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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Grobman

The Five Things Career Women Want But Don't Necessarily Get

Some time ago I went for lunch with an entrepreneur friend I greatly admire. We hadn't seen each other for a while, and she had some news: she was pregnant for the second time and was more stressed than excited about this. I didn't know which of "congrats" or "I'm sorry" was the due response. She had spent the previous three years building her business and was just about to start scaling it up so she worried about having to give up her plans. We talked about it for a while and came up some ideas for how she could better arrange her business and staffing in a way that would allow her to do both. She ended up hiring another person to deal with operational matters and standardize some of her processes, which gave her flexibility and mental space to handle both the business expansion and her expanding family. Her husband was also very supportive throughout the process. Interacting with this friend, who is a great mom, very engaged in the community and also a smart business professional has broken many stereotypes in my mind. It has been an interesting intellectual exercise in seeing how women could really do everything if they had the right mindset and support from colleagues and family. In my conversations with leaders (both male and female) and more junior employees alike, I find that we often have very limited expectations from our female colleagues and sometimes of ourselves as women leaders. We fall into the typical stereotypes of framing women as either caretakers, would-become caretakers or uber-focused fully dedicated career types. The truth is that every individual woman's capacities and interests are different. Instead of trying to box women into our own stereotypes, we should try to figure out how to tap into individuals' motivations so that we could better utilize everyone's talents. The Center for Talent Innovation, conducted an interesting study with highly qualified women aged 35-50 in the U.S., U.K., and Germany to find out what drives women's ambitions. They found that women have a five-point value proposition: they want the ability to flourish (achieve self-actualization through physical well-being, freedom and autonomy), excel, reach for meaning and purpose, be empowered and empower others, and earn well.

Women's ambition, work-life balance, Center for Talent Innovation

Source: Center for Talent Innovation, 2014

These five things were not so different from what men wanted. However, they found that even women without children and those who are breadwinners lose interest in power as they got older. They don't associate power with the ability to achieve those five aspirations. "Women do not aspire for a powerful position because they perceive the burdens of leadership outweighing the benefits." Perhaps the most important surprising finding was that women's expectations of leadership were very different from the reality of leadership and having power.

Women's ambition, Center for Talent Innovation

Source: Center for Talent Innovation, 2014

How do we go on from here? Studies show that women get less mentoring and sponsorship than male colleagues throughout their careers. This, coupled with few role models, may contribute to a biased view of what leadership could mean for women. Companies and leaders should proactively have open conversations about career expectations and possibilities and expose high potential women to inspiring leaders, who may share similar values. After all, who wouldn't want to work in a company that has more leaders who care so deeply about the five factors above?


Miriam Grobman Consulting works with organizations that want to advance more talented women into leadership roles by breaking cultural barriers and giving them the right skills to be successful. Our approach is data-driven, global and collaborative. Contact us if you'd like to discuss the right strategy for your organization.

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