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Egon Zehnder Leaders & Daughters Global Survey Reveals Professional Ambitions Rise Throughout Early Career, Fall as Women Strive to Reach C-Suite

  • Study Uncovers Similar Career Advancement Challenges for Women around the World
  • Highlights Distinctions in Ambition and Professional Development between Countries
  • Egon Zehnder to Host “Leaders & Daughters: Cultivating the Next Generation” Events in 40 Cities across 25 Countries

ZURICH/LONDON/NEW YORK, February 27, 2017 – Egon Zehnder, the world’s leadership advisory firm, today released the findings of its Leaders & Daughters Global Survey, a seven-country examination of working women’s motivations, ambitions and their own definitions of professional success. The findings uncover a consistent rise in ambition to reach executive leadership from the early stages of women’s professional careers through the senior management level; however, ambitions for women at senior management levels drop considerably as they strive to reach the C-suite.

Egon Zehnder is spotlighting the current mindset of women as the firm prepares to host “Leaders & Daughters: Cultivating the Next Generation” events in more than 40 cities worldwide – bringing together the voices of more than 3,500 participants to share their stories of success, as well as the obstacles blocking progress.

“We believe that diverse and inclusive leaders create a better world where organizations and economies not only grow, but thrive,” stated Rajeev Vasudeva, Chief Executive Officer, Egon Zehnder. He added, “With our Leaders & Daughters events, we hope to find pragmatic solutions that support the professional ambitions of all women, everywhere.”

Key Findings

Findings from the Leaders & Daughters Global Survey highlight seven countries around the world – Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, the United States and the United Kingdom. The goal is to share global similarities between women at different stages in their careers as well as regional distinctions in the journey to leadership. Key findings include:

Globally, the majority of women in the early stages of their professional career aspire for executive leadership, but ambition drops at the senior level.

  • Nearly three-quarters, 74 percent, of women at the junior and middle manager levels aspire to one day reach senior or executive leadership ranks within their organizations.
  • Yet surprisingly, in almost all countries, ambition wanes for women at the senior manager level and above, and drops from 72 percent to 57 percent as reality sets in for advancement to the top.
  • The level of ambition varies widely by country—with women in developing countries showing higher levels than counterparts elsewhere.
  • Ambition is typically higher in developing economies, such as Brazil, where 92 percent of women aspire to reach senior or executive leadership ranks, followed by China (88 percent) and India (82 percent). This compares to the U.S., where 62 percent reported this aspiration, followed by Australia (61 percent), Germany (58 percent) and the UK (56 percent).

As seniority increases, women feel that promotions become increasingly challenging to obtain. They also see a greater need to overcome gender bias and stereotypes in the workplace.

  • Overall, 49 percent of respondents believe that it is more challenging for women to be promoted to senior management positions than it is for men in their organization.
  • This belief becomes stronger as respondents rise through management roles, with more than 60 percent of middle managers and above believing it is more challenging to be promoted.
  • Regionally, gender bias in the C-suite is most strongly felt in India, where 33 percent of women identify the problem. Second is the U.S., where 19 percent of women at the C-suite level identified the issue.

Parents are credited with having the greatest influence on women’s careers globally, showing that early support is critical to a woman’s success.

  • Mothers and fathers rank in the top three across all countries in terms of greatest influences on career ambitions and choices.
  • Globally, the role of the husband and father as the third-greatest influences on women’s career ambitions globally highlights the importance of positive male support.
  • The only country to rank a professional influence in their top five was China, listing peers/co-workers as the fifth greatest influence.

Advocacy and mentorship exist for women throughout their careers, but there are fewer opportunities for females in junior positions.

  • Globally, the percentage of women who report they have a senior leader who acts as an advocate on their behalf rises with professional rank, with 56 percent of junior level women reporting one compared to 76 percent of women in the C-suite.
  • Only slightly more than half of women overall (54 percent) have access to senior leaders who also function as mentors.
  • Employed women in India lead the way with 81 percent having access to senior leaders who also function as a mentor.

For an interactive experience with the data, explore the 2017 Leaders & Daughters Data Visualizer.

To explore the complete findings, please download the 2017 Leaders & Daughters Global Report PDF.

To learn more about Egon Zehnder’s Leaders & Daughters: Cultivating the Next Generation event series taking place in more than 40 cities worldwide, please visit Leaders & Daughters.

About the 2017 Leaders & Daughters Global Survey

The 2017 Egon Zehnder Leaders & Daughters Global Survey explores findings from over 7,000 professional female respondents worldwide in Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, the United States and the United Kingdom. The survey was fielded in February 2017 by Censuswide.

About the Leaders & Daughters: Cultivating the Next Generation Event Series

Egon Zehnder introduced the Leaders & Daughters event series in 2016 to mark International Women’s Day and bring generations of leaders together. In 2017, Egon Zehnder has expanded its ambition of learning from both accomplished leaders and their daughters, hosting Leaders & Daughters events in more than 40 cities worldwide. Our goal is to understand how we might collectively pave a better future for the next generation of professional women.

About Egon Zehnder
Since 1964, Egon Zehnder has been at the forefront of defining great leadership in the face of changing economic conditions, emerging opportunities and evolving business goals. With more than 435 consultants in 69 offices and 41 countries around the globe, we work closely with public and private corporations, family-owned enterprises and nonprofit and government agencies to provide board advisory services, CEO and leadership succession planning, executive search and assessment, and leadership development. For more information visit www.egonzehnder.com and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Egon Zehnder
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