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POPin Blog

Opportunities & Growth: Women’s Expectations

Every now and again, a survey or report causes our collective mouths to drop to the floor. One such study, released by Bain & Company, had such that effect. The study asked more than 1,000 men and women in a mix of U.S. companies’ two questions: “Do you aspire to top management within a large company?” and “Do you have the confidence you can reach top management?” Ok, fair enough. But those seemingly benign questions had shockingly surprising results. Women with two years or less of work experience slightly led men in ambition. But for women who had more than two years on the job, aspiration and confidence plummeted 60% and nearly 50%, respectively. Take note that these declines came independent of marriage and motherhood status, and compared with much smaller changes for men, who experienced only a 10% dip in confidence. When more senior managers were asked the same questions, the percentage rose for both genders, but women never regained the level of aspiration that newcomers had. It remained 60% lower than men, whose rates rose dramatically. And this is where it gets interesting – and downright scary – the percentage of male more-senior managers who have confidence that they will reach top jobs is almost twice the percentage of female managers. Maybe we are living in our own Pollyanna bubble (PoP is 50% women who definitely LEAN-IN), so we were intrigued. Why the dashed expectations? According to the study, “the majority of leaders celebrated in a corporate newsletter or an offsite meeting tend to consist of men hailed for pulling all-nighters or for networking their way through the golf course to land the big account.” That being the case, it does make it more challenging for the women on the team to crack that old-boy code and culture. (The thinking that The Old Boys’ Club is where business gets done.) And if they don’t see themselves at fitting into the typical stereotypes of success within the company, then engagement and expectations drop. So what’s not happening? Many of employees quoted in the study pinpointed that engagement was missing on the following: discussions of goals, encouragement, affirmation and “having a voice.” In fact, some research demonstrates that, because of gender differences, men get this support more frequently than women. One study by the Center for Talent Innovation even showed that two-thirds of male managers completely shy away at counseling more-junior women. If that’s truly the case, then it’s a huge missed opportunity, because positive affirmation creates huge benefits. Both men and women want to work for organizations that recognize talent in all its varieties, polls show. Having engaged employees assures better business outcomes and more loyal customers. It’s another reason why PoP is such an amazing tool. It is gender agnostic for one, so it truly levels the playing field of participation and engagement. We wager that regular PoPin conversations would drive expectations in a new and better direction for both men and women.