Women are not as power hungry as men

According to a 4,000-person survey from Harvard Business School, a noticeable gap exists between the ambitions of men and women.

More specifically, men simply want powerful jobs more than women do.

Here are some of the highlight/findings of the study:

  • Women may have more life goals than men, but they are less focused upon power.
  • Women associate more negative possibilities with positions of power.
  • Both men and women tended to believe they were capable of obtaining power positions, but men desired those positions more.
  • Men perceived professional power as more desirable, overall.
  • Women are less likely to apply to professional power positions than men.

The study was published recently in full in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Entitled “Compared to Men, Women View Professional Advancement as Equally Attainable, but Less Desirable,” the study shows that “even in the most progressive, gender-balanced households, on average, women seem to think about a greater diversity of pursuits.”

Alison Wood Brooks, an assistant professor who worked on the study, had this to say: “We wondered if women may think about things that men don’t. You want to be an amazing employee. You want to be an excellent leader at work. But you may also want to dress well. And make sure your children are fed. And that the nanny got to the house in time for you to leave for work. And remember to check in with your close friends. And find time to jog three times a week. And so on. Even in the most progressive, gender-balanced households, on average, women seem to think about a greater diversity of pursuits.”

To begin their research, they surveyed working adults and had them list their core life goals. Women had twice as many goals as compared to men. And men had a greater number of goals that were about professional power.

After this, the study became more focused, and surveyed men and women who were from the same professionally ambitious demographic: in this case from the Harvard MBA classes of 2014 and 2013.

Participants were asked about how high they could realistically climb on the corporate ladder and what their ideal position/level would be. Women and men both had similar estimates of how high they could climb. However, when it came to their ideal position, women on average picked a lower rung than men.

Of course simply knowing that women tend to desire power positions less than men was not enough.

To further the quality of the study, the researchers then sought to understand why women wanted lesser career advancement. So they asked participants to describe how they would handle a situation where they were offered an advancement in the work place.

Stress was put on how they would handle the added pressure, work tasks, and responsibilities. Surprisingly, both genders predicted the same percentage of positive scenarios, but women tended to fixate and expand upon negative ones more so.

Further studies were performed to test if the results would remain the same in other demographics. Two exercises were performed with groups of students from different school programs and the results were almost identical. Even in a survey of undergraduates, the results did not budge from the expected revelations.

Reflecting on their study, the researchers stated that the results were “descriptive, not prescriptive” as: “Based on these data, we cannot make value judgments about whether men and women’s differing views of professional advancement are good or bad, rational or irrational, at any level of analysis (e.g. , for individuals, for organizations, or for societies).”

Although women may hope to one day become the CEO, they are much more open to a wide variety of potential life paths, as opposed to the more power hungry men surveyed in the study.

Speaking on the potential criticisms that could face the results, Brooks stated, “The findings in the paper could be construed as anti-feminist, but one could also argue that they represent true feminist ideals. It’s fascinating that women have more goals than men. At this point in Western culture, women are pursuing more things. It’s empowering to have a long list of goals, and to try to pursue them all. We hope our findings encourage men and women to be more aware of their own goals and preferences, and respectful of others’.”

Brooks and partners are already putting plans in motion to further their studies in the area in the future. Currently, the next state of research is focusing on what point in life men and women begin developing different viewpoints about professional advancement opportunities.

Taking on the same approach as they did with the current survey, they hope to find revealing results that will help with future professional guidance for both genders. “We might have to go much younger than college undergraduates,” Brooks said in reference to the challenge, “Maybe even younger than high school.”

Increase in Women Directors on Boards of SGX-listed Companies in 2014

Last year, the number of directorships (board seats) occupied by females rose 10% to 448, compared to 406 in 2013, reports Singapore’s Diversity Action Committee (DAC).

Out of the total increase in directorships during the year which stood at 166, women made up 25% of new seats.

New listings and appointments grew the female directorship pool by 91 while 49 stepped down from positions, resulting in a net increase of 42 female board members. 36 of these were independent director roles while the remaining 6 were non-independent director roles.

The DAC findings indicate a steady/slight increase in the presence of women on SGX-listed company boards year over year. At the end of 2014, women representation was 8.8%, compared to 8.3% in 2013 and 8.0% in 2012.


Mainboard and Catalist Companies Saw Improvement

Female board representation is at a similar percentage, when compared across different sized companies.

However, the improvement was most noticeable in large companies with S$1b market capitalization and up, as well as Catalist companies. The representation of women increased 1.5 points to 8.7% in large companies and 1.4 points at Catalist companies to 8.6%.

The leading 30 companies on the Straights Times Index have female representation below the market at 7.6% but still had an increase of 1 percentage point compared to the previous year.


Many Industry Groups See Improvement

Most noticeably the media industry showed a 16% women’s representation, which is the highest across the country, while the remaining industries ranged between 6-11%.

Of the 764 SGX-listed companies at the end of 2014, 55.5% had all-male boards which was down from 56% in the previous year. Of these companies about 80% have had all-male boards for the last three years.


Singapore Trails Behind International Trends

Although Singapore has a large well-educated population of senior-level female executives, it falls behind other countries.

Despite the country not having as many female board members as others internationally, Magnus Bocker, the chairman of DAC is encouraged by the increase of female directorships in SGX-listed companies.

As more companies seek ways to incorporate diversity into their boards, by including women for instance, SGX-listed companies can foster better corporate governance. A gender-diverse board may also enhance the business performance of these companies.

Working Mothers Have More Successful And Healthier Children

Being a working mom can be challenging in many ways.

Not only is it physical demanding, but it can also be emotionally draining.

You may feel guilty about working and being away from your children and concerned about the negative effects it could have on them.

As a working mom the findings of a new study by the University of Michigan will be interesting for you.


According to the study:

  1. Children of working moms are not only healthier, they are also more successful themselves.
  2. Working mothers spend a fair bit of time (11 to 30 hours a week) with their children and they make this time very meaningful. They do this by being accessible when their children are at home, and by changing their chores/tasks & work schedule around the schedules of their children.
  3. Mothers who spend too much time with their children could actually be causing more harm than good. Children do not get a chance to be independent when their parents are constantly around and are less likely to pursue relationships with others.
  4. When a mother is around to quickly meet a child’s every need, that child might not learn to care for himself or does not learn the skills necessary to figure things out on his own.

While the study suggests that the amount of time a mother spends with a young child has no significant impact on the child’s social, academic or emotional performance, the case is different for teenagers. 

Teenagers are more likely to be successful and avoid  becoming delinquents if parents are more involved and around more often. Teenagers and adolescents who have parents who are more involved, are less likely to indulge in sex, drugs, alcohol and crime and are more likely to do well in school, sports and even part-time jobs.

They tend to self regulate their behavior if they know someone if around to keep an eye on them.


So what determines if a kid will become more successful as an adult?

According to the study, income was a major factor in the success and social development of the children involved. In each income bracket, the children who lived in homes with the highest income were the most successful.

This could be due to the fact that children often imitate what they see.

Children who grow up in homes where both parents are working and who see the results of that hard work, are more likely to work hard themselves, so they can have similar results.

Barriers to increasing the presence of women in the workplace

Increasing the representation of women in the workplace, is something that a lot of good companies are trying to do.

As we have seen from the figures released by Google, LinkedIn and Yahoo, some progress has been made in this area. 70% of Google’s U.S. employees are men, while the figure is 61% for LinkedIn and 62% for Yahoo.

However, there is still room for improvement. Speaking at a recent event, Lynda Gratton (Professor of Management Practice in Organisational Behaviour, London Business School), highlighted four persistent stereotypes that remain barriers to women in the workplace, especially those seeking leadership positions:

  1. Women as mothers: Balancing work and family is harder for women, since they often bear more responsibility for domestic matters. Mothers, whether or not they take career breaks, need more support from companies and better flexi-work arrangements.
  2. Women as poor career navigators: Studies have shown that women don’t negotiate much after the age of 35. This means that they lose out in areas such as compensation, promotions and career moves. Organisations can help by having better training, mentoring and other guidance available for women to navigate their careers well.
  3. Women as a minority: A minority of any sort, is not as well-off when compared to the majority. According to Professor Gratton 33% is the breaking point after which negative stereotypes and imbalances can be overcome.
  4. Women as poor networkers: Women tend to network with their peers, while men network upwards. Providing access and opportunities for women to interact with leaders in organisations can be useful here.

Organisation trying to promote equality and diversity frequently address one or two of these barriers. But all four are important and need to be considered for better progress to me made.

Women in the workplace: A compilation of facts and research findings

The team at the Harvard Business Review has dug out several pieces of research, which focus on women in the workplace and the work/leadership/career issues that women face.

Here are some of the facts and findings.

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