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Leadership & Communication

Leadership development ‘just as important to women’

30 Jan 2014, by Informa Insights

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Developing leadership skills is just as vital to women as it is to men, new research has revealed.

A global McKinsey & Company survey of business executives found very few differences between the career ambitions of the two genders. In fact, it showed that women may be even more driven by leadership development.

According to the results, 77 per cent of the 1,500 employees questioned had a desire to reach a top senior management position, and 78 per cent at least wanted to advance to the next level in their organisation.

The data showed 82 per cent of women wanted a top role, while 83 per cent of men said the same. However, these responses were split into people who ‘strongly agreed’ and those who ‘agreed’.

This showed that 44 per cent of women strongly agreed that they were seeking the most senior positions, compared with 37 per cent of men.

Furthermore, 83 per cent of females wanted to climb to the next level in their job, while under three quarters of men agreed.

Over half of women (51 per cent) strongly agreed they wanted a promotion to a higher position, compared with 37 per cent of men.

Leadership development for women

McKinsey & Company said the survey shows that women have the ambition it takes to reach the higher echelons of senior management roles.

“Nearly two-thirds of both male and female executives say they are willing to sacrifice part of their personal lives to reach a top-management position,” the report stated.

“What’s more, three-quarters of women – a slightly higher share than men – say they promote themselves and communicate their ambitions to direct supervisors and others at the top.”

The statistics showed 45 per cent of women have also proactively asked for a promotion, although they were shaded by the 48 per cent of men who had done the same.

However, there were marked differences in the confidence levels exhibited between the sexes. While 83 per cent of men believed they would reach the top, only 69 per cent of their female peers agreed.

Leadership for Women training courseTellingly, women claimed their lack of confidence related more to the collective corporate culture in which they worked than individual factors such as motivation and communication skills.

“On average, the differences suggest that collective, cultural factors weigh more than twice as much as individual factors on women’s confidence to reach top management,” McKinsey stated.

These results could have ramifications for Australia, with a recent Grant Thornton study showing the country is lagging in female leadership development. The research revealed 22 per cent of senior management positions are held by women, while the global average is 24 per cent.

Factors affecting female leadership development

Female executives listed their current company’s approach to women’s leadership development as a crucial factor in their confidence levels.

For example, 45 per cent of women who felt they would reach senior positions worked for an organisation where both genders were promoted in equal numbers. Just 12 per cent of women employed at businesses where this was not the case said the same.

Work-life balance was also seen as important, with 74 per cent of optimistic respondents saying they are able to maintain a healthy home life. Less than half of women who did not expect to reach top-level positions agreed.

Additional leadership training could be useful for many women, as the study said 43 per cent of those polled who were pessimistic of their promotion chances believe their leadership skills don’t match the prevailing management style in their firm.

“While women have the ambition and are ready to do what it takes to succeed, collective factors have a strong role to play in building (or undermining) the confidence these executives need to get to the top,” McKinsey argued.


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