Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported on a new study into women in the workplace by McKinsey and LeanIn.org, which complicates the conventional wisdom regarding why so few women make it to the top levels of executive management:
Roughly equal numbers of men and women say they want to be promoted—78% and 75%, respectively. But as men’s desire for big jobs intensifies in the course of their careers, only 43% of women said they want to be a top executive, compared with 53% of men. Perhaps most startling, 25% of women feel their gender has hindered their progress, a perception that grows more acute once women reach senior levels. Overall, just over a quarter of female survey respondents say that their organization is a meritocracy. Women certainly face a steeper path to the top than men do, making up just 17% of the population of the executive suite, the end result of promotion patterns that favor men at every level. And attrition isn’t the issue, the study found—women are less likely than men to leave their companies, particularly once they reach the senior and executive levels.
In the end, according to the survey, women are 15% less likely than men to be promoted to the next level—and at the current pace, it will be more than a century before there is gender equality in the C-suite.
Another key finding is that while 74% of the 118 companies covered by the report say gender diversity is a priority for their CEO, fewer than half of the 30,000 surveyed employees agreed. Also, while 86% of men said women had as many or more opportunities than they did, only 57% of women said the same. In addition, the study looked into why women are less likely than their male peers to land in the C-suite and found that while most women start their corporate careers in executive-track line roles, by the time they reach the VP level, they are mostly in staff positions. Women are also still less likely than men to aspire to top-level executive positions, citing the stress and pressure associated with these roles as their main reason for declining to pursue them. Contrary to conventional wisdom, women with children were actually 15% more likely than their childless peers to want the top job.
You can read the full report here.