Senior Life is Off-Putting For Women in the Workplace

For this week’s blog, I would like to throw open a question to the HR community – have you found that one of the barriers to career progression (especially for women) is that life at the top is actually not seen as very appealing? And therefore, is senior life off-putting for women in the workplace?

I read the PWC Opportunity Now 28-40 report with interest, and one of the things that set alarm bells ringing in my mind was the statistic that 53% of female middle managers agreed that ‘they do not want the lifestyle of the senior people in their organisation.’ This compared to 42% of men agreeing the same thing (which is also worryingly high).

Working long hours, with higher stress levels, lack of role models who are able to fulfil a senior role whilst appearing to have some degree of work/life balance or flexibility is not appealing to most. It’s not that women are less ambitious (because I work with truly driven, committed, determined and inspired women) – it’s because they feel more pessimistic about what life at the top actually looks like in their organisations.

There are clearly other barriers to career progression – lack of developmental opportunities, manager support or different personal goals – but perhaps many choose to stay and broaden their expertise instead of moving up the traditional ladder. Lorna Clayton, PfP Associate agrees:

women who want to be specialist or technically expert in one particular area and work in an advisory capacity as opposed to seeking “big” jobs where they have significant responsibility for others. This is driven by their real career values as opposed to settling for something because of family commitment, which is often the assumption of others.

Everyone is an individual with differing strengths, values and ambitions and the new world of work needs to become more agile to accommodate the “jungle gym” approach to career progression as opposed to it being a vertical ladder, climbed one rung at a time (as per Sheryl Sandberg’s view).”

What does life look like at the top of your organisation?

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