Why Women’s Confidence Erodes

Women’s Aspirations & Confidence Drop Significantly in Mid-Career,
But that’s Not the Case for Men



43% of women aspire to top management when they are in the first two years of their position, compared with 34% of men at that stage (see Figure 1). Both genders are equally confident about their ability to reach a top management position at that stage. This suggests that women are entering the workforce with the wind in their sails, feeling highly qualified after success at the university level. However, over time, women’s aspiration levels drop more than 60% while men’s stay the same. Among experienced employees (those with two or more years of experience), 34% of men are still aiming for the top, while only 16% of women are. As they gain experience, women’s confidence also falls by half, while men’s stays about the same.

Many might assume this drop-off occurs as women get married and have children; however, our analysis suggests that marital and parental status do not significantly differ for women who aspire and women who don’t.

Notes: Graphs show employees’ aspirations and confidence in their ability to reach top management in a large company with more than 1,000 employees; new employees are those with less than two years of experience; experienced employees are those with more than two years of experience or who are junior managers; senior leaders are three levels below the CEO or at a higher level
Source: 2014 US Gender Parity survey (n=1,009)

Sourced from: Brian and Company. Bain Report 2014

May 27, 2016

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