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Women Offered Fewer Career-Advancing “Hot Jobs,” New Catalyst Report Finds

NEW YORK (November 14, 2012)—Not all leadership opportunities are created equal. Women get fewer of the high visibility, mission-critical roles and international experiences—the so-called “hot jobs”—that are key to getting ahead at global companies. According to a new Catalyst report, Good Intentions, Imperfect Execution? Women Get Fewer of the Hot Jobs Needed to Advance, unequal access to those “hot jobs” may be an underlying cause of the persistent gender gap at senior levels.

Formal leadership training isn’t the answer either. Catalyst research shows that on-the-job experience leads to advancement more quickly than training—and even among those who have completed training programs, men are still more likely than women to get access to “hot jobs.” Read more.

Key findings of the Catalyst study include:

  • High-visibility projects, mission-critical roles, and international experiences are hallmarks of “hot jobs” that predict advancement. Yet Catalyst findings show that women get fewer of these “hot jobs” than men.
  • 62 percent of respondents said high-profile assignments that gave them leadership experience had the greatest impact on their careers, while only 10 percent cited formal training programs as most impactful.
  • Men reported leading projects with bigger budgets (more than twice the size of women’s), larger teams (more than three times as many staff), that posed higher risk to the company (30% of men vs. 22% of women), and had more C-suite visibility (35% of men vs. 26% of women).
  • Men reported having roles with more critical responsibility—for profit and loss (56% of men vs. 46% of women), management of direct reports (77% of men vs. 70% of women), and budgets over $10 million (30% of men vs. 22% of women).
  • International assignments predict advancement, and women get fewer than men—but not because they’re unwilling to relocate. Of those most willing, more men than women got those assignments (35% vs. 26%), and more women than men were never offered the opportunity (64% vs. 55%).
  • More men than women got “hot jobs” after being in formal leadership development programs, and more men were promoted within a year of program completion (51% of men vs. 37% of women).

“Offering critical assignments to high-potential women as part of an intentional strategy can help break through the logjam that blocks advancement for talented women,” said Ilene H. Lang, President & Chief Executive Officer, Catalyst. “Catalyst studies show that women are just as ambitious as men and use the same career advancement strategies—but they don’t get the same pay off. Clearly, access to the ‘hot jobs’ and to senior-level sponsors with clout to create that access can make a dramatic difference in closing the persistent gender gap.”

This research is part of The Promise of Future Leadership: A Research Program on Highly Talented Employees in the Pipeline, a longitudinal study on high-potential talent. Between Fall 2007 and Spring 2010, Catalyst conducted an online survey of alumni who graduated between 1996 and 2007 from MBA programs at 26 leading business schools in Asia, Canada, Europe, and the United States. Findings for this report are based on the 1,660 respondents who answered follow-up surveys fielded in 2010 and 2011 (1,479 MBA alumni completed the 2010 survey; 914 completed the 2011 survey), which provided additional information on career progression initially collected in 2008. Earlier reports in the series are Opportunity or Setback? High Potential Women and Men During Economic Crisis; Pipeline’s Broken Promise; Mentoring: Necessary But Insufficient for Advancement; The Myth of the Ideal Worker; and High Potentials in the Pipeline: Leaders Pay It Forward. This study was developed by the Catalyst Career Pathways Research Center, which is generously supported by Dell Inc. (Board Circle level) and Deloitte LLP, Campbell Soup Corporation, DuPont Corporation, and Kellogg Company (President Circle level) to explore the nature and causes of persistent gender gaps in career advancement for women and men.

Bloomberg, BMO Financial Group, Chevron Corporation, Credit Suisse, Dell Inc., Deloitte LLP, Desjardins Group, Deutsche Bank AG, Ernst & Young, General Motors Company, Hewlett-Packard Company, IBM Corporation, KeyBank, McDonald’s Corporation, Sodexo Inc., UPS

Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership organization expanding opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, Europe, and India, and more than 500 preeminent corporations as members, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work. Catalyst annually honors exemplary organizational initiatives that promote women's advancement with the Catalyst Award.

Media Contacts

Susan Nierenberg, Vice President, Global Marketing & Corporate Communications, Catalyst, +1 646 388 7744
United States: Stephanie Wolf
Canada: Magda Jarota, +1 416 640 5525 (English)
Canada: Ariane Tremblay, +1 514 861 1330 (French)
Europe: Frances Knox, + 44 7850 470123