#RethinkLeadership Study: Women & Men Both Ambitious; Differ On Work Life

new-age-leadersFor decades now, we have known that women are not advancing through the leadership ranks at the same rate as men. Much work has been done to understand the reasons – including a McKinsey/Leanin.org report released today in the Wall Street Journal.

We know a lot more today about confidence, communication styles, mentorship, sponsorship, gender bias and flexibility stigma.

But much of this conversation has taken place without really examining the model of leadership itself. That is why we embarked on our study. That is why the theme of today is rethinking leadership!hashtag-rethink-leadership-logo-300x30

What is the promise of advancing into leadership? How do women – and men – feel about that promise? How do leaders behave? What makes for a good role model?

These are the questions that we were looking to answer as part of our #RethinkLeadership initiative, which includes an ongoing global leadership study Families and Work Institute is conducting. Today we provide preliminary findings of that research:

Leadership in Today’s Economy: Eight Key Takeaways

There are no large gender divides in men’s and women’s ambition

  1. The desire to advance is largely the same among women and men, after controlling for factors such as motivations for advancement, obstacles to work-life fit, and other demographic characteristics.

Women and men don’t think senior leaders really understand what motivates them.

  1. Organizations offer a promise for advancement—what they believe will be most motivating for their employees to seek senior leadership positions. Significant numbers of men and women place greater importance on key motivators than they believe their leaders place on those same motivators.

There are also no large gender divides in the importance men and women place in the eight motivators explored in the study.

  1. Women and men are mainly motivated to advance for intrinsic reasons, not fatter paychecks. Key motivators are doing work that is meaningful to them and has a positive impact on the world, challenging themselves and developing their talent, nurturing and developing other people’s talents, and influencing their organization’s decisions and culture.
  1. The one major exception concerns control over when, where and how they work. This is a more important motivator for women than it is for men.
  1. Women are more likely to be in relationships with partners who work, and are more likely than men to have made different life choices – delayed children, have fewer children –and more women than men take primary responsibility for child care.

Effective and flexible managers help you hold onto and develop your people. 

  1. Putting work above personal life isn’t necessarily a winning strategy for either the individual or organization. Work-centric employees (employees who more frequently put work before their personal/family life) have lower levels of job and life satisfaction and plan to stay for less time than dual centric employees (employees who put an equivalent priority on their lives on and off the job).
  1. Only about one third of men and women see their senior leaders as role models for work-life fit. In contrast, slightly more than half see their immediate managers as role models. Managers are rated more highly when they give people appropriate autonomy to make decisions about their work, care about and respect their employees’ personal lives, and encourage the use of workplace flexibility.
  1. The more positively managers are rated as role models, the more likely their employees are to be satisfied with their jobs and their lives and to plan to stay at their companies.

It is true that leaders are not born (except, perhaps, monarchs). They are made. They are the product of lots of decisions and choices by both the individual and the institution.

But we also found that roughly 30% of senior leaders placed an equivalent priority on their work and their personal lives. This was unexpected – and we dubbed these executives dual centric. We also found that dual-centric executives were doing better on various metrics than their work centric colleagues.

This is the type of finding that Families and Work Institute is best known for – research that challenges common wisdom, and forges new ground.


This entry was posted in . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

  • 25 Years of FWI History

    Watch this compelling video about how Families and Work Institute gave voice and research to a movement.

  • Work-Life Book Reviews

    Families and Work Institute launches Work-Life Book Reviews.

    fwi-book-reviews-graphicWe review the hot work-life books, both blog and video reviews, because you don’t have time to read everything.



    When Work Works

    www-award-logo-16-winThe most of effective employers in the United States provide everything from compressed workweeks to employee autonomy to paid time off to volunteers. Check out the best employers in your state here.