Most Executives Believe Workplace Equality for Women Still Lags Behind Men, 2006 Accenture Study Shows
Yet Despite Belief in Existence of “Glass Ceiling,” Women Report Being as Personally Satisfied as Men in Their Professional Careers
NEW YORK; March 8, 2006 – Despite significant gains in the past 10 years, women executives around the world still face an uphill battle in workplace equality, a new study by Accenture shows.
The study, entitled “The Anatomy of the Glass Ceiling: Barriers to Women’s Professional Advancement,” is based on a survey of 1,200 male and female executives in eight countries in North America, Europe and Asia: the United States, Canada, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Australia and the Philippines.
Respondents were asked to score factors they felt influenced their career success across three “dimensions”: individual (career planning, professional competence, assertiveness, etc.); company (supportive supervisors, transparent promotion processes, tailored training programs, etc.); and society (equal rights, government support of parental leave, etc.)
The differences between male and female respondents’ answers were used to calculate the current “thickness” of the glass ceiling — a term coined in the 1980s to describe an unacknowledged barrier that prevents women and other minorities from achieving positions of power or responsibility in their professions.
According to the study, only 30 percent of women executives and 43 percent of male executives believe that women have the same opportunities as men do in the workplace today — supporting the existence of a glass ceiling.
However, the study also found that overall the women executives were about as personally satisfied with their own career opportunities and positions as men were with theirs. For instance, the same percentage of men and women respondents (58 percent) said they are fairly compensated or that their salary reflects their personal achievements. In addition, about the same number of women as men (66 percent vs. 70 percent, respectively) said they feel secure in their jobs.
For some women executives the glass ceiling is believed to be more of a societal obstacle than an individual barrier. Women executives in the United States and the United Kingdom, for instance, are very confident of their own business capabilities (the “individual” dimension) and are more likely to believe that the greatest barriers to their success come not from their own capabilities or even from their own companies’ cultures (the “company” dimension), but from society at large (the “society” dimension). On the other end of the spectrum, women executives in Canada and the Philippines believe that societal issues are less of a barrier to achieving career success and that corporate cultures are more to blame for the glass ceiling.
The company dimension appears to pose the greatest barrier to advancement in Austria, whereas Swiss respondents believe the company dimension poses relatively few barriers to their advancement. In Germany and Australia, barriers to advancement are most prevalent in the dimension of society.
“The study reminds us that while there has been progress in shattering the glass ceiling over the past 20 years, organizations – and societies – need to realize how important it is to capitalize and build upon the skills of women,” said Kedrick D. Adkins, Accenture’s chief diversity officer. “Creating a business culture that supports innovation, growth and prosperity requires people with diverse talents, and organizations need to ensure that they value all styles of leadership and work. In other words, global inclusion is the key to the long-term success of companies.”
The study was conducted as part of Accenture’s observance of International Women’s Day today, which the company is marking through a series of coordinated activities in 20 cities throughout the world focused on women in business. Accenture expects more than 3,000 of its people to join clients, business leaders and academics in such activities as leadership development sessions, career workshops and networking events.
Accenture conducted online surveys of approximately 1,200 senior executives at mid- to large-sized companies ($250 million+) in eight countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, the Philippines, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Approximately half of all respondents were female. Fieldwork was conducted between January and February 2006.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Committed to delivering innovation, Accenture collaborates with its clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With deep industry and business process expertise, broad global resources and a proven track record, Accenture can mobilize the right people, skills and technologies to help clients improve their performance. With more than 126,000 people in 48 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$15.55 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2005. Its home page is www.accenture.com.