Companies today are still unlikely to hire a female to serve as a CEO or in an executive position, as a significant gender gap for positions of power still exists within American corporate society. Women continue to have a difficult time obtaining influence, while men still dominate corporate power.
There are several theories for the trend, such as women being perceived to be less knowledgeable and less aggressive than men while others believe that women cannot serve as leaders and raise children at the same time.
However, one paper from Harvard Business School says that women aren’t in power because they simply do not have as much desire for power as men. According to the paper, women associate power with stress, burdens, and conflicts.
Basically, women don’t want to be in control of America’s large corporations and the decision is all on their terms.
The paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). It featured nine studies that examined people who serve in positions in power or people that desire positions of power.
The studies tended to indicate that power is less valuable for women than it is for men.
One study focused on 650 recent MBA graduates. The graduates had to rank their current position in the industry, their preferred position, and the highest position that they believed they could ever possibly attain.
Women said that they believed they could achieve the same level of success as men. However, women typically listed lower preferred or ideal positions than that of men.
Meanwhile, another study suggested that women are more likely than men to associate negative emotions with power than men.
Paper co-author and Harvard Business Professor Alison Wood Brooks said, “Women expect more stress, burden, conflicts, and difficult trade-offs to accompany high-level positions.”
Some people believe that women have less time to obtain power. This was shown in one study, where adults were asked to rank their life goals. Women listed more goals on average than men, and these goals were less likely to be related to societal power.
Simply put, women aren’t in power because power isn’t important to them; it’s not one of their goals. The goals of women are more likely to revolve around families, while the goals of men are more likely to revolve around power.
Brooks continued, “Right now, it is likely that women have more goals in life because pursuing career and family goals simultaneously is a relatively new concept for women.”
Another co-author of the paper, Francesca Gino believes that talking about the issue may bring about better results for women in the future.
“I hope these findings will lead people and managers to ask workers (about) their preferences. Some women may deeply care about power, some may not. Some may see too many negatives. For the latter category, talking may lead to identifying opportunities that remove some of those negatives,” she said.