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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Grobman

The Real Reason Why Women Don't Reach Top Roles

women's career growth, gender bias, corporate politics

When I conduct surveys within companies, I often ask employees (both men and women) to answer what is the key reason for women not reaching top roles. Normally, they give a myriad of guesses, many of which center around the challenges of motherhood and/or lack of interest.

I then ask them to report on their ambitions and their top own main challenges for reaching the top. I don't normally see any statistical differences between men and women's responses in terms of ambition levels.

Read more: The Five Things That Career Women Want But Don't Necessarily Get In one such survey in an IT organization of a multinational company, I collected the data from 167 employees globally. Responding to the question: “The following factors/challenges affect my path towards reaching a senior role in the organization (Pick up to 3)?”

Here are the outcomes I got:

Gender differences in challenges to reach to the top, corporate politics, networking challenges

As you can see, the top two biggest challenges for men and women were similar: managing corporate politics and networking with the right people. Although women did see care of kids and family as a barrier, it came only third in terms of intensity and it was a relevant factor for men as well. Segmenting by age, managing corporate politics was most cited factor among women AND men ages 36-40: W(76%) and M(63%). Why does this matter? Every time I conducted this survey I saw that employees made similar assumptions and faced similar barriers. We are all human beings and are subject to bias and quick judgements about others' potential, realities and motivations. If we try to solve problems with biased assumptions, we may come up with sub-optimal solutions. Many women's initiatives are focused on questions around motherhood - maternity leave, part-time work, breastfeeding, etc. These are all extremely important elements but corporate leaders who really want affect change in terms of the numbers of women who reach top roles, need to dive into the data. You should collect both quantitative and qualitative insights from your female (and male) employees and create programs that address the deeper cultural problems within your organizations.

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