Life goals

Fewer women in leadership “because they don’t want the job”

(MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/GettyImages)

The dearth of women in corporate leadership positions has been well-established and widely discussed – with explanations ranging from institutional barriers (women face negative perceptions of their leadership skills) to innate differences in men and women’s behavior (men are more aggressive, more likely to initiate negotiations, etc.) A new set of studies by the Harvard Business School now adds another explanation: women don’t want to be in leadership positions as much as men do. When asked to list their core goals (things like “being in a committed relationship, keeping up with sports, attaining power”) – women would list more goals, but fewer of those would have to do with achieving power. Another study showed that when asked what they thought was their highest attainable position in their industry, there was no difference between men and women – but when asked about their “ideal position,” women chose a significantly lower one. Yet another study showed that women expected more negative outcomes from a potential promotion than men – making them less likely to accept such a promotion. The researchers warn that this does not necessarily mean women are less ambitious – they might just have different definition of success. A conclusion they do draw, is that one reason less women make it to the top positions, is because they believe doing so “would require them to compromise other important life goals.”

Read the full story at Harvard Business Review.

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