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Over the course of six months, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s class “Women, Law, and Leadership” interviewed 55 women between the ages of 25 and 85, all leaders in their respective fields. Nearly half of the women interviewed were women of color, and 10 of the women lived and worked in countries other than the U.S., spanning across Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Threading together the common themes touched upon in these conversations, we gleaned a number of novel insights, distinguishing the leadership trajectories pursued by women who have risen to the heights of their professions. Through thousands of hours of conversation with some of the world’s most influential and powerful women, this study identifies the primary barriers and biases faced by women of diverse backgrounds in the workplace, as well as the strategies and philosophies they adopted in order to overcome these impediments. While there is much commonality among the women’s experiences, women of color often face more pervasive and subtle barriers than their white counterparts. Their leadership strategies on how to address these insidious challenges, however, are rarely recorded. In this article, we give voice to these experiences.


Women & leadership, sex/gender discrimination in employment, promotion, inequality, empirical cross-cultural studies, comparative law & politics, race, intersectionality

Publication Title

Virginia Journal of Social Policy & Law

Publication Citation

27 Va. J. Soc. Pol'y & L. 193 (2020)