Four Barriers We’d LOVE to Bust!

February 13, 2014What do Catalyst staffers want for Valentine’s Day? Forget about chocolate and flowers! For us, the best gift would be a workforce where women around the world can contribute fully, get paid equitably, and have the same opportunities as men to lead.

To get there, we have to continue our efforts to shatter glass ceilings and eradicate the sticky floors and closed doors that face women and girls of the world at all stages of their lives and careers. That means driving change for women, families, communities, and companies globally. We asked some of our Catalyst experts which barriers they’d most love to bust right now.

Allyson Zimmermann

Senior Director

Catalyst Europe AG

The “Think Leader, Think Male” Barrier

While we know that gravitas and executive presence are important in a leader, sometimes I feel there is too much emphasis (possibly unconscious) on these attributes, which can perpetuate the stereotype of what a leader should look like. Talent comes in all shapes and sizes, styles, abilities, and skills, and the more we tap into individual strengths and uniqueness, the more we can demonstrate that possessing a Y chromosome is not required for being a respected leader. Maybe we should leave behind our fixation on “gravitas” and move on to “authentitas.”  Cheesy, I know…but just imagine if being authentic were the metric?


Jan Combopiano

Vice President & Chief Knowledge Officer, Catalyst

The Goldilocks Barrier

Why are women labeled as “too this” or “too that,” when those same behaviors in a man would be accepted and even rewarded? Women are expected to be nice—but if they’re too nice they aren’t considered leadership material. Leaders are expected to be decisive—but decisive women are often called a bully or a b*tch. It’s time to start calling attention to these biases. The next time you notice a woman colleague being judged for behavior that would go unnoticed in a man, ask the person “Would you have reacted that way if a man did what she just did?”


Michael J. Chamberlain

Vice President, Brand Management, Catalyst

The “Otherness” Barrier

I’d like to see companies show employees that their “otherness” is an asset.  Let’s create a sense of belonging by making “others” feel valued for their differences, rather than uncomfortably conscious of them, and putting programs into place to make sure that they have equal access to sponsors and hot jobs. We need to engage men and women in making workplaces more inclusive for everyone, so that “other” becomes “another.”   


Sandra Ondraschek-Norris

Director, Catalyst Europe AG

The Seriousness Barrier

I’d like to start a “Lighten Up” movement—it could be the new “Lean In!” I want to see more fun and less fear in the workplace. I think workplaces and leaders should encourage humor and lightheartedness and joy and playfulness and positivity. In a relaxed, positive atmosphere people are likely to be more productive, creative, and real—and thus much more likely to accept and value difference/diversity. When the office feels like a safe place, people can be themselves—and do their best work.

What barrier would you like to bust in the workplace? Tell us in the comment space below.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.