Catalyst Leans In: Our Perspective


Women aspire to lead, but gender biases, often unintentionally embedded in talent management systems, exclude those who don’t fit the traditional male leadership model, making advancement for women more difficult. For women who lean in to be successful, organizations must lean in and meet them half way. Everyone will benefit.

Here’s a summary from Catalyst research:

  1. When women do all the things they have been told will help them get ahead—using the same tactics as men—they still advance less than their male counterparts and have slower pay growth. See: The Myth of the Ideal Worker: Does Doing All the Right Things Really Get Women Ahead?
  2. Large and visible projects, mission-critical roles, and international experiences are the crucial “hot jobs” that advance top talent further and faster, but women get fewer of these critical experiences necessary to advance. See: Good Intentions, Imperfect Execution: Women Get Fewer of the “Hot Jobs” Needed to Advance
  3. Having a mentor before starting a first post-MBA job results in greater compensation and a higher-level position—but the payoff is greater for men than for women. Mentors continue to impact careers over time, but men’s mentors are more senior, which results in more promotions and greater compensation. Sponsorship counts! See: Mentoring: Necessary But Insufficient for Advancement
  4. Women aspire to be CEOs in equal proportions as men. But women—to a much greater extent than men—run up against barriers, namely exclusion from informal networks, stereotyping, and a lack of role models. See: Women and Men in U.S. Corporate Leadership
  5. Among MBA grads who aspired to be CEO or senior executives, women progressed more slowly than men. And parenthood, industry, and previous experience didn't explain the gender gap. Leadership and pay gaps balloon over time, suggesting that the problem lies with the system, not the women. See: Pipeline's Broken Promise

As women lean in, organizations must lean in, too. Here’s how:

  1. Proactively fix biased talent management systems. See: Cascading Gender Biases, Compounding Effects
  2. Offer both women and men greater work-life flexibility. See: Making Change—Beyond Flexibility: Work-Life Effectiveness as an Organizational Tool for High Performance
  3. Launch sponsorship programs. See: Sponsoring Women To Success
  4. Engage men in creating a more equal workplace. See: Men Matter
  5. Eliminate pay disparities between female and male employees. See: The Pay Gap

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