Female executives are ambitious and sure of their own abilities to become top managers, but they are much less confident that their companies’ cultures can support their rise.
This is the main conclusion of the latest McKinsey Global Survey of male and female executives.
Another conclusion is that male colleagues do not appreciate the difficulties women face. Male executives are much more likely than women to disagree that female executives face more difficulties in reaching top management – and men see less value in the diversity initiatives that can correct the gender imbalance.
On an individual level female executives report that their career ambitions are just as high as those of their male peers.
And they are ready to do what it takes to achieve their ambitions. Two-thirds of both male and female executives say they are willing to sacrifice part of their personal lives to reach a top management position.
Yet female executives are much less certain they will reach the top – 69% of female executives compared with 83% of their male peers.
The survey identified two sets of factors that can drive or inhibit career success: those to do with personal actions, desires and initiative to advance, and those that reflect the organisational environment in which executives work.
The survey revealed that cultural factors weigh more than twice as much as individual factors on women’s confidence to reach top management. Company cultures can either build or undermine the confidence executives need to get to the top.
Finally, the survey’s results confirm that there is no single way to make change happen and companies need a whole raft of measures. But change starts at the top. And there is a need to engage male executives, given that they are more likely to think that too many measures that support women are unfair to men. This belief about unfairness is especially common among men who are less aware of the challenges women face.
The survey recommends including more men as mentors and sponsors, and that companies need to create a corporate culture that welcomes various leadership styles.
British and European companies need to take careful notice of this latest research from the highly respected McKinsey company. Unless and until women get a fair deal business enterprises of all sizes will continue to lose out by not making use of all the available energy and talent.