With far fewer women than men reaching senior management and leadership positions we set out to explore the hurdles women face along their career path. Our report identifies the factors that contribute to the "glass ceiling" many women managers encounter.
What we found
Compared to their male counterparts, women managers tend to lack self-belief and confidence, which leads to a cautious approach to career opportunities. Climbing the career ladder is notoriously competitive, and women’s hesitation in applying for more challenging roles inevitably puts them at a disadvantage.
The career ambitions of women managers lag behind those of men. In general, women set their sights lower than men do, and are more likely to limit their ambitions to more junior ranks of management. Fewer women than men expect to reach a general manager or director level by the end of their careers.
Despite significant differences elsewhere, we found there was no gap in satisfaction between male and female managers. When it comes to management careers, women tend to aim lower and settle for less than male colleagues with the same skills and experience.
If legislation is required to addreess the current imbalance then it may prove divisive, as the majority of men are no in favour of quotas. If organisations want to avoid the imposition of external targets or quotas, they need to act decisively. In order to preclude the need for external regulations, organisations should take the lead voluntarily and set transparent, self-imposed targets for female representation at board and senior executive levels.
Men and women enjoy equal access to training and development, which suggests employers have an opportunity to address gender imbalance by tailoring training to the differing needs of male and female managers. Coaching and mentoring, in particular, offer highly effective ways of addressing women’s lower confidence and ambition, and encouraging them to realise their leadership potential.
Links and resources
- Insight: building female talent
- Insight: Ambition and gender - key findings
- Ambition and gender at work - video