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Women share common ground with men, but jobs at the top still harder to get, survey says
[October 30, 2019]

Women share common ground with men, but jobs at the top still harder to get, survey says

Women and men share common ground at work when it comes to understanding what it takes to win top jobs, yet women still contend with bias-related barriers to advancement more often than men, according to a recent poll released today from ASCEND (News - Alert) and Morning Consult sponsored by Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU).

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Caroline Feeney, CEO of Individual Solutions (Photo: Business Wire)

Caroline Feeney, CEO of Individual Solutions (Photo: Business Wire)

The research is part of ASCEND's Financial Services Solutions Series, which highlights challenges within the industry and seeks input from industry leaders to find ways to strengthen the pipeline of women to leadership positions.

To earn top positions in the workplace, most men (52%) and women (54%) acknowledge that they need to make sacrifices to succeed. And roughly an equal number of them (46% of men; 49% of women) agree that becoming a top leader requires overcoming more professional barriers than they'd want to.

But that's where the similarities end. Women surveyed say they still face barriers that have nothing to do with the quality of their work, including: work/family trade-offs; men often being more comfortable promoting each other; being steered toward support roles; more difficulty recovering from mistakes; and a lack of guidance from superiors. Women and men continue to disagree on whether these factors remain a myth, or reality:

  • 57% of women say it's a reality that women are often steered toward roles that do not lead to top leadership positions, while only 40% of men agree.
  • 56% of women say it's harder for female leaders to recover professionally from a mistake than for men, while only 34% of men agree.
  • 64% of women say that men are more comfortable promoting men to leadership roles, while 47% of men agree that's a business reality.
  • 41% of women even say that women often start their own businesses to avoid the barriers to top leadership withinestablished companies.

Mentorship can be a key stepping stone for advancement and overcoming the common ground that masks the significant divides women still face in the workplace. When it comes to mentoring, most professionals don't foster mentor relationships across gender, the survey found. Notably, women are about as likely as men to say their mentor is the same gender (69% vs. 61%).

"More than half of those surveyed say mentors or sponsors have helped further their careers. Overcoming barriers that continue to divide genders will help create more powerful relationships and ensure companies are able to leverage a wealth of different perspectives," said Caroline Feeney, CEO of Individual Solutions at Prudential. "Toward that end, men and women should increasingly become mentors to and advocates for each other. That's one of the best ways to understand each other and close the opportunity gap."

The new research shows that mentor relationships could also help overcome biases women face following a leave of absence. Forty-three percent of women say taking time off has affected their careers, and 73% of women say they are more likely than men to sacrifice career advancement for their families. Only 56% of men share that opinion.

"Many men still think that most of the real barriers to advancement faced by women in business are myths, and that is of acute concern when men still control the levers to advancement in most American companies," said Ken Stern, co-chair of ASCEND.

Said Feeney, "Gender parity is possible, especially as more men become advocates who can help women navigate the challenges they face, enabling them to bring their unique insights and strengths to the workplace."


This poll was conducted from September 18 to 22, 2019, among a national sample of 2,201 U.S. adults. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points.

About Morning Consult

Named one of the fastest growing technology companies in North America by Deloitte (News - Alert), Morning Consult is revolutionizing ways to collect, organize, and share survey research data globally to transform how leaders in business and government make decisions. Morning Consult provides survey research, data technology, and news for hundreds of the world's largest companies and industry associations. Additionally, Morning Consult conducts regular surveys for major media organizations including POLITICO, The Hollywood Reporter, Bloomberg (News - Alert), and The New York Times. Learn more:


ASCEND is a new initiative that seeks to identify and promote evidence-based strategies to advance women to the C-suite and boardroom and to help foster specific commitments for action from leading companies and institutions. Learn more:

About Prudential

Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial wellness leader and premier active global investment manager with more than $1 trillion in assets under management as of June 30, 2019, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Prudential's diverse and talented employees help to make lives better by creating financial opportunity for more people. Prudential's iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit


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