While corporations have made progress towards gender parity at the board level, we are not seeing the same trends replicated in the C-suite, which fuels the pipeline for future board directors.
What prevents so many women from rising above mid-level management? One explanation is provided by ‘Women of Influence’, a recent study by Thomson Reuters, which found that female executives in the US may feel that they outperform their male counterparts in certain skill sets, but when it comes to networking and self-promotion, the majority of women executives say that men are still doing it better.
Across the five themes of career success in this study, women consider career advancement their weakest area. They face challenges finding new opportunities, negotiating the chain of command effectively and creating work-life balance. They also face challenges in self-promotion, advocating for themselves and expressing their talents.
Business school can prepare women for the C-suite – and as a result, corporate boards. Yet only one-third of MBA students are women, although some schools have higher percentages. Women tend to shy away from business school for a number of reasons, which sometimes include a lack of confidence about succeeding on the entrance exam and in analytical coursework or getting into the school they want. Women also tend to weigh career-family balance more than men and often decide whether to pursue the MBA before having children. Consequently, they are often uncertain about whether an investment in an MBA will be a pay-off for their careers over the long-term and choose not to apply.