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Catalyst: Women MBAs start at lower level and stay there

Thursday, April 15, 2010   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rob Wray
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Women who have earned MBA degrees have not fared as well in their careers as men have, according to "The Promise of Future Leadership: A Research Program on Highly Talented Employees in the Pipeline,” a new Catalyst study.

The report, drawn from responses of more than 4,100 women and men who graduated from full-time MBA programs between 1996 and 2007 and who worked full time when surveyed in 2007 and 2008, found women lag men in advancement and compensation from their very first professional jobs -- and are less satisfied with their careers overall.

Among Catalyst’s findings: Women were more likely to have left their first post-MBA job because of a difficult manager. They also have paid a penalty for pursuing a nontraditional career pathway, such as working in the nonprofit, government or education sectors; being self-employed; or working part time before returning to work full time.

"I believe major interventions are required to build a robust pipeline of women leaders,” Thomas Falk, chairman and CEO of Kimberly-Clark Corp., told Catalyst. "Companies should be developing more programs with stretch assignments for women. Why not identify critical international roles with P&L responsibility and prioritize women and minorities for these key development roles? This would dramatically increase the pool of global leaders and more quickly build general management experience.”

Men start higher – and stay there

Men were more likely to start their first post-MBA job in higher positions than women, from first-level manager to CEO/senior executive, Catalyst reported. These findings were not a result of aspiration or parenthood: They held even when considering only men and women who aspired to CEO/senior executive level and when considering only men and women who did not have children.

Given this, it’s not surprising women’s first post-MBA salary was lower than men’s. This held true even accounting for the number of years prior experience, time since the MBA was earned, first post-MBA job level, global region and industry. Indeed, on average, women are being paid $4,600 less in their first job than men, the report revealed.

After starting a post-MBA career at a lower position and salary, women don’t catch up, the study found. At the time of the survey, men were more likely to be at a higher position than women were, even after taking into account total experience, time since MBA, first post-MBA job level, industry and global region of work. More than half of women were at the entry or first-level manager level and were significantly more likely than men to be at those ranks.

Salary didn’t keep pace for women either. Regardless of differences in women’s and men’s starting salary, men experienced higher salary growth post-MBA, Catalyst found. Men’s salary growth also outpaced that of high-potential women without children.

What’s more, when both genders started at the bottom levels of companies and firms, men significantly outpaced women in moving up the career ladder -- even if they had the same number of years of experience and received their MBA in the same year. Only when both started their first post-MBA jobs at mid-level or as a senior executive were there no significant differences between the rate of men’s and women’s career advancement over time, according to the report.

Post-MBA, men and women were equally like to job hop -- but for different reasons, Catalyst found. The top reason for leaving the first post-MBA job for women and men was faster career advancement. Both genders said they left to make a career change at equal rates. However, more men than women said they left to earn more money or receive better benefits. More women than men said they left because of a difficult manager. Few gave childrearing as the reason they had left, with women no more likely to report doing this.

"I find it revealing that women were more likely to leave their first job because of a difficult manager,” Beth Horowitz, former president and CEO of Amex Canada Inc., told Catalyst. "This tells us we still aren’t getting through to the first-line managers. This likely also affects the first promotion, who gets promoted and when. Companies need to refocus on the point at which someone becomes a people leader for the first time. Have we provided adequate training?”

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