Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women on Business writer
We all know those dismal and annoying stats about women in business – we’re about half the workforce but only 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs, 15% of board of directors, and 13% of executive officers. It’s also true that women are making great strides and graduating with about half of the advance professional degrees, and that the “middle management” workforce is brimming with women. So, one would think that the future looks bright for more women at the top levels of business. That is, until they read the recent Catalyst report, “The Promise of Future Leadership: A Research Program on Highly Talented Employees in the Pipeline.”
Catalyst surveyed nearly 10,000 alumni who graduated from MBA programs internationally between 1996 and 2007 and found that “Among this highly talented group, women lag men in advancement and compensation from their very first professional jobs and are less satisfied with their careers overall.”
Surprised? I was, and wanted to give some thought to why this would be so. Here are some reasons I believe women aren’t making more progress:
- The male culture is so ingrained in the workforce that it will take a significant change for organizations to accommodate female talent. By companies taking small steps and adapting a few policies here and there, there just won’t be that critical mass of women to truly make cultures more gender neutral.
- Women place a higher value than men do on gratification in their work. I’ve seen over and over in research studies how important it is for women to feel that they are making an important contribution and are being recognized for their work. No matter what the monetary reward, women just don’t want to be in jobs they consider unfulfilling.
- In addition to psychic rewards, women want and need a reasonable work/life balance, and they are not happy unless they have one. My research shows that women factor this into their job decisions – it’s just part of our DNA. And it is frequently a deciding factor when choosing one job over another.
- Because men have ruled the business world for so many years, women often encounter barriers to their advancement in the form of exclusion and miscommunication. To make the push forward, women must be aware of behavioral traps and work on strategies to overcome these – and their organizations must help them.
It seems there’s some real work to do in order to push the women’s pipeline along – and it’s clearly in the interests of both the women and their companies for this to happen. Without it, an enormous talent pool of women is not being utilized to anyone’s best advantage.
What do you think about women’s progress? Please share!