What's Keeping You Away From a Leadership Role?

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Everybody has different career goals. When you're young, you may be focused on simply finding a paycheck that covers your bills and living expenses. If you're family-minded, you may seek out a job that either allows you work flexibility to spend time with them or a salary that amply provides for them. If you're creative or ambitious, you may strive to go out on your own and begin your own company or become a freelancer. If you're closer to retirement, you may look for a position with less responsibility and instead more of a support role. No matter what your career goal is, there's likely a position that will help you reach that goal.

But interestingly, most workers' career goals don't include leadership positions. A new CareerBuilder survey asked more than 3,600 workers across salary levels, industries and company sizes about their career goals and aspirations for leadership positions. Approximately one third (34 percent) of workers strive for leadership positions, with only 7 percent aiming for senior or C-level management.

Taking a closer look at their responses, the survey shows that by an 11 percentage point margin, men (40 percent) are more likely than women (29 percent) to desire a leadership role. Additionally, African Americans (39 percent) and LGBT (44 percent) workers are more likely to aspire to a leadership role than the national average. Thirty-two percent of workers with disabilities aspire to leadership positions, as well as 35 percent of Hispanics – both near the national average.

Why are workers content to avoid climbing the corporate ladder? A majority (52 percent) say they are simply satisfied in their current roles, and a third (34 percent) don't want to sacrifice work-life balance. Seventeen percent say they do not have the necessary education.

However, not everybody is voluntarily choosing to forego leadership roles and responsibilities.The glass ceiling problem
The tech industry and other sectors in corporate America have come under criticism for a lack of female and minority executives, but to what extent do workers feel organizations hold these groups back? One in 5 workers (20 percent) feel his or her organization has a glass ceiling – an unseen barrier preventing women and minorities from reaching higher job levels.

However, when looking only at workers who aspire to management and senior management positions, the percentage increases to 24 and is even higher among females (33 percent), Hispanics (34 percent), African Americans (50 percent) and workers with disabilities (59 percent). The perception of a glass ceiling is not as prevalent among LGBT workers aspiring to leadership roles; 21 percent feel there is a barrier to leadership at their organization, slightly less than the national average.

A survey result that may point to part of the problem is that only 9 percent of nondiverse males think there is a glass ceiling for women and minorities at their organization.

Breaking through and creating opportunity
More and more companies are addressing this workplace disparity directly. Twenty-seven percent of employers have initiatives to support females pursuing leadership roles and 26 percent have initiatives to support minorities. Thirteen percent of employees at these companies think there is a glass ceiling.

"While most workers don't want a top job, it is important for organizational leaders to promote a culture of meritocracy in which all workers, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, are able to reach senior-level roles based on their skills and past contributions alone," says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "The survey found that employees at companies that have initiatives to support aspiring female and minority leaders are far less likely to say a glass ceiling holds individuals back."

If you're struggling to reach the next level of your career or are working to break through a glass ceiling at your own workplace, consider these actions:
  • Work with a mentor – In or outside of your organization, working with a mentor can help you make more strategic career moves, benefit from the experience and wisdom they've garnered and also gain insight when dealing with difficult management.
  • Network – Being a visible member of the team and interacting with other industry professionals will strengthen your image and establish your expertise. Whether you're chatting with team members in the break room or attending industry events, the more people you have on your side, the more opportunities will present themselves.
  • Be the change you wish to see – The best way to promote workplace equality and support women and minorities in their professional endeavors is to start with your own actions. Check your own biases and recognize what results your actions are having. Are you contributing to hurtful gossip or choosing your friends for projects first? Give everyone a fair chance and find ways to bring everyone on board new projects and initiatives. You'll help the company and your co-workers succeed.

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