Do Women Advance in Careers More Slowly than Men?

Herminia Ibarra

Herminia Ibarra

Men received 15% more promotions than women, according to a Catalyst Benchmarking Survey.

Similar numbers of “high potential” women and men were selected for lateral moves to other parts of the business.
However, men but not women, received promotions after the career-developing lateral moves.

Nancy M. Carter

Nancy M. Carter

Women’s developmental lateral moves were substitutes for actual career advancement, suggested INSEAD’s Hermina Ibarra with Nancy M. Carter and Christine Silva of Catalyst.
Similarly, women receive social accounts – or explanations – as substitutes for salary increases.

Virginia Valian

Virginia Valian

This type of implicit bias was related to men’s being consistently overrated while women are underrated by coworkers, bosses and themselves, found Hunter College’s Virginia Valian.
Resulting discrepancies in opportunity accrue over time to create large gaps in advancement, she asserted.

In addition, women are typically evaluated in relation to a “masculine” standard of leadership, reported Catalyst’s earlier research outlining three predicaments that can undermine leadership and advancement opportunities:

  • Extreme Perceptions, in which women are perceived as enacting extreme behaviors, such as “toughness” or “niceness,”
  • High Competence Threshold, when women leaders are held to higher standards and receive lower rewards than men,
  • Competent but Disliked, as women may be perceived either as “competent” or “likeable” but not both.
Phyllis Tharenou

Phyllis Tharenou

Family structure can accelerate or slow career progress in unexpected ways.
Both “post traditional” mothers who have employed spouses, and “traditional” fathers whose wives are engaged in childcare only, more rapidly advanced in private sector careers than women and men with other family configurations, reported Phyllis Tharenou of Flinders University.
Somewhat surprisingly, non-parent women and men, and unmarried fathers   advanced more slowly in their careers.

Employment disruption, such as maternity leave or layoff, did not impair career advancement for women and men, but the industry sector was associated with differing rates of career advancement.

Alice Eagly

Alice Eagly

In a separate analysis, Tharenou noted that the strongest predictors of advancing in management were managerial aspirations and masculinity.
Women were more likely to advance when they received career encouragement and when organizational hierarchies included both women and men.

To explain career advancement rate discrepancies, University of Massachusetts’ Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli of Wellesley suggested that women encounter a career labyrinth rather than a glass ceiling.

Linda Carli

Linda Carli

Differences in career advancement rates may be narrowed by sponsorship rather than mentorship, argued Catalyst and Center for Talent Innovation.
Male advocates can focus attention on the challenges women face at work and can advocate for organizational processes and structures that normalize equivalent competence in women and men.

  • What type of “career encouragement” enable women to advance in careers at a rate similar to men?


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©Kathryn Welds


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