The Not So Level Playing Field

logoCatalystA new study from Catalyst, a research organization that promotes women’s advancement, provides pretty gloomy reading. In The Promise of Future Leadership: A Research Program on Highly Talented Employees in the Pipeline, Catalyst set out to explore how high potential women and men MBA’s fared post-MBA. The expectation was that, with the same credentials, men and women would be on an equal footing when it came to career progression. What emerged, however, was:

  • Men were more likely to start their first post-MBA job in higher positions than women
  • Women’s first post-MBA salary was lower than men’s
  • After starting from behind women don’t catch up
  • Men were more satisfied with their career overall than women

Further disturbing findings were that women were more likely to have left their first post-MBA job because of a difficult manager and to have paid a penalty for pursuing a nontraditional career pathway such as working in the nonprofit, government or education sectors; being self-employed; or working part-time before returning to work full-time.

The study concludes with a wake up call:

“For the past two decades leaders have counted on parity in education, women’s accelerated movement into the labor force, and company-implemented diversity and inclusion programs to yield a robust talent pipeline where women are poised to make rapid gains to the top. But results of this study show that these hopes were ill-founded—when it comes to top talent, women lag men in advancement, compensation, and career satisfaction. The pipeline is not healthy; inequality remains entrenched.”

Apparently CEO’s and other senior leaders were surprised and disappointed by the findings and agreed that organizations must do better to leverage highly talented women in their workforce. I’m surprised they were surprised! Haven’t they noticed that their Boards and senior teams are predominantly white, middle-aged men? Are they not in touch with their succession pipelines and how few women are in them?

We must do better are fine words, but leaders are judged by their actions not their words. Time for less rhetoric and more action I think!

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