A report from Bain and Company explores frontline managers and their impact on women’s career aspirations. What the study brings to light is that a significant number of women have nearly the same story. At the start of their careers women are ambitious and confident. As they progress and attempt to work their way towards the C-suite they gradually begin to lose confidence. What’s the confidence killer? Well, that can partially be blamed on the lack of women in upper management to serve as examples as well as working for direct supervisors who are of little help.
All that ambition you’ve got… it’ll last about 2 years.
The study shows that 43% of women aspire to top management when they are in the first two years of their position, compared with 34% of men at that stage. Wow, look at how ambitious we are. It’s not surprising that fresh out of school we are bright eyed and bushy tailed. We’re equally confident as men. We aim for top management and are ready to kick ass and take names to get there.
Over time, women’s aspiration levels drop more than 60% while men’s stay the same. Among experienced employees (those with two or more years of experience), 34% of men are still aiming for the top, while only 16% of women are.
To be frank, the “It’s not me. It’s you.” statement above isn’t completely fair. Understandably, sometimes this drop off occurs as women get older and start putting more emphasis on marrying and having children. What’s interesting is that the study’s findings suggest that marital and parental status do not significantly differ for women who aspire and women who don’t. The picture improves only slightly for more senior female employees.
As far as education, the population of women seeking higher education continues to grow. Currently, women account for more than half of all college graduates and are earning approximately 40% of all MBAs. Yet our numbers at the top of the corporate hierarchy remain abysmal. Women number only a slim 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 17% of board members.
For women the confidence gap is real and not simply because we don’t believe in ourselves. We don’t believe in our leadership or our companies to make this issue a top priority. Women, just don’t believe they have an equal opportunity to advance. There are three critical areas that help incite this feeling of inequity: a clash with the stereotype of the ideal worker, a lack of supervisory support and too few role models in senior-level positions.
To sum it up, too many women believe their supervisors don’t know where they are in their career aspirations, aren’t supportive or don’t know what to say or do to support them. The end result is a decrease in employee engagement and loyalty and missed opportunities to develop female talent (all bad for business if you ask me).
To read more on the study and suggested remedies click here