Human Resources



Woman looking depressed at work to show women's aspiration levels decline mid-career

Women lose confidence as they reach mid-career

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They might be better prepared for their jobs when starting out their careers, but have you ever wondered why there are significantly fewer women than men in middle and senior level positions?

A new study by Bain & Company claims women’s confidence levels evaporate as they progress in their careers.

The report, which polled 1,000 men and women across ages and career levels in America, found 43% of women entered the workforce with their eye on the C-Suite, but their aspiration levels dropped by 60% after more than just two years on the job.

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Confidence among women showed a similar decline. While 27% of new women employees believed they could reach top management positions, the report found that the number dropped by nearly half mid-career.

The report added that although both men and women at the senior level reported a significant bump up in confidence and ambition for top management, the trend was much more pronounced among men.

More than half of senior level men, compared to less than one-third of senior level women, felt that the C-Suite was within their reach.

The study highlighted, however, that the decline in aspiration and confidence had nothing to do with marriage or starting a family. In fact, marital and parental status did not significantly differ between women who aspired in their mid-careers and those who did not.

“Our findings confirm that a lot more emphasis belongs in the conference room – that is, during employees’ formative years in the workplace,” Julie Coffman, a partner in Bain’s Chicago office and one of the report’s authors, said.

“Frontline managers can – but often don’t – play a critical role in helping to shape and support women’s career aspirations and to reinforce and bolster women’s confidence.”

Coffman’s conclusions aren’t surprising, considering recent reports of senior bosses classifying women as “cheaper” versions of men. In fact, Bain’s reported suggested that mid-career women are often encounter negative experiences and perceptions that put them off the fast track.

“First is a disconnect with the so-called ideal worker stereotype – the ‘always on’ fast-tracking go-getter,” Bain’s press release stated.

“Second is lack of supervisor support for mid-level women. The third – borne out of the other shortcomings – is a lack of women role models at top company levels.”

READ MORE: Survey: 20% of women report sexual harassment at work

Image: Shutterstock

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