Bain & Company recently launched a study that asked more than 1,000 men and women in a mix of U.S. companies two questions: “Do you aspire to top management within a large company?” and “Do you have the confidence you can reach top management?”
Women with two years or less of work experience slightly led men in ambition. But for women who had more than two years on the job, aspiration and confidence plummeted 60% and nearly 50%, respectively. These declines came independent of marriage and motherhood status, and compared with much smaller changes for men, who experienced only a 10% dip in confidence.
When we asked more senior managers the same questions, the percentage rose for both genders, but women never regained the level of aspiration that newcomers had. It remained 60% lower than men, whose rates shot up. Most jarringly, the percentage of male more-senior managers who have confidence that they will reach top jobs is almost twice the percentage of female managers.
Why the dashed expectations? To start, the majority of leaders celebrated in a corporate newsletter or an offsite meeting tend to consist of men hailed for pulling all-nighters or for networking their way through the golf course to land the big account. If corporate recognition and rewards focus on those behaviors, women feel less able, let alone motivated to try, to make it to the top.
One woman recounted her firm’s recent management retreat: “Watching middle-aged white male after middle-age white male tell their war stories of sacrificing everything to close the sale was demoralizing, I just kept sinking lower in my chair and thinking that I would never be able to make it to the senior ranks if this was what it took.”
This culture is reflected in the answers to a second set of questions: “Do you see yourself fitting into the typical stereotypes of success within the company?” and “Have your supervisors been supportive of your career aspirations?” New workers of both genders had similar responses to the questions. But more experienced workers answered very differently. Women’s confidence that they matched the corporate ideal dropped by 15 percentage points, men’s by just 9 points. Women’s sense that their supervisors supported than career goals was 20 points lower; men’s was just 3 points lower.
Read the rest of the article here via Harvard Business Review.
Image by KENNETH ANDERSSON