The most highly qualified female business graduates lack the ambition of male counterparts in sectors such as engineering, manufacturing and natural resources, new research suggests.
Some 84% of women taking management jobs in “tech-intensive” industries immediately after gaining a master’s in business administration (MBA) aspired to a senior executive or chief executive role, compared with 97% of men, according to a global study of almost 6,000 MBA graduates by research group Catalyst.
The report was released in a week when Moya Greene, chief executive of Royal Mail and one of only five female chief executives in the FTSE 100, blamed cultural and societal expectations for blunting the aspirations of many businesswomen. Greene told an event to launch the “25 by 25” campaign, which is targeting 25 female FTSE 100 chief executives by 2025: “One of the most important things to do is to help women take ownership of their ambition and aspirations. It’s still disappointing when you see how young women view their ambition – and how others view that ambition. To be a CEO it’s really hard work and you really have to want to do it. For women, even in 2014, that can be a problem.”
The findings suggesting that the top female business graduates lack the ambition of males in the technical sectors contradicts findings from other areas of commerce where studies frequently show that women are just as likely to aspire to the top jobs as men.
Allyson Zimmermann, a senior director at Catalyst, said: “A lack of role models is certainly one contributory factor. Only 15% of the women and men in business roles in technology-intensive industries had a female supervisor compared with 21% in other industries. Women were more than twice as likely as men to report a lack of role models of the same gender as a significant barrier to advancement.”
The research will worry campaigners for more women in top business roles, especially as it seems to echo controversial comments made in 2011 by Simon Murray, the then chairman of commodity trading group Glencore, who told the Sunday Telegraph: “Women are quite as intelligent as men. They have a tendency not to be so involved quite often and they’re not so ambitious in business as men because they’ve got better things to do. Quite often they like bringing up their children and all sorts of other things.” Up until late June, Glencore was the only FTSE 100 to maintain an all male board, when it appointed Patrice Merrin, a Canadian former mining executive, as a non-executive.
The Catalyst report – which also stated that women are paid less than men in technical industries – coincided with the release of a Treasury analysis claiming a more positive picture. It said that there are more women in work in the UK than ever before and that 80% of the increase in women’s employment over the past four years has been in high-skilled occupations.
Nicky Morgan, the minister for women, said: “Women are making huge strides in the economy, and it’s vital that their contributions are recognised. No woman should have to choose between their career and their family. That’s why we’ve extended the right to request flexible working and from next year will allow parents to share leave following the birth of their child.”
However, Catherine McKinnell MP, the shadow Treasury minister, countered: “Women are worse off after four years of David Cameron’s government. The gender pay gap is widening again and House of Commons library figures show George Osborne’s budget decisions have hit women a staggering four times harder than men.”
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