Knowledge Center

Leaders in a Global Economy: A Study of Executive Women and Men

The Families and Work Institute, Catalyst, and the Boston College Center for Work and Family, partnered on this study of women and men leaders in U.S.-based global companies who are working around the world. This study challenges some of the common wisdom regarding women in leadership and provides recommendations for action by companies.

Impetus: This study grew out of the concerns of a group of companies who had been working on the issue of attracting, developing, and retaining women for a number of years. Despite their progress, they felt there were challenges—both subtle and overt—to overcome. They wanted to better understand these challenges on a global basis so they could develop new approaches and strategies to address the advancement of both women and men.


  • Conducted telephone interviews with 45 senior women from around the world at each of the participating companies.
  • Convened delegations of 90 top women leaders at the participating companies from 19 countries at a three-day seminar in Prague, Czech Republic, in July 2001.
  • Surveys received from 1,192 women and men executives from ten participating companies. Response rate: 51 percent.

Findings: This study challenges some of the widely held assumptions about women in business leadership. For example, the common wisdom is that the higher women climb, the more they have to give up in their personal and family lives. However, the women in the higher status jobs have not given up more than women executives in lower status jobs—they are more likely to have children and are no more likely to have delayed or decided against committed relationships. Another common wisdom is that executives have to be work-centric to be successful in their careers. While 61 percent of executives in this study can be described as work-centric, a substantial minority, 32 percent, place the same priority on their work and personal lives, earning the moniker, dual-centric. In addition, this study features data on women and men’s aspirations, strategies for success, barriers to advancement, mentoring experiences, and retention issues.

Sponsors: Baxter International, Citigroup, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Dow, Eli Lilly and Company, Goldman, Sachs & Co., The IBM Company, JPMorgan Chase, Marriot International Inc., Procter & Gamble