Researchers have long been looking for solutions to what could be called the ambition gap. That’s the nagging discrepancy which often shows up in polling, where women express less interest in becoming senior executives than their male counterparts. It’s a frustrating dilemma, and one without simple answers.
Encouragingly, companies are starting to investigate the problem and what can be done about it. But at least part of the problem, it seems, is companies themselves.
A new report from the consulting firm Boston Consulting Group investigates why women seem more reticent to compete for top jobs. The researchers looked at survey data of more than 200,000 respondents from a wide range of companies, industries, age groups, and family statuses, with employees in nearly 200 countries. In their data, they found that women’s desires to reach the top ranks at work primarily varies by company, rather than by family status, as commonly thought.
They also found that existing gender diversity had a big impact on how workers felt about pursuing more senior roles. In work environments where both men and women felt that the company was making progress toward gender diversity within its top ranks, all genders were more likely to aspire to a leadership position. For women at a pivotal part of their career, ages 30 to 40, only 66 percent reported wanting a leadership position at companies that weren’t seen as making progress in gender diversity. That’s compared with 85 percent of women who worked at companies they felt were making progress.