Women have just as much drive to climb the corporate ladder as men do, new research shows.
A study by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. discovered that women's career ambitions are just as high as those of their male peers. Specifically, 79 percent of all midlevel or senior-level women say they have the desire to reach a top management position over the course of their careers compared with 81 percent of men in similar jobs.
Additionally, female senior executives who are one step away from the C-suite are more likely than men to strongly agree that they have top management ambitions and want to advance in their organizations.
The research shows women are also ready to do what it takes to achieve more success. Nearly two-thirds of the female executives surveyed are willing to sacrifice part of their personal lives to reach a top management position. In addition, three-quarters of women — a slightly higher share than men — say they promote themselves and communicate their ambitions to direct supervisors and others at the top, while 45 percent of women say they have asked for promotions.
Despite those efforts, female executives are much less certain then men that they will actually reach the top. Just 69 percent of the midlevel or senior women surveyed are confident they will reach a top management position compared with 83 percent of their male peers.
The study discovered that corporate culture is what's holding many women back from reaching high-level positions. While three-quarters of men agree that diverse leadership teams with significant numbers of women generate better company performance, fewer recognize the corporate challenges that women face. Specifically, just 19 percent of the men surveyed strongly agree that reaching top management is harder for women, and they are almost six times more likely than women to disagree that it harder for them land a top job.
Current views on female leadership also pose a challenge, the research found. While nearly all male and female executives believe women can lead just as effectively as men, the men surveyed are not as strongly convinced
"The results also suggest a lack of diversity in leadership styles: almost 40 percent of female respondents believe their leadership and communication styles don't fit with the prevailing habits required to be effective top managers where they work," the study's authors wrote.
Women trying to become top leaders in the workplace also aren't getting the same support on the home front as men are. The research found that 89 percent of male senior managers say their partners or spouses support their career advancement and help them manage work and family life, while just 71 percent of senior-level females feel the same.
To help women move up the corporate ladder quicker, those surveyed believe it will take both a strong CEO and top management commitment and a corporate culture and mind-set that support gender-diversity objectives.
"To implement the ecosystem approach that diversity-friendly culture and mind-sets can reinforce, a key is increasing the inclusiveness of gender-diversity programs," the study's authors wrote. "For many respondents' organizations, there is a clear need to engage male executives, given that men are notably less likely than women to see value in diversity initiatives, less aware of the challenges women face, and more likely to think that too many measures that support women are unfair to men."
Researchers said some specific steps businesses can take include:
Increase male sponsorship: One specific way to include more men while generating more support is through sponsorship. Professional women tend to lack effective sponsors who advocate for them and make sure they have access to all possible opportunities — a disadvantage that could lead to more women dropping out of the pipeline before they reach top management. Therefore, including more men not only as mentors but also as true sponsorscould provide greater support for women and engage more men on the diversity agenda.
- Diversify performance models: Another way companies can make diversity programs more inclusive is by evolving performance and leadership models so they are gender-neutral (that is, so they offset the negative impact of maternity leave and work flexibility on career tracks). They can also use evaluation criteria that value a wide range of leadership habits and techniques. Beyond the implementation of specific measures to recruit, retain, promote and develop women, companies need to create a corporate culture that welcomes various leadership styles.
The study was based on surveys of more than 1,400 managers from a wide range of companies worldwide.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.