Career Advancement for Women in Business – Flat

Has the door to the executive suite and the board room slammed shut for women? Is it still possible for other capable and talented women to join the ranks of leaders like Brenda C. Barnes, Chairman and CEO of Sara Lee, Andrea Jung, Chairman and CEO of Avon Products, Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of Pepsico, and Patricia Woertz, Chairman, President and CEO of Archer Daniels Midland?

The evidence is disappointing. In a recent article, about the 2010 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors and the 2010 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Executive Officers and Top Earners, released Monday, December 13, Ilene H. Lang, Catalyst president and chief executive officer told FOX Business, “The first look at our census numbers over the last years shows little progress for women as top earners.”

  • In 2010, women held 14.4% of executive officer positions, up from 13.5% in 2009 and only 7.6% of the top earning positions compared with 6.3% in 2009.
  • Women held just 15.7% of board seats in 2010, a mere 0.5% gain over the 15.2% in 2009.

One bright aspect of the report, according to reporter, Barbara Mannino, showed that men and women with mentors were placed higher in their post-MBA first jobs, with men benefiting more than women over time. Men with mentors were 93% more likely than men without mentors to start out at middle management or above. Women with mentors increased their odds of being placed at mid-manager or above by only 56% over women who did not have mentors.

Throughout their careers, men received more promotions than women and higher salary increases. Each promotion earned men an extra 21% in compensation; for women, each promotion amounted to an extra 2%.

High- potential men and women with senior-level mentors advance further and earn more than those with less senior mentors. Overall, though, women’s compensation still lags men whether or not their mentor is at the top.

With top tier leadership and board rooms having so few women among their ranks, it is less likely these executives will choose a woman to mentor. Historically, leaders choose the person most likely to be just like them as their own careers advanced.

Forward-looking companies can boldly address this issue by creating and supporting mentorship programs that are open to a wider pool of future leaders. To launch such a program, both mentors and mentees should receive training that prepares both partners for success – regardless of gender, culture and generational differences.

Mentoring at the senior level is not about showing another how to do something, rather it is about cultivating the kind of thinking that experience provides. It includes being able to have a conversation that leads to insight, action, accountability, and learning. It provides a support system for the learning process. Finally, as the mentee proves herself it includes career sponsorship and network sharing to help her advance in her career.