Do Women Need An Ambition Transplant?

I’ve just pawed through the Easter basket of statistics that is the new Accenture report, “Reinvent Opportunity: Looking Through a New Lens,” and there’s only one conclusion to draw: women need more ambition.

They are too willing to settle: for less money, a lower-status position, and for things the way they are.  But the study also uncovered a couple of organic advantages that women can use to get their get-up-and-go in gear.  Think I’m being too harsh? Let’s perambulate through the numbers and see if we don’t end up at the same place.

How do you make the most of your mentor?

  • 34% of men ask the mentor for public endorsements (and 30% of women)
  • 49% of men ask the mentor to help them plan career moves (and 40% of women)
  • 47% of women use the mentor as a sounding board (and 38% of men)

Clearly, men use mentors more strategically – to plan and plot their next moves and to open doors for them. Women, however, expect their mentor to be ‘in the moment’ with them.  Empathy is nice, but it doesn’t change much. If you are stuck, you need to ask your mentor to help you out of your rut.

But, wait! Does it really matter? Could it be that women just don’t  expect to get as far as men.

  • 50% more men than women are striving for the C-suite – and for the VP level.
  • More women than men are ok with topping out at senior, middle and supervisory levels.
  • Only 28% of women had asked for a promotion (compared to 39% of men)
  • 44% of women had asked for a raise (compared to 48% of men)
  • Meanwhile, 68% of women think that the key to getting ahead is  hard work – 13 points more than men.

So: women expect to work hard and not get as far. What would motivate them to notch up their expectations and gun for a promotion? Accenture helpfully provides hints. Besides money – which we can all agree is a good motivator – that being why we use it to compensate people – women are somewhat more motivated by snagging a flexwork arrangement. Men would rather have a leadership position or get on the track for an international assignment.

By page 30 in the study, it appears that women have lower expectations and would gladly trade lifestyle (i.e., flexwork) for more responsibility and power. In other words, women are ok with the status quo.

That doesn’t sound like many women I know. The women I know are looking for the right rungs to grab onto. They’d be thrilled to get some training and guidance that translates directly to a promotion.

Page 30 spells out the disconnect: 82% of the employers represented in the survey don’t offer any leadership programs specifically for women. Eight-two percent. And 85% of the respondents said they didn’t think their employers had any particular goals for advancing women.  No formal mentoring program was available at 79% of the companies.

There you have it. Aim for nothing, and you’ll get it. it’s easy to ascribe the lack of female advancement to lack of ambition. Instead, there’s little to aspire to. If senior management ‘knows it when they see it’ when considering candidates for promotions, do they see only what they know?

Here’s the glimmer of hope. Women are more likely to believe that they will advance by creating opportunities for clients and customers. And they are more willing to try ‘out of the box’ approaches to get ahead.

The tried and true path continues to work for me. After all, they platted it, paved it, and made up the road rules. But when that path sidelines women, they create a  detour.  If enough people take that detour, it becomes the new path.

Image courtesy of Morguefile contributor  lisasolonyko.



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