Book Insights: Glass Half-Broken by Colleen Ammerman and Boris Groysberg

glass half broken

Even though gender equality in the workplace is now an open topic, it does not mean that perfect progress has been made; rather, workplaces still have many issues to overcome, whether these are reflected in compensation or the social atmospheres of the office. Yes, the gender pay gap is the most obvious, visible problem, but gender equality in modern business stretches to communications, company policies, and how hiring decisions are made. In their new book Glass Half-Broken: Shattering the Barriers That Still Hold Women Back at Work, Colleen Ammerman and Boris Groysberg examine these issues, why they’re still prevalent even with the progress that has been made, and offer tips on how business environments can truly become places where women thrive.

Now is the Time for Gender Equality

As with much of the business world, the COVID-19 pandemic has had negative impacts on the strides that need to be made. According to a recent McKinsey study, women’s representation in the workplace had shown promising upward trends, but the pandemic has caused numerous setbacks, especially for women of color.

Where can companies go from here? Changes are necessary in all aspect of the corporate world, but not just in hiring. Employers need to assess their language, their mentoring and advancement programs, and the actions and mindsets of their current male executives, who still make up a disproportionate number of leadership positions. But how can they start?

Glass Half Broken is more than just a look at the history of women in the executive world, but rather, an essential guide for companies who need to institute changes in their outlook and development of women leaders. Ammerman and Groysberg provide concrete steps and ideas to help organizations reassess how they advance women and create a welcoming, inclusive space for all.

Takeaways From Glass Half-Broken

Ammerman and Groysberg use the book not only to highlight the financial and social strides that need to be made in the modern workplace, but to actively outline the steps companies and executives should take to make sure they’re creating equal environments free from gender stereotypes and assumptions.

These tips include topics such as gendered language used in company communications and job postings, creating more mentorship opportunities for women executives, and a look at how even supposedly harmless/easily and overlooked biases can create divisions and disparity among men and women executives and applicants.

Most importantly, as Groysberg notes, diversity and equality have direct positive effects on morale, productivity, and global markets. Women executives know which companies are on the forefront of active change in hiring and promoting women, and men in leadership roles need to be more focused and engaged in creating more equal environments and understanding how their choices, even subtle ones, can create positive change in the modern workplace.

Glass Half-Broken isn’t just a sociological examination of gender inequality, but also a guidebook for modern executives, with ideas and notes for how to implement progressive changes to make sure women are in more leadership positions, and how male executives can mentor women for advancement and work on eliminating assumptions and biases.

The necessary changes needed to ensure women are equally represented in an organization won’t happen overnight, especially when biases and divisions, even when not intentionally harmful, can set back what seems to be progress already made. And most importantly, there’s no shame in companies or male executives to admit they need to rethink their programs and policies for the better. Using Glass Half-Broken as a guide, current leaders can begin outlining and reinventing their focus on women leaders.

Most importantly, Glass Half-Broken highlights what might be an uncomfortable truth. For modern companies to fully succeed, they need to ensure diversity as part of their mission. Successful organizations engage and represent the world around them, and any organization that relies on outdated ways of hiring and representation will undoubtedly suffer in the long run.

About the Authors

Colleen Ammerman is the director of Gender Initiative at Harvard Business School, leading hands-on research in equality, diversity, and inclusion in modern companies and organizations.

Boris Groysberg teaches talent management and leadership courses in Harvard University’s MBA and Executive Education departments. He is a contributor to Harvard Business Review and the author of Chasing Stars: The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance.


About the Author

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