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What Keeps High Achieving Women from Choosing Executive Positions

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I. Setting the stage


[The text for this essay is taken from: Marcia Reynolds (2007) Personal Factors of High-Achieving Women That Contribute to the Low Number of Executives in Corporations. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Professional School of Psychology, Sacramento, California, USA]

There are two generations of women holding management positions in numbers in U.S. corporations. Most of the research and books have focused on the difficulties and needs of the first generation. The second generation of women leaders, born between 1955 and 1980, are better trained, more savvy and have a stronger sense of self than their pioneer predecessors. However, women still hold only 16 percent of corporate officer positions in the United States. Though subtle and not-so subtle discrimination still exists, the beliefs and choices made by women with high leadership potential also contribute to the low number of leaders.

This study defines the personal factors that are keeping the current generation of high-achieving women out of the executive board rooms of corporate America. Combining surveys and in-depth interviews with 47 women who matched a personality profile of “high-achievers,” this study presents their stories and the five themes that emerged. Each theme produced a set of subthemes and a list of possible negative behavior patterns that could affect the women’s ability to become successful executives. Recommendations based on this study include developmental strategies for the women and suggestions for the mentors, managers and coaches who act as their partners. Recommendations are also provided for organizational developers who are working with leaders to create corporate cultures that play to the strengths of these women in an effort to retain and promote them to executive levels.

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