90% of Women Execs Blame Overall "Image" For Career Holdbacks

According to a new Ipsos Reid poll of female executives commissioned on behalf of Randstad, women continue to face more obstacles than men when it comes to advancing their careers to top-level executive and management positions. 37% of respondents feel that overall image (looks, personal image, etc) is a factor and has an impact on career progression for men, while 24% feel it is not a factor, and 39% feel it is a small factor. On the other hand, 90% of the women feel overall image is a factor and has an impact on career progression for women(52% large impact, 38% moderate), with only 2% say it is not a factor at all, and 8% saying it is a small factor.

While image may have an influence on career progression in the eyes of many female executives, opportunities for career progression are not perceived to be influenced by the gender of a woman’s immediate superior. 44% say it is no different whether a woman’s superior is a woman in her chances to obtain a managerial position, while 26% say the chances are better, and 30% say the chances are worse with a woman as a superior.

Likewise, 49% believe it is no different if a woman’s superior is a man in her chances to obtain a managerial position, with 26% believing the chances are better, and 25% believing the chances are worse with a man as a superior. Subsequently, 60% of women would trust both a male and female superior equally to help their career progression. 18% would trust a woman more and 22% a man.

The fact that women mostly do not believe their career progression depends on the gender of their superiors, they do attribute other factors to their barriers to career progression. 77% believe that women need to work harder and longer hours than men in order to prove themselves in management and executive roles (30% strongly/47% somewhat), while 23% do not agree this is the case (8% strongly, 15% somewhat).

In fact, says the report, 65% believe that women are better leaders than men (12% strongly, 53% somewhat), while 35% do not agree women are better leaders than men (4% very, 30% somewhat). 62% among those who agreed that women are better leaders than men is because women are better communicators.

Other reasons include:

  • Women are more organized than men (60%)
  • Women are more empathetic than men (55%)
  • Women have a better understanding of the needs of their employees (55%)
  • Women are more open to changing their approach than men (54%)
  • Women have better instincts than men (39%)
  • Women are more invested in an organization’s success than men (25%)

Managing work and family, say 61% of the respondents, is the greatest challenge for women in the progression of their career to management. Those with children (86%) found managing work/personal life significantly more challenging compared to those without children in the home (53%).

Other obstacles providing challenges in career advancement among women were:

  • External factors like a recession/overall job loss has climbed to the second greatest obstacle (56%)
  • Being welcomed into and trusted in the established senior management team (48%)
  • Outdated perceptions of women in managerial/executive roles (48%)
  • Lack of female mentors/training (47%)

There are still perceptions of a glass ceiling or divide, says the report, when it comes to workplace opportunities. Salaries remain the greatest divide, with 78% seeing a noticeable divide in salaries between men and women. Only 7% believe salaries are perfectly equal with men, and 15% only notice a small divide.

Promotions are also seen as a source of divide between men and women. 72% believe there is a divide between the sexes in promotions, while only 8% believe promotions are given equally, and 20% see a small divide.

Other divisions seen in the workplace are:

  • Getting the best jobs/tasks/projects (70%)
  • The ability to have influence in making important decisions (67%)
  • Travel opportunities (57%)

Women executives and managers believe that the desire to start and maintain a family is the biggest fear among companies when promoting women to an executive position. 49% believe that absences due to family obligations, and 24% believe that possible maternity leave, are the biggest fears of companies when promoting women. 12% believe perceptions of women in managerial roles, and 8% the perceptions of leadership capacity, are the biggest fears when promoting women to executive-level positions.

501 women who held managerial/executive roles in their organization were interviewed online. Individuals were disqualified if they did not meet management criteria. Weighting was then employed to balance regional composition according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. According to the report, the poll is accurate to within +/-5 percentage points had all women holding managerial/executive roles in their organizations been interviewed online.

For more information about the Ipsos Reid survey, as well as contact information, may be found here.


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