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Why do women struggle to progress in their careers? They may be shying away from top roles, new study reveals

Written by Latifa Yedroudj on Tuesday, 08 October 2019. Posted in Diversity, People

Some may think that women often leave the workforce over plans to start a family, but there may be several other factors contributing to the gender disparity in workplaces.

Why do women struggle to progress in their careers? They may be shying away from top roles, new study reveals

Women are often underrepresented in work places with rising competition over managerial positions, and there has been little progress in filling that gap. Why is it that more men attain top roles? There could be two sides to the coin. According to a new study, women may be less likely to strive for opportunities in competitive workplaces.

A study by UCL School of Management and London Business School revealed that women may be less competitive than men due to external factors, such as different evolutionary and social pressures.

The research, led by Dr. Sun Young Lee and Dr. Selin Kesebir, revealed how different beliefs about competition had an impact on one’s career ambitions.

In a set of studies with a total of 2,331 participants, Dr Lee and Dr Kesebir found that women attributed fewer positive outcomes to competition than men do. Particularly, women are less likely to believe that competition improves performance, builds character, and leads to creative problem solving - meaning women may be opting out of important career opportunities such as applying for grants, running for office or seeking coveted promotions.

The findings, published in academic journal “Motivation and Emotion”, also found that people who hold fewer positive beliefs about competition - who were disproportionally women according to the study - also described themselves as less competitive and less willing to compete when they have the option.

According to a separate study by McKinsey and, 52% of corporate entry-level jobs are taken up by men and 48% by women. However, only 37% of women end up taking manager roles compared to 63% of men.

Dr. Lee and Dr. Kesebir wrote in the journal: “Many beliefs are known to be more malleable than we think. Women may develop a more balanced view of competition and become more aware of competition’s potentially positive outcomes, if we create more opportunities for them to experience healthy competition from early on in their life.”

Women can also turn to each other for support and guidance. This Women in Business Expo will be held at the Farnborough Exhibition Centre from October 16 to 17, providing guidance, inspiration and business services to women at any stage of their career. The expo will host a panel of guest speakers delivering valuable tips and insights to help women climb the job ladder.

Despite women entering the workforce in greater numbers than ever before, it is still an uphill battle for many due to with other discrepancies in the workplace such as gender pay gaps – and there is still more work to be done.

About the Author

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj has joined the Elite team to fully immerse herself in the business side of journalism, a strong passion of hers cultivated from young having co-run her mother's start up business since she was 18. Her interests lie in a wide range of subjects, including start ups, business, travel, and anything entrepreneurial she can get her hands on. She has worked for some of the biggest names in journalism including The Guardian and The Mirror. Follow her on @latifayed on Twitter for her latest journo rants.

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