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Catalyst: Women still experience inequities at every career stage

Thursday, February 25, 2010  
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Women lag behind men in job level and salary starting from their first post-business school position and do not catch up, according to Catalyst’s "Pipeline's Broken Promise," a report examining high-potential graduates from top business schools around the world. The assertion that women advance in compensation and level at the same pace as men is overstated, and in many cases completely wrong, according to the study.

The report, part of a broad, ongoing study of thousands of female and male MBA alumni in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia, provides a global analysis of the pace of progress for these high potential employees. Even after considering experience, industry and region, the report found women start at lower levels than men, make on average $4,600 less in their initial jobs and continue to be outpaced by men in rank and salary growth.

Only when women begin their post-MBA career at mid-management or above do they achieve parity in position with men, Catalyst found. However, this experience accounts for only 10 percent of the women and 19 percent of the men surveyed.

"'Give it time,' has run its course," said Ilene H. Lange, president and CEO, Catalyst, a nonprofit membership organization working globally with businesses and the professions to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business. "In a world where women comprise 40 percent of the global workforce and are earning advanced and professional degrees in record numbers -- even surpassing men in many cases -- gender inequity is a waste. Companies without parity for women at all levels are unsustainable. Smart leaders will act now or risk falling behind."

Men were twice as likely as women to hold CEO or senior executive positions and less likely to be at lower levels, where women were overrepresented. Parenthood and level of aspiration did not explain the results, the report found. Catalyst's findings held when considering women and men without children, as well as those who aspired to senior leadership positions.

Men, in general, were found to be more satisfied with their careers overall than women. Thus, despite well-intentioned programs, companies around the globe have neglected to develop talented women and failed to build meritocracies, the report concluded.

CEOs and executives from major companies offered insights and suggestions on the study’s findings throughout the report. Among their insights:

* Don’t assume that the playing field has been leveled.

* Redesign systems to correct early inequities.

* Collect and review salary growth metrics.

* Build in checks and balances against unconscious bias.

* Make assignments based on qualifications, not presumptions.

Between Fall 2007 and Spring 2008, Catalyst conducted an online survey of alumni who graduated between 1996 and 2007 from MBA programs at 26 leading business schools in Asia, Canada, Europe and the United States. Report findings draw from the 4,143 respondents who completed full-time MBA programs and worked full-time in companies or firms at the time of the survey.

The study is part of "The Promise of Future Leadership: A Research Program on Highly Talented Employees in the Pipeline," a longitudinal study on high-potential talent. For more information visit www.catalyst.org.


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