New survey looks at barriers to women’s leadership advancement

As the way we work, and the industries we work in, undergo unprecedented change, having the right people is becoming an increasingly critical imperative.

And if it’s not on the minds of executives, every major business publication is working to get it there. Just in the past year, Fast Company has lamented that “The War for Talent is Over, and Everyone Lost,” while Inc. magazine served up, in less alarmist fashion, “The War for Talent: It’s Real and Here’s Why It’s Happening.”

Part of this talent war entails leveraging the greater diversity in the world today and removing barriers to advancement that exist, namely for the 75 million women in the U.S. civilian labor force. A recently published report from Columbus-based Leverage HR and Belgium-based social enterprise firm JUMP set out to explore the way these barriers exist and how we can break them down in survey research that will be presented at The Ohio State Center for Operational Excellence’s sixth-annual Leading Through Excellence summit on April 11.

The Leverage HR/JUMP report, published last month, surveyed more than 1,000 professional women in two-dozen industry sectors, nearly half of whom have children under 18 years at home. The women were asked about individual, organizational, and transitional barriers they perceive, which were then converted into a broader risk index score in each category.

According to the survey, participating women perceived the so-called individual barriers as less of an issue. More than three-quarters of respondents said they can accommodate changes to their personal and professional schedules quickly, while more than two-thirds said they don’t let pressure from family and friends dictate their professional choices. What’s more, 78% of respondents said they thrive on change.

It’s in the more externally focused barriers where risk index scores showed greater danger of them leaving an organization as a result. Between 50 and 60 percent of respondents told Leverage HR and JUMP the following:

  • They find it challenging to appear confident unless they’re 100% prepared;
  • They believe they aren’t paid the same as male peers for similar performance in the same role (these women would be very, very correct); and
  • They don’t have a group of trusted advisors.

Broadly assessing the survey data, Leverage HR and JUMP reported that women perceive the biases in how organizations evaluate performance as a major barrier, while they lack the robust network that’s critical for career progression.

Sapna Welsh and Shawn Garrett of Leverage HR will be offering a breakout session on the survey results – and their recommendations in light of them – at 10:30 a.m. during the “A” block of breakout sessions on April 11 in a presentation titled “Building a Culture of Courage to Foster Diversity.” It’s one of a few sessions focused on addressing – and leveraging – diversity in a workplace setting, which Fisher College of Business researcher Steffanie Wilk is covering in a breakout at 12:40 p.m. the same day.

Extremely limited seating remains for the Leading Through Excellence summit. To register, head here.

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