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New Catalyst Study Finds Female Executives Are Just as Likely as Male Colleagues to Aspire to CEO Job

Survey Uncovers Similarities in Career Experiences of Women and Men at the Top of Corporate America, Although Key Differences Remain

Today, Catalyst released the results of a new study on the career aspirations, advancement strategies, and barriers of women and men Fortune 1000 executives within two to three reporting levels of the CEO. Women and men report equal aspirations to reach the corner office, and women who have children living with them are just as likely to aspire to the CEO job as those who do not. The study, Women and Men in U.S. Corporate Leadership: Same Workplace, Different Realities?, is sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
     “Career women have been concerned about the recent attention given to a small group of women choosing to opt out of high-performing careers,” said Catalyst President Ilene H. Lang. “Our latest research findings shed light on that debate, and show that, while the glass ceiling is yet to be shattered, women and men share equal ambitions and similar strategies.”
     Catalyst’s survey finds that women and men employ very similar advancement strategies (consistently exceeding performance expectations, successfully anaging others, seeking high-visibility assignments, and demonstrating expertise) and have experienced similar barriers (displaying a behavioral style that is different than an organization’s norm, lack of significant general management or line experience, and lack of awareness of organizational politics) during their rise to the top.
     However, women report enduring a set of cultural barriers to their advancement not experienced by men: gender-based stereotypes, exclusion from informal networks, lack of role models, and an inhospitable corporate culture.
     “Catalyst’s study should spark a conversation that is critical to the future of business,” said Dennis Nally, Chairman and Senior Partner,  PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. “At PwC, we News Release recognize that women are key to the success of our firm. We are committed to creating a culture where everyone can succeed.”
     Catalyst’s report uncovers striking similarities between men and women regarding work/life management: 51 percent of women and 43 percent of men report difficulty in achieving a balance between work and personal lives, and women and men participants equally desire a variety of informal or formal flexible work arrangements. However, women and men have used very different strategies to find a balance between work and personal lives. And, as they have advanced to senior levels, women have made more trade-offs between work and personal lives.
     “It is important to recognize that not only do women have their sights set on the corner office, but they have high levels of career satisfaction,” said Paulette Gerkovich, Ph.D., Senior Director, Research, Catalyst. “Despite the trade-offs they have made, a large majority of both women and men report comfort with their choices. In terms of work satisfaction, 75 percent or more of both genders are satisfied with their current positions, their employers, and the respect with which they are treated by company leadership.”


Catalyst’s report compiles the results of two central pieces of research: 1) analysis of findings based on data from surveys completed by 705 senior-level women and 243 senior-level men, conducted during the summer and fall of 2002; and 2) analysis of in-depth, qualitative interviews conducted with 20 women and 13 men during the summer of 2003.  

About Catalyst

Catalyst is the leading research and advisory organization working with businesses and the professions to build inclusive work environments and expand opportunities for women at work. As an independent, not-for-profit membership organization, Catalyst uses a solutions-oriented approach that has earned the confidence of business leaders around the world. Catalyst conducts research on all aspects of women’s career advancement and provides strategic and web-based consulting services on a global basis to help companies and firms advance women. In addition, we honor exemplary business initiatives that promote women’s leadership with our annual Catalyst Award. With offices in New York, San Jose, and Toronto, Catalyst is consistently ranked No. 1 among U.S. nonprofits focused on women’s issues by The American Institute of Philanthropy. For additional information, please visit or call 212-514-7600.