Companies Drain Women’s Ambition After Only 2 Years


Here’s a recent blurb from a recent Harvard Business Review article:

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.

The authors, both partners from Bain, suggest that the problem may be that in many organizations, recognition is often given to those who are willing to sacrifice everything to accomplish the firm’s goals. Women felt that they did not match such a corporate definition of success compared to men. In addition, women were more likely to feel that their supervisor did not support their career goals.

In essence, women felt like they were not getting the encouragement, the positive affirmations, that are necessary for success, compared to men.

That’s unfortunate in many ways, but here are two simple reasons firms may want to work on resolving this issue.

First, firms are missing out on the value that highly talented women could bring to their organizations.

Second, behaviors such as positive affirmations, encouragement, and recognition for a job well done are low cost and low risk, yet have a potentially high return.

And that’s the type of investment any business should be happy to make.

Keep leaning in

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