Change company culture for women – or change companies?

Reading McKinsey’s latest research on gender diversity this morning, and it makes interesting reading.

Women seem to be more ambitious and more confident of reaching the top than ever before – this is good news. In this survey, their ambitions are often outstripping the men’s (although their confidence about achieving them remains lower than the men’s).

But asked to identify reasons for why they might not make it from a range of options, company culture was pretty high on the list. “On average, the differences suggest that collective, cultural factors weigh more than twice as much as individual factors on women’s confidence to reach top management (Exhibit 2)”. Furthermore, the male respondents weren’t as convinced as the female ones that women could lead as effectively as men, and only 19% of the men questioned strongly agreed that it was harder for women to reach the top than for men.

Whether these perceptions are accurate or not, it did make me wonder – how many of these talented, ambitious, confident women who feel that their way upwards is being hampered by their gender will soon go and start their own businesses? How many, instead of trying to change an ingrained culture in a large organisation, will choose to create their own organisations where their leadership style is embedded from the outset? Maybe this is where the real change will come from.

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