In the United States, many young women aspire to success. Almost three quarters of female professionals start off their careers with the goal of one day reaching the C-suite. A recent study conducted by Egon Zehnder showed that while women remain ambitious through most of their career stages, their ambition drops off when they reach senior management.
Why Does This Happen?
It seems confounding that women professionals aspire to reach the C-suite but lose focus and determination just when they’re closing in on their goal. The problem is that women in the workplace face consistent challenges when it comes to career advancement. As women advance through their careers, they observe these challenges and the idea of reaching the C-suite starts to feel more farfetched. They see women being passed up for promotions for men who are younger and less experienced than them, and eventually this affects their morale.
Women in the workforce report several major challenges that influence their prospects for career advancement. Three of the biggest obstacles women face are expanding their skillsets, finding opportunities to highlight their abilities and potential, and balancing their professional and personal lives. Essentially, there aren’t enough opportunities for development and many face more pressure for work-life balance than their male counterparts. Gender and age bias are also major issues.
Diversity and Inclusion
What can we do about it? The first step is to confront age and gender bias in the workplace. Not everyone agrees on the value of diversity. While diversity helps develop a creative, forward-thinking work environment, some leaders worry diversity leads to too many differences in thought and opinion. Diversity issues tend to come from the top down. To keep women motivated, leadership needs to overcome age and gender biases and actively work to create more inclusive workplaces.
Career advancement is the other key. The study also showed that women receive less mentorship and career development training the older they get. Interestingly, women in the C-suite rely heavily on mentorship, advocacy, and other career development resources. The use of these resources increases with seniority but decrease with age. Career advancement resources need to be made more available to older professionals and leadership needs to encourage female professionals to work closely with mentors throughout their career.
When women start their careers, they strive to climb the corporate ladder. But the closer women get to the C-suite, the harder it becomes for them to advance. Part of the problem is a gender and age bias, and part of the problem is a lack of consistent mentorship and career development. Now is a good time to review your organization’s efforts toward greater inclusivity, mentorship, and skills-building programs. As companies evolve to meet the needs of women in leadership roles, we’ll see fewer women’s ambition wane and more women reaching the C-suite.
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