased her credibility within her firm. This situation greatly enhanced Amanda’s confidence, and hence her “meek” nature changed to a professional assertiveness. Thus, to encourage an executive to become an effective leader, her goals must align with her values (Ibarra, Ely, & Kolb, 2013). However, the article notes that integrating leadership qualities within her character may become a problem for women executives, as they have to work in a corporate culture that is conflicted with the idea of women exercising authority.

They argue that the corporate system is arranged in such a way that shows women executives as inadequate candidates for leadership roles. The authors feel that to change the ingrained misconception regarding female leaders. It is essential to educate everyone about the “second-generation gender bias,” which shows that women, though victims of gender bias, are unaware of the situations when they have been discriminated against. The authors believe that the presence of second-generation gender bias as the primary reason for the “underrepresentation of women in leadership roles” (Ibarra, Ely, & Kolb, 2013, p. 64).

I believe that the article’s presentation of gender bias in today’s workplace is an accurate picture. The gender bias that women today face is not in terms of the job they or sexual harassment or even a glass ceiling that does not allow the women to climb up. In many cases, women themselves feel inadequate as leaders and are unaware they are discriminated against in the workplace. This feeling of equality among today’s women is infused through a systematic arrangement of structure and culture that helps women to progress only as far as the male authorities believe is adequate. The absence of a female support system and the lack of encouragement from the present and mostly male-dominated leadership breaks the confidence of women to assume leadership roles.


Both articles talk about discrimination and the process of how this can be solved. The first presents the necessity for an inclusive organization that would enable the assimilation of a diversified workforce. The second presents the picture of gender bias embedded within the structure and culture of the organization that prevents women from assuming leadership roles. I believe both the articles present an accurate picture of the bias that is systematically infused within the organization and cannot be discerned from outside.


Groysberg, B., & Connolly, K. (2013, September). Great Leaders Who Make the Mix Work. Harvard Business Review, pp. 68-76.

Hewlett, S. A., Marshall, M., & Sherbin, L. (2013, December). How Diversity Can Drive Innovation. Harvard Business Review, p. 30.

Ibarra, H., Ely, R., & Kolb, D. (2013, September). Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers. Harvard Business Review, pp. 60-67.

Love, A. (2010, May 18). Diversity as a Strategic Advantage. BusinessWeek, p. 11.

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