Women's Advancement: Busting Old Myths

6 min read | Susan Colantuono

Myths about women's advancement

Many management actions are based on outdated beliefs about women.

That’s why we take every opportunity to set the record straight and provide you with  research that can be used to dispel common beliefs that are used to hold women back.

Update: March 2016:

Myth: Women, especially those with children, aren't mobile.

Recent Research:

A PwC report states,

"More than 70 per cent of millennial women in the study said they want to work outside their home country...The study found that bosses often mistakenly assume that women won’t take on foreign assignments because they have children. In fact, a nearly equal number of executives — 41 per cent of the women and 40 per cent of the men — who said they wanted overseas assignments already were parents..."

Update: April, 2015: Research from Australia (which likely applies to other countries) debunks the myth that women don't want international assignments and that managers' assumptions (Motherhood Penalty) prevents women's access to these opportunities:

"PwC’s data shows that managers in both the home country and host country believe women are not as available or willing to take roles overseas, largely because of assumptions about family commitments. This assumption is not supported by evidence, given that 69% of women actively seek overseas appointments and 63% consider an overseas appointment crucial to their career progression. These assumptions at management level, however, often lead to these willing and available women being overlooked."

Common Belief

Recent Research

OLD MYTH: Very few women aspire to senior or executive positions

While this may be true if you survey all women, when you ask those in the pipeline for those senior or executive positions, the story is quite different.

“Seventy-nine percent of all mid- or senior-level women want to reach top management, compared with 81 percent of men. Senior women executives just one step away from the C-suite are more likely to agree strongly that they have top-management ambitions.”



OLD MYTH: Work/life balance issues keep women from senior/executive positions

One of our pet peeves here at Leading Women is when people ask us, “but what about work/life balance?” Our response is always that most of the Fortune 500 women CEOs and their counterparts have children – often 2 or more.

These virtual role models are living proof that being a parent isn’t a barrier to advancement.

Now, some are making the point themselves. Contrary to popular belief, few women in the executive suite cite work-life balance as the biggest barrier to moving up the corporate ladder.”


OLD MYTH: All women leave because of work/life balance issues.

Tracking exactly with our experience with many corporations around the world, a comparative study of men and women who have left their positions at Citi, Carolanne Minashi reports,

  • Female attrition is NOT about flexibility or work life balance challenges – the majority of women in the study strongly disagreed that flexibility or work life balance challenges had anything to do with their decision to leave. The message came back loud and clear – “we are here to work, we want large, complex, exciting leadership challenges. Let me worry about what is going on at home”.
  • Female attrition is NOT about leaving to look after a family – the number of women in the European Study who left to look after children is 0.  In the global study only 4% of those who left are at home. The majority of our women (63%) have gone on to other corporate roles in the financial services sector – exactly the same as the percentage of men, and a number of them (22%) have started their own business.”

Why do women actually leave? Dissatisfaction with the opportunities they are presented.


So, what's a company to do about these prevailing and stubborn myths?

First, equip yourself and your colleagues with more recent research. Second, directly address them through education that goes beyond generic diversity training and delivers specifics about the ways gender dynamics impact talent decisions.

Address Gender Dynamics 

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Lead ON!


Susan L. Colantuono, CEO
|  +1-401-789-0441  |  www.LeadingWomen.biz
click on the image above to view my TED Talk: Closing the Leadership Gender Gap
Author: No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring
"Leadership is using the greatness in you to achieve and sustain
extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in others." 
Susan L. Colantuono

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