How the Glass Wall Can Hold Female Freelancers Back Academic Article uri icon


  • As freelance working structures become increasingly common, some have argued that this opportunity for women to escape the Glass Ceiling of corporate hierarchies may boost gender equity. However, the authors recent research suggests that freelancing comes with its own systemic barriers to equity. Specifically, freelance careers often benefit from horizontal role expansion into new domains, and the authors analyses found that women are perceived worse than men when attempting to make these sorts of career moves. This Glass Wall limits female freelancers ability to grow their careers, as when they attempt to shift into new, broader roles, they are perceived as having less agency, less competence, and less commitment to their careers than equivalent male freelancers. To address this, the authors offer strategies to help both female freelancers and organizations break down the Glass Wall and build more-equitable work structures while acknowledging that responsibility for combatting hiring bias falls squarely on the shoulders of those doing the hiring.

published proceedings

  • Harvard Business Review

author list (cited authors)

  • Lee, Y., Koval, C. Z., & Lee, S. S.

complete list of authors

  • Lee, Yonghoon||Koval, CZ||Lee, SS

publication date

  • April 2023