Global and Canadian Women Executives Say Gender is Still Biggest Hurdle to Career Advancement, Accenture Research Shows

    Research released as focal point of Accenture's observance of
    International Women's Day, with company-sponsored events in more than 23
    cities globally

    TORONTO, March 8 /CNW/- Women say their gender still plays a key role in
limiting their achievement in the workplace, according to a research report
released today by Accenture (NYSE:   ACN).
    The report, based on a survey of more than 2,200 executives in 13
countries, also found that while male and female executives generally believe
their careers are progressing as they had expected, women have lower
expectations than men do about how high they might advance in their
    The report is a focal point of Accenture's annual observance of
International Women's Day today, during which the company is holding day-long
events that are expected to draw more than 6,000 participants - live and
virtually - in more than 23 cities, including Toronto. Accenture will also
host global and local discussions with company leaders and renowned
thought-leaders, including high-level business and government representatives,
academics and noted authors.
    Entitled "Expectations and Achievement: Empowering Women from Within",
the report examines how career and life expectations change, adapt and evolve
over time for both men and women in the workforce. The goal of the research
was to determine what influences these changes and what factors enhance or
hinder progress. The research was divided into three main areas: career
achievement, work/life balance and leadership.

    Career Achievement

    While geography has had a far greater influence on attitudes and
experiences than gender, the report shows that in certain key areas,
executives believe gender had a real effect on how they've been able to
advance. Notably, women, including those in Canada, identified gender as the
top factor hindering their achievement and reported having more modest
expectations about the very highest levels they expect to achieve
professionally. Canadian men, on the other hand, ranked gender 13th on the
list of barriers to achievement, behind things such as lack of unwillingness
to relocate, ineffectively networking within the company and economic
    When looking at what factors slowed their progress, women globally were
significantly more likely to attribute inherent factors (i.e., who they are)
as a barrier to faster advancement, while men were significantly more likely
to point to external factors (what happens to them). For example, Canadian men
were more likely than women to cite an economic downturn or company downsizing
(26 percent of men versus 14 percent of women) and unwillingness to relocate
(28 percent of men versus 21 percent of women) as barriers to advancement.
    On the flip side, Canadian women were almost four times more likely then
men to cite gender as the primary reason for not advancing more quickly (25
percent versus 7 percent). In fact, while gender was the number one barrier to
advancement cited by women, it was ranked 13th (out of 18 factors) among
Canadian men. For Canadian women, personal ambition and drive ranked as the
top factor for career advancement with 76 percent citing this factor versus
men at 68 percent.
    Specifically, the survey showed no difference between men and women in
perceived pace of career development. However, gender differences were
apparent when respondents were asked to judge how fast they had advanced in
relation to their male and female colleagues. A majority of both men (55
percent) and women (57 percent) said they progressed faster than their female
colleagues; this was particularly true in China, where 78 percent of women and
90 percent of men said their progress was faster than that of their female
    In Canada, men said their pace matched their expectations (42 percent)
compared to one third of women. Canadian women generally rated the speed of
their advancement faster than their female colleagues but slower than their
male colleagues. Yet, Canadian men (15 percent) were initially more likely to
see themselves rise to the top C-Suite level than women (5 percent) Today, at
14 percent, Canadian women are slightly more likely than men (12 percent) to
see themselves reach the top of the corporate ladder.

    Work/Life Balance

    The research indicated that while both men and women today are struggling
to balance their personal and professional lives, in most instances the burden
of caring for children while continuing to advance professionally continues to
fall more heavily on women.
    While less than one-third of executives (36 percent of Canadian men and
21 percent of women) said they "live to work," more women reported currently
pursuing careers involving greater personal sacrifice than they had envisioned
when they were first starting out in their careers.
    Technology was not always perceived to enhance the work/life balance. In
fact, in China and Canada, women reported they were most likely to feel
trapped by technology (52 percent and 45 percent, respectively).
    In addition, 27 percent of Canadian men tend to spend more than 51 hours
at work compared to 17 percent of Canadian women.
    Interestingly, respondents who had sacrificed flexibility in their
careers over time said the importance of work/life balance had grown. Both
Canadian men and women rated "being stimulated by my work" as the most
important factor in their careers when starting out. Today, however, "being
stimulated by work" is seen as less important for women than a "work/life
balance," "being there when my family/children need me" and "having a happy
home life/relationship/marriage."
    As well, aside from maternity leave, 41 per cent of Canadian women
compared to 29 percent of men have seriously considered leaving the workforce
for longer than a year. In fact, 25 percent of Canadian women have left the
workforce for longer than a year compared to only 15 percent of men.


    According to the research, stereotypes about whether individual
leadership characteristics are more "male" or "female" do exist among men and
women, but with wide variances across countries. In general, men and women
strongly agree on what it takes to be an effective leader. Globally, both men
and women respondents ranked the following as the top five most important
characteristics of an effective leader:

    -   Is calm during a crisis
    -   Is decisive
    -   Is aware of his/her weaknesses
    -   Gives credit to others
    -   Is concerned about the welfare of employees

    However, about half of Canadian men and women identified certain
character traits as being either more distinctly masculine or feminine. For
example, both genders were more likely to associate women with some of the
traditionally "softer" leadership skills, such as "leads by building
consensus," "ethical", "support of women in the workplace" and "is concerned
about the welfare of employees," while associating men with such
characteristics as "charismatic", "visionary", "makes profitability the top
priority", "decisive" and "leads by asserting authority". Interestingly,
Canadian woman noted that women "work harder than others".

    About the Survey

    Accenture conducted an online survey of 2,246 executives in mid-to-senior
level management positions, ranging from manager to C-level executives. Women
comprised 62 percent, and men comprised 38 percent, of respondents. The online
survey in Canada of 204 executives was 65 percent Canadian women and 35
percent men. Research was conducted in 13 countries: Austria, Canada, China,
France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland,
the United Kingdom and the United States. Fieldwork was conducted in January
and February 2007. For more information or to access the complete research
report, visit or

    About Accenture

    Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and
outsourcing company. Committed to delivering innovation, Accenture
collaborates with its clients to help them become high-performance businesses
and governments. With deep industry and business process expertise, broad
global resources and a proven track record, Accenture can mobilize the right
people, skills, and technologies to help clients improve their performance.
With approximately 146,000 people in 49 countries, the company generated net
revenues of US$16.65 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2006. Its home
page is

For further information:

For further information: Sarah Thompson, Accenture, (416) 641-4416,

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