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Damned If You Do, Doomed If You Don’t

A new study reveals the specific ways women are kept from advancing at work. The title of the study, released by Catalyst, the 45-year-old organization focused on expanding women’s opportunities in business and the professions, gives you a big clue about the findings: “The Double-Bind Dilemma for Women in Leadership: Damned If You Do, Doomed If You Don’t.” (at

There are three chief double-binds to watch out for. “Extreme perceptions,” whereby women are never seen as getting it “just right”; we’re either too tough or too soft. Sound familiar? “High competence threshold/lower rewards”––in which women have to work harder than men to prove they’re capable, and then get paid less than their male peers anyway. “Competent but disliked” is a real winner: women who clearly demonstrate leadership skills (assertiveness, for example) are not well liked.

Similar to the work of Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community (, headed by Shifra Bronznick, which helps Jewish organizations make better use of the female talent pool, Catalyst puts forth ways its research can help businesses re-train their executives to understand and avoid their prejudicial perceptions of women in leadership. “When companies fail to acknowledge and address the impact of gender stereotypic bias, they lose out on top female talent,” said Catalyst President Ilene H. Lang.