When it comes to business, are women and men more alike than we thought?
Yes and no, according to a study by Catalyst, a nonprofit research and advisory group that strives to advance women in business.
The latest report from the group, Women and Men in U.S. Corporate Leadership: Same Workplace Different Realities?, sheds some light on how men and women differ — and how they're alike — in their career aspirations.
While Catalyst previously studied the attitudes and experiences of executive women at the highest levels of corporate America, the group decided this time to compare those attitudes and experiences with those of men executives to assess the impact of gender on work lives and attitudes.
A summary of the group's findings noted that while women hold half of all managerial and specialty positions in the Unites States, they hold only 15.7 percent of corporate officer positions in the Fortune 500, an even smaller percentage of board directorships, less than 8 percent of the highest Fortune 500 titles, and, they represent an even smaller proportion of top earners.
The study revealed a number of commonly offered reasons as to why the number of women at the top is so low: Women don't want to serve in leadership roles, or they do, but other demands force them to opt out. Women don't have what it takes to get there, or they do, but barriers still stand in their way.
The Catalyst study sheds some light on those speculations.
In fact, Catalyst reported that women and men are equal in their desire to reach the corner office. And, women who have children living with them, are just as likely to aspire to the chief executive post as those who don't. Women and men also reported similar levels of job satisfaction. They have similar strategies for advancing in their careers — hard work, managerial skills, performing on high-visibility assignments and demonstrating expertise. And Catalyst found that men and women reported similar reasons as to why they would leave their companies —to make more money and to gain new skills and greater advancement opportunities.
But it looks as though that may be where the similarities end.
While men and women both face barriers to their advancement in the corporate world, Catalyst said that as they advance to senior levels, women confront additional and more pervasive culturally related barriers that most men don't experience.
Nearly half of women surveyed (46 percent) agreed that exclusion from informal networks and gender-based stereotypes are barriers to their advancement, compared to 18 percent and 5 percent of men, respectively. In addition, more than three times as many women than men cited a lack of role models and far more women cited a lack of line experience.
And, according to Catalyst, men executives don't appear to recognize many of the challenges faced by their female counterparts. The groups said women are much more likely than men to see barriers to women's advancement within their companies.
That ought to give corporate leaders — and employees — something to talk about at the water cooler.
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