Problems of women’s leadership in RK: the expert announced preliminary results of the research

Jenifer Lewis, Associate Professor of Business Communications at Nazarbayev University, who is studying “gender barriers to career development faced by Kazakhstani women leaders”, announced the preliminary results of the scientific project.

For this purpose, the American expert applied the theory of U.S. researchers Amy Diehl and Leanne Dzyubinski, who in 2016 identified three types of levels of gender barriers – macro, meso, and micro.

Macro-level is:

  1. a) socio-cultural constraints on women’s choices (choice of education and career);
  2. b) gender stereotypes in society (oversimplified generalizations about women);

Meso-level is discrimination (indirect or explicit discrimination, obstacle based on gender);

Micro-level is a conflict between work and family responsibilities (lack of balance between work and family).

“As a gender communications instructor, I didn’t want to simply explain to my students what gender is and what its principles are. My intention is to explain, so that they can really apply this knowledge when they go to work for Kazakhstani companies. This is how my research interest started. After all, I have been living in Kazakhstan for more than 10 years, but I still don’t know what is inside these companies, as I work in a very international university. Therefore, the main goal of the project is to understand if there are any barriers that prevent women from holding, advancing, and promoting for managerial positions; if there are, then what they are. Defining the barriers will help to understand how and where to move forward,” explains Nazarbayev  University professor.

Preliminary data from interviews with middle and executive women leaders demonstrate that in Kazakhstan they face barriers at all of the above-mentioned levels.

Thus, at the macro level, women do not always have the opportunity to choose their own profession or educational program. In addition, they often face stereotypes of Soviet legacy, for example, that “all able-bodied women should work”.

At the meso-level, Kazakhstani women are often discriminated in terms of gender in the employment process. Unmarried and childless women between 20 and 30 years old are in a specific risk zone. Men for the same roles are in favor among recruiters, and they do not hide it. Moreover, based on gender the same amount of work is paid differently

Finally, at the micro-level, which implies the difficulty for women in trying to balance work and family responsibilities, it is women who are forced to choose their family. According to Lewis, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem because both husband and wife work remotely, but women are more likely to deal with their children.

“I think in two years we’ll see the results of this work from home where we have fewer women who have been promoted because they don’t have the work to show for it. Because they’ve had to deal with kids at home and it is impossible to do everything at once. And people are being promoted on the basis of the work that they do,” – said Professor Lewis.

At the same time, investigating the gender barriers at the micro-level, the scientist found an advantage for Kazakhstani women – the opportunity to leave children for parents’ upbringing, which, to some extent, helps Kazakhstani women to find a balance, not depriving themselves of a successful career to please their families.

It should be noted that the final results of the study by Professor Jennifer Lewis on “Gender barriers to career advancement faced by Kazakh women leaders” will be presented after the restoration of the epidemiological situation in the country.

Reference information:

The research work of Professors Amy Diehl (Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania) and Leanne Dzubinski (Biola University) is entitled “Making the Invisible Visible: A Cross-Sector Analysis of Gender-Based Leadership Barriers“.

Jenifer Lewis is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Business at Nazarbayev University. Brief biography and field of research.

For more information, please contact Nazarbayev University Press Office by e-mail at