Knowledge Center

Women in Leadership: A European Business Imperative

Strategic organizations are beginning to realize that capitalizing on the talents of women is a business imperative. Many European business leaders know that the proportion of women in leadership does not reflect the number of women entering their companies. Catalyst and The Conference Board Europe partnered for this study of the perceptions and attitudes of top-level women and men executives in large corporations and professional firms across 20 countries in Europe. This study replicates the methodology of three studies of women in leadership in the United States, Canada, and the U.K.

The study's findings showed, among other things:

  • Barriers to women’s advancement are remarkably similar across Europe.
  • Women report that stereotypes and preconceptions about women’s roles and abilities are the No. 1 barrier to advancement, closely followed by lack of role models, lack of general management experience, commitment to family and personal responsibilities, and lack of mentoring.
  • Men do not seem to see the same barriers to women’s advancement as the women.
  • Contrary to common wisdom, the women want to reach the top—one-third of the European women respondents and one-quarter of the men aspire to senior most leadership.
  • Many of the women in the study have ascended the career ladder while managing personal responsibilities: 75 percent are married, 73 percent of those married have full-time working partners, and 63 percent have children.

Sponsors: Accenture, BP p.l.c., IBM Europe; Sponsored by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ford of Europe, General Motors Europe, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer Inc, Royal Dutch Shell, UBS Warburg; with assistance from Ernst & Young, ExxonMobil Foundation, General Electric, ING, Novo Nordisk, Rabobank Nederland