Gender Challenge: Clash with “Ideal Worker” Stereotypes

Extract from: Brian and Company. Bain Report 2014

While companies may differ in many ways, there is a broad acknowledgment
of a deeply ingrained ideal worker model.


ideal worker model


To build their visibility, ideal workers are willing to take on high-profile projects on top of day-to-day work and are adept at self-promotion and networking…they also come in early, leave late and—in between—are “always on” via email or cell phone.

Unfortunately, both men and women perceive these criteria as being particularly challenging for women to meet. In fact, women judge their own behavior most harshly. They are about twice as likely as men to believe both that women undersell their experiences and capabilities, and that women do not put themselves forward for challenging roles and assignments. The perception that women aren’t as committed to long hours because of their family commitments is also common, with a sizeable 58% of women and 47% of men believing that managing both work and family commitments slows or disrupts women’s careers.

The dominance of these ideal worker stereotypes affects employee engagement more than any other factor measured against eNPS in the Bain & Company survey. Employees at companies that are perceived to embrace many paths and career models are substantially more engaged than average, with men’s eNPS at these companies two times the male average and women’s three-and-a-half times the female average. On the other hand, those who do not feel their companies embrace many paths and career models have significantly lower eNPS. In fact, women’s eNPS is a staggering 98 points lower at such companies, vs. at firms that prioritise equality.

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