The authors of a new study on why so few women are entering the ranks of senior management were interviewed on CNN Monday night. Susan Cabrera, a Ph.D. student in management and organizations, and Melissa Thomas-Hunt, an assistant professor of management and organizations, both at the Johnson School at Cornell University, talked about the subtle but persistent gender biases that can hinder a woman’s progress up the corporate ladder.

Then there are the not-so-subtle biases. Chris Cole, an executive headhunter, was blunt in his assessment: "It’s a very male-dominated society. And so a woman in the boardroom just doesn’t have the same gravitas that a man does," said Cole. "The female voice is very, very important. It’s just not — we’re just not there yet. And I hope we get there, but we’re not there yet."

The segment was brief (and you’ll have to scroll almost to the bottom of the transcript to read it), but afterward we looked up the study, "Risky Business." It’s not available online in full, but Cornell has provided a summary. The theoretical model, according to the university, explores "how what may appear to be inconsequential gender biases in hiring and promotion decisions can accumulate across careers to create glaring differences in the number of men and women in leadership positions."

Drawing on empirical research, the authors make a number of interesting observations about hiring decisions that lead up to this:

The combined effect of even small doubts about women’s competence, congruence, commitment, and credibility often results in conclusions that women are simply less qualified, causing female candidates to be perceived as riskier hires than male candidates, and in turn, making them less likely to be hired than male candidates.

How less likely? Catalyst just released new projections [PDF] showing that if the current rate of so-called progress continues, it would take 47 years for women to achieve parity with men as corporate officers of Fortune 500 companies — and 73 years to reach parity in the boardrooms.

In its 2006 report [PDF], Catalyst reminded us of what’s at stake — not only for women, but for overall economic growth:

The economic impact of diversity in leadership has become increasingly evident as U.S. businesses expand into new markets, cultures, and workforces across the United States and around the world. According to prior Catalyst research, Fortune 500 companies with the highest percentages of women corporate officers yielded, on average, a 35.1 percent higher return on equity and 34.0 percent higher total return to shareholders than those with the lowest percentages of women corporate officers.

"Leading by example, CEOs and upper management can effect tremendous change. The first step is to recognize the strategic business case for diversity and inclusion so that everyone grasps the opportunity and understands what’s at stake," said Ilene H. Lang, president of Catalyst. "Companies that proactively and successfully harness all their talent will sustain significant advantages over competitors that don’t."

It’s again worth pointing to this recent Washington Post story, which looks at four companies that are making real — and successful — efforts to recruit and retain women.

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