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Survey: Corporate culture hinders women's careers

Wednesday, February 5, 2014  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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Female executives are ambitious and sure of their own abilities to become top managers, but are much less confident that their companies’ cultures can support their advancement, according to a new report by McKinsey & Co.

Collective, corporate culture factors, such as diversity being a core company value, are more than twice as likely as individual factors, such as proactively asking for a promotion, to link to women’s confidence that they can reach top management positions, according to "Moving mind-sets on gender diversity,” which analyzed responses from 1,421 men and women executives who responded to the McKinsey Global Survey.

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The survey results point to several corporate hurdles that women believe hinder their rise to the top, including current views on female leadership and the behaviors that top managers should display. Almost 40 percent of female respondents believe their leadership and communication styles don’t fit with the prevailing habits required to be effective top managers where they work.

The report also reveals men's lack of understanding of the challenges women face in the workplace. While three-quarters of men agree that diverse leadership teams with significant numbers of women generate better company performance, just 19 percent of male respondents strongly agree that "reaching top management is harder for women." They are almost six times more likely than women to disagree with that statement.

Another hurdle: Many companies’ performance model. Most men and women agree that a top-level career implies "anytime, anywhere” availability to work and that this standard imposes a particularly severe penalty on female professionals. What’s more, when asked whether having children is compatible with a top-level career for women, 62 percent of all respondents agree, but a much larger share (80 percent) says the same about men’s careers.

Still, female respondents said their career ambitions are just as high as those of their male peers. Seventy-nine percent of all mid-level or senior-level women said they have the desire to reach a top-management position over the course of their careers, compared with 81 percent of mid-level or senior men. Looking at responses from the senior executives who are one step away from the c-suite, women (51 percent) are more likely than men (37 percent) to strongly agree that they want to advance to the next level.

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