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Ask Deborah: What About the “Aspiration Gap”?

August 3, 2015Deborah Gillis is Catalyst’s President and CEO. This month she addresses the following question from a Catalyst supporter:

What if women themselves do not want senior management roles? Is the fact that most top jobs are occupied by men evidence of a “glass ceiling,” or does it simply mean that women don’t want those higher-level jobs?

This is an important question and one I’m glad you took the time to ask.

We know there are plenty of people these days—men and women alike—who don’t necessarily want to ascend to their companies’ C-suites.

That doesn’t mean they lack ambition. We all have unique skills, talents, and interests, and different roles to play at work and in life. I also believe that women are every bit as ambitious as men, whether or not that ambition is expressed as a desire to be a CEO. Women, too, want to learn, grow, and succeed, as well as to be recognized and rewarded for their achievements—just as more men than ever report wanting to spend time at home.

It makes no difference to me whether women choose to raise families, start small businesses, or climb the corporate ladder. But as CEO of Catalyst, I want to make sure that they aren’t making these choices based on a false “work-versus-life” dichotomy. 

We should all be able to define success on our terms and make choices that align with our personal and professional goals, free of judgment. And no one should see certain opportunities as off-limits due to a lack of organizational support and flexibility.

Unfortunately, too many people still feel limited in terms of what they can aspire to do or be, given the demands and pressures that most senior executives face. And women still lack role models who can show them that having a high-powered career is not only possible, but desirable, regardless of parental status.

As our most recent Millennial poll reveals, the smartest way for companies to attract and retain loyal, productive Millennial employees is to empower them to achieve their personal and professional aspirations. 

But you don’t have to be a woman, a parent, or a Millennial to seek a more balanced life. In fact, our research shows that women and men rely on flex options to the same extent throughout their careers. Dedicated employees in roles that don’t require physical presence at a job site can work quite effectively from anywhere. Many are doing so already, and many more should have the option

The bottom line is that whether or not they aspire to join the C-suite, all women and all men deserve equal opportunities to pursue fulfilling careers and lives—as well as the organizational support necessary to do so.

Click here to read the last column in this series! And please send questions for Deborah to [email protected]—your question could be featured on our blog.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.