(Observations in the "Presumed Innocent" series)
Perhaps part of the imbalance of participation across genders and cultures is due to the communicative skills and signals which are part of our perceptions of what is, and what is not “acceptable” as visible response to rational, emotional, or physical interactions. This may have lasting effects upon the choices we make and the success we may attain, throughout our lives—not only from our perspective, but from the perceptions of those other groups of people with whom we interact.
If group X is taught from infancy to be deferential, that differences of opinion, differences of expression, differences in choice of action and career are “inappropriate” or even forbidden to them (and to the generalized “members” of their group), and group X sees that groups Y, Z, B (etc) are taught and/or treated differently, then members of group X may be less likely to choose certain career paths. Moreover, if choosing against the cultural bias with which they have been imbued, they may be less confident of the likelihood of their own success, and their dissent may be viewed as rebellion, or as misguided (by those confident that they are better aware of what is needed). In some cultures (or sub-cultures within even such “developed” nations as the United States) dissent is not tolerated to the extent that “perpetrators” are excluded, outcast, exposed to physical or even fatal punishment.
Similarly, members of groups Y, Z, B (etc) may feel a greater sense of appropriateness (“good fit”), of duty, of privilege, when choosing certain career paths, due to the intellectual, emotional, and social training and circumstances of their childhood and early maturation. The confidence with which they approach situations and people is markedly different—and the acceptance with which dissenters, those who choose different paths, are treated may be different as well—their divergent paths being hailed as independence, as further evidence of confidence and ability to succeed “against all odds.”
Gender, color, date of birth, religion, affiliation—we learn about these from our earliest memories among family, neighborhood, and locality. We learn about these through the experiences and education of childhood, through the opportunities or disappointments of youth… the most-favord groups of names, colors, cultures may change around the globe, but the patterns of differentiation and acceptance, discrimination and inclusion based upon proximity do not seem to vary widely.
Barriers to success may be more than networking opportunities extended or denied to adults.