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Women still can’t get no (career) satisfaction

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Research results just released reveals that the factors leading to personal career satisfaction for women are very different from those that enable actual promotions; this could account for why many organisations are struggling to see change as a result of their gender diversity initiatives.

Researchers collected data from 3,000 professional and managerial women and men in the United Kingdom and United States for the study – The whole package: women’s career progression in the context of work, home and family set-up – which sheds light on what drives career progression and retention and the impact of work and non-work related factors, such as family set-up and childcare. The new data shows that the three most important factors leading to women’s actual career progression and promotions are: Critical job assignments: high visibility roles that enable employees to showcase their capabilities. Women report having significantly fewer critical job roles than their male counterparts (45 percent for women versus 54 percent for men).

Politically-skilled networking: the ability to be ‘visible’ to senior decision makers. Women report that they engage in less politically-skilled networking than their male counterparts (58 percent for women versus 62 percent for men). Risk-embracing seeking of opportunities: women proactively searching for a new career opportunity and going ‘out of their comfort zone’ to advance their career. The difference in results for women (65 percent) and men (64 percent) is very small. In contrast, the study found that the drivers of women’s personal satisfaction with career opportunities are markedly different from those of actually gaining a promotion – though of course career satisfaction is also crucial if women are to stay in their role rather than look for new opportunities elsewhere.

The top three drivers for women feeling satisfied with career progression opportunities at work are:  Objective HR processes: having fair and objective HR processes in place to support promotion decisions. Supportive supervisor: having a supportive supervisor or line manager who believes in their potential. Career planning: having a clear plan to advance their career and achieve their goals. Dr Ines Wichert, who conducted the report, said: “This difference between satisfaction and actual promotion is important to note and may account to some extent for the slower progress in getting women to the top; after all feeling satisfied with our career progression opportunities is no guarantee to securing the next promotion. “Our data show that there is only a moderate link between the amount of satisfaction we experience for our career progression opportunities and gaining a promotion. The drivers for promotions – critical job assignments, networking and seeking opportunities – rank very low as drivers for feeling satisfied with our career progression opportunities.

“This could explain why many organisations struggle to see change as a result of their gender diversity initiatives – perhaps they are focusing on initiatives that make women feel more satisfied, but not on initiatives that drive actual promotions and therefore career progression for women. Employers need to take this on board when planning initiatives to support gender diversity, to make sure that women not only stay in the company but also move up the career ladder.” Other report findings showed that: Almost one-third of both women and men (29 percent) are considering leaving their job in the next 12 months. The two main reasons for this are: lack of satisfaction with career progression opportunities and a lack of work-life balance

Women report lower satisfaction with career progression opportunities than men (52 percent vs 59 percent favourable) and they also have a far higher likelihood of having no promotions over the last five years (42 percent for women vs 34 percent for men).

28 to 34 is the ‘golden age’ for career progression – after that the number of promotions and job satisfaction levels steadily decrease. Between the ages of 28 and 34, 39 percent of women and 49 percent of men report two or more promotions in five years. By 43-54 this is significantly lower (18 percent and 25 percent), however this decline in promotions and satisfaction doesn’t appear to be driving people to look elsewhere as intention to leave also declines with age. Flexible work arrangements drive higher work-life balance – having access to and making use of at least one flexible work arrangement leads to significantly higher work-life balance scores than not using any at all (75 percent and 60 percent respectively).

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