When it comes to top leadership in the United States, women are decidedly in the minority. According to Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino, “Women represent five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, only 15 percent of executive officers at those companies, less than 20 percent of full professors in the natural sciences, and only six percent of partners in venture capital firms.” And while part of the problem surely stems from systemic sexism, Gino notes that women themselves may not be as excited to reach top leadership positions as one might expect.
According to a paper by researcher Hilke Brockmann and her colleagues, men and women who do not hold managerial positions have an average life satisfaction of “around 7.1 out of 10.” Among those in management, however, men had an average life satisfaction of 7.3 compared to about a 7 for women. Career advancement, it would appear, on average increases men’s happiness — whereas women, on average, became slightly unhappier after promotion to management.
In addition to having to endure the countless stereotypes and other obstacles faced by women in power, female managers are more likely to have to juggle their home lives — and possibly children and domestic duties — with the work duties. Perhaps just as powerful a factor, however, is how men and women perceive leadership positions.
According to research conducted by Gino and her associates, women consider leadership positions as attainable as men do, but also see such positions as less desirable. Whereas men tend to focus more on the positive benefits of advancement, women are more likely to also consider possible negative aspects of a promotion, such as time constraints. Compared to men, women on average have a larger number of “core goals” in life — things that they “deeply care about” or “motivate their behavior and decisions.” With less time available to them, women become less able to pursue their other goals in life — whatever they may be.