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by Aman Singh | January 25, 2011


Think women have finally broken through the glass ceiling? Think again. According to The Sponsor Effec--a new study by the Center for Work-Life Policy--there remain five major pitfalls that women continue to face in the workplace.

And most times, a combination of these, according to the study--presented by the Center's Founding President Sylvia Ann Hewlett at a recent event hosted by American Express--lead to stagnation among female executives in that almost-senior management layer.

1) Friendship

Men (2:1) look at work relationships that help them make connections to get ahead. Women look for friendship.

2) Leadership, Looks & Executive Presence

"Gravitas and speaking skills are important but presentation of self is huge," noted Hewlett.

Further, the study adds, "Everyone judges women on their appearance, yet no one steps forward to offer guidance. And so—despite sterling credentials, proven capability, and a solid track record—female talent remains mystifyingly, maddeningly, outside the inner circle of leaders who exude 'executive presence.'"

3) Sexual Politics

Thirty-four percent of women and 26 percent of men suspect a colleague of having an illicit affair. Sixty-four percent of men in senior leadership positions fear having one-on-one conversations with junior women because of a fear of gossip. And for many this from the study continues to resonate: "I'm damned if I do and damned if I don’t."

4) Meritocracy or "The Dirty Game"

An overwhelming majority of women want to believe in performance while 83 percent of men believe that relationships and connections along with bottom line performance drive success. Why do women continue to think that any other way of getting ahead is dirty? According to the study, it's a doubled-edged sword: A continued belief that the quality of their work is the deciding factor and an aversion to self-promotion.

5) Ambition & Ambivalence

Women are more aware of family sacrifices. Astoundingly, the study found that after years of struggling for parity in the workplace, women as a group are better situated than ever before to reach for the brass ring but seemingly don’t seem to care for it. "Certainly women hop onto the carousel eagerly…but the longer they're in the game, the more inclined women are to downsize their ambitions."

Got a different experience to share or a successful career story that circumvented these pitfalls? Share your story by leaving a comment, emailing In Good Company, or connecting with us on Twitter.


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