In a nutshell: It’s time to rethink some of the commonly held assumptions about women in the workplace. To start with, the gender equality challenge is far from resolved.

Are women getting a fair shot in the workplace? A new report suggests that they aren’t, and one possible cause is that employers and coworkers have misconceptions about what women want from their careers. The Women in the Workplace 2017 study, conducted by the Lean In Foundation and McKinsey & Company, shows clearly that men and women are entering the corporate workforce in equal numbers, but significantly more men than women are climbing the ladder.

Consider the evidence: in 2017, women made up 47 percent of all entry-level workers at corporations in the United States, but only 20 percent of senior vice presidents and C-suite members.

While the trend is clear — and clearly alarming — trying to discern the causes is more difficult because there are a lot of dynamic factors at play. However, a contributing factor is that many people are still holding onto incorrect beliefs and expectations about the wants, needs and goals of female workers. In this article, we’ll look at some of the myths associated with women in the workplace.

Related BAI article: How Organizations Are Failing Women (And 4 Things You Can Do About It)

Myth 1: Gender Equality Is No Longer an Issue

There’s a strong belief among men in the workplace that we’ve achieved a level playing field, or that we’re very close to parity. This simply isn’t true, as the evidence shows. The report says that more than one-third of women believe their gender has held them back from a promotion, while only 8% of men say the same thing.

Even more telling: At companies where women aren’t reflected equally in senior leadership — just 10% of senior leaders — 50% of men think that women are well represented.

It’s important to face down this myth. It’s very likely more men will advocate for gender equality when they know that wide disparities still exist.

Myth 2: Women Don’t Seek Promotions

Women in the Workplace 2017 dismisses this myth very quickly, pointing out that women are “just as interested” in advancement, and ask for promotions with the same frequency as men do. In fact, at higher levels of the corporation, women might in fact be more likely to seek out promotion.

Nonetheless, an entry-level female employee is 18 percent less likely to be promoted to management than a male one.

The report suggests that women are held back because managers and senior leaders aren’t providing enough assistance and advice on how to advance. This finding is important for two reasons:

  • Women who say they’ve received this kind of support are more likely to be promoted
  • There is a demonstrable relationship between the promotion of women and company performance

Myth 3: Women Are Leaving Their Careers to Focus on Family

Don’t assume that women are putting their careers on the back burner. The numbers in the report tell a very different story. Only 2% of women said they intended to leave their employer in the next two years to focus on family. That compares to 1% of men.

In fact, both men and women are committed to developing their careers. In the survey, 60% of respondents (male and female) said they intended to stay with their current employers for at least five years. Of those planning to leave, nearly three-fourths said the reason would be to go to another company.

These figures show that women are committed to their careers, and there’s very little difference between men and women in this area.

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