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Women don’t benefit from ‘doing all the right things’

Thursday, October 13, 2011  
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Commonly used strategies for moving up the corporate ladder -- such as building a relationship with your boss and the boss’ boss or letting your boss know you are ready for a challenging assignment -- work for men, but not so well for women, according to Catalyst’s latest report, "The Myth of the Ideal Worker: Does Doing All the Right Things Really Get Women Ahead?”

The report, which studied high-potential women and men in the executive pipeline, reveals that being proactive benefits men, but does not provide as great an advantage for women.

"This study busts the myth that ‘Women don't ask.’ In fact, they do! But it doesn't get them very far. Men, by contrast, don't have to ask. What's wrong with this picture?” said Ilene H. Lang, president and CEO of Catalyst.

The strategies adopted by high-potential women had little bearing on the rate at which they advanced to leadership, while men who applied the most proactive career strategies advanced further than other men, according to the report, which studied commonly used career strategies.

Indeed, women seem to be paid for proven performance, while men seem to be paid for potential, Catalyst reported. Women who changed jobs two or more times post-MBA earned $53,472 less than women who rose through the ranks at their first job. In contrast, men who had moved on from their first post-MBA job earned $13,743 more than those who stayed with their first employer.

Across all career profiles, men were more likely to reach senior executive and CEO positions than women; in the most proactive category, 21 percent of men advanced to leadership roles, compared with 11 percent of women.

The report found women do "ask,” but the asking doesn’t close the gender pay or position gap. After their first post-MBA jobs, there were no gender differences in whether or not high potentials negotiated for greater compensation (63 percent of women vs. 54 percent of men) or for a higher position when beginning their current job (19 percent of women vs. 17 percent of men). Even though these women negotiate for more when they change jobs, Catalyst found women’s compensation growth was faster when they remained with the same employer, where they had proven performance, than when they started with a new employer, who paid based on potential.

Pay and position gaps can’t be explained by the suggestion that women are seeking out slower career tracks, either. Catalyst found women are less satisfied than men with their career growth. If women were intentionally seeking slower tracks, the study would find them to be as satisfied as men, despite their slower advancement.

Women must adopt strategies different from their male colleagues’ to advance their careers, according to the study. When women were proactive in making their achievements known, they advanced further, increased their compensation growth and were more satisfied with their careers. They also advanced further when they proactively networked with influential others. Making their achievements known did not impact men’s careers. Rather, gaining access to influential others also helped men advance, and indicating a willingness to work long hours and conducting external scans for other opportunities helped men increase their salaries.

The report was sponsored by Chevron Corp., a Network of Executive Women title sponsor, and Deutsche Bank AG.

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