New Study Shows Gender, Rank and Regional Differences in Finding the Right Fit for Top Corporate Talent

May 21, 2008

Catalyst and Families and Work Institute provide in-depth look at
drivers of engagement among top leaders at global companies

NEW YORK – What motivates corporate leaders to stick with a company, and are there differences attributable to gender, region or level within the company? According to a new study released today by Catalyst and the Families and Work Institute—Leaders in A Global Economy: Finding the Fit for Top Talentwomen and men executives at major global companies actually share the same priorities for what they value most in their workplaces and careers.

The survey of more than 8,000 senior and “pipeline” (those next in line for leadership positions) executives from 27 countries around the world reveals a number of significant differences in what leaders value based on region and leadership level, but few differences tied to gender.

“We often hear that the reason women don’t advance as far in business, or are more apt to leave workplaces, is because they have different work values and goals than men,” said study co-author Ellen Galinsky, President and Co-founder of the Families and Work Institute. “However, when we rank-ordered what women and men value the most in their jobs and careers, we found remarkable similarity. Both women and men want a supportive work environment and challenging work, and there are only slight differences in how other values are ranked.”

The study set out to test the premise that a lack of alignment between what leaders value and what they experience in the workplace leads to less engagement and a higher likelihood of turnover of top talent.

“What’s striking is how similarly men and women leaders rank values and how differently these values are met in the workplace,” said Nancy Carter, study co-author and Vice President, Research at Catalyst. “The study indicates that men find a significantly better fit between what they value and how they work. Not surprisingly then, women are more likely to leave their positions. But this study also points out that if their values were as well realized as men’s, women might be as likely to stay, an advantage for employers eager to retain top talent.”

The overall ranking of values among all executives was as follows, with women valuing the first three factors even more intensely than men:

  • Having a challenging job
  • Having a supportive workplace
  • Having a good fit between life on and off the job
  • Being well compensated
  • Working at a company that has high values
  • Having the opportunity for high achievement

The study, which categorized respondents into five regions (Anglo North America, Anglo Europe, Latin Europe, Germanic Europe, and Asia), also found variation in the values based on rank (i.e. senior versus pipeline leaders) and among leaders in different parts of the world. For example, leaders in Anglo North America more often describe their jobs as challenging than leaders in Anglo Europe, Latin Europe, and Asia and also report a good fit between life on and off the job more often than leaders in Germanic Europe and Latin Europe.

Based on the study findings, the researchers say that in order for companies to more successfully recruit and retain talented senior management–and to help find the ‘right fit’–it is critical for them to understand the values that most strongly motivate their executives. They also must recognize that “one size fits all” approaches will not work, particularly as it relates to different regions of the world where recognition of cultural differences and local structures is critical. With that knowledge, companies can identify where gaps exist between those values and the reality of their workplaces–and create customized, localized strategies to close those gaps.

The new report follows the 2003 Leaders in a Global Economy study on executive women and men conducted by FWI, Catalyst, and Boston College. That study pointed to a need, identified by the senior women and men executives, to improve talent management systems in their companies. The current study was designed to move issues of talent management forward by developing empirical knowledge about senior and pipeline leaders in Europe, North America, and Asia.

A PDF of the report is downloadable at either or


Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership organization working globally with businesses and the professions to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and the support of more than 370 member organizations, Catalyst is the premier resource for research, information, and trusted advice about women at work. Catalyst annually honors exemplary organizational initiatives that promote women’s advancement with the Catalyst Award. For more information about Catalyst, visit


Families and Work Institute (FWI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan premier research organization that studies the changing workforce and workplace, the changing family, and the changing community. As a preeminent think-tank, FWI is known for being ahead of the curve, identifying emerging issues, and then conducting rigorous research that often challenges common wisdom, provides insight and knowledge, and motivates action. Since the Institute was founded in 1989, its work has focused in three major areas: the workforce/workplace, youth, and early childhood. For more information, visit

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