Charting the Course: Getting Women to the Top

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The path to a senior leadership position is a strenuous climb. On paper, women appear prepared for the ascent – they now make up a majority of college graduates and 40% of the classes at top MBA programs. Well-educated, ambitious women are indeed moving up the corporate ranks, but disproportionately few reach the summit. According to Catalyst, an organization dedicated to workplace diversity, women make up just 25.1% of senior managers and executives at S&P 500 companies and only 4.4% of CEOs, despite efforts by many companies to close the gap.

To understand why such a significant imbalance persists, Bain & Company and LinkedIn surveyed in 2016 more than 8,400 male and female LinkedIn members who work for companies in the US and who have at least a bachelor’s degree. The sample covered the full career spectrum, from entry-level employees to top leaders, and it spanned all major industries.

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Any serious climber will tell you that getting to the top requires not only the right skills but also will and energy. Aspiration and confidence, in particular, are vital to staying the course. Women and men today have the same climbing ability, even if they demonstrate different strengths at different times. The gender gap in the C-suite persists because external factors create a more difficult path to the top for women – one with more strenuous terrain requiring more energy and perseverance. That, in turn, affects women’s aspiration and confidence over time.

Click here to download the study.