What's Holding Women Back at Work? One Study Has the Answer

Sacha Strebe

Ever since I can remember, I've had an internal drive to be successful at whatever I put my mind to. I never thought for a second that my ambition was any less than that of my male colleagues, but it seems women have been labelled as less career-focused than men, with Forbes even reporting that more women are losing career ambitions after college. However, a recent study, published in the Journal of Community, Work & Family and led by Ithaca College professor and work and family specialist Stephen Sweet, sheds new light on the perceived differences and debunks the myth that women are less career-centric than men. So what's holding women back? Scroll down to read the study's findings.

When it comes to high-quality jobs, women have fewer opportunities than men, according to the study. This in turn diminishes their career ambitions. Without the high goals to aspire to, they're less likely to invest in a clear career identity. When jobs don't support women or give them equal opportunity to advance within the company, they have less enthusiasm for their career overall and aren't as invested in it.

The study found that family demands contribute to the gap between men and women, and "having minor children is associated with higher career centrality for both women and men." In light of this, more women are becoming entrepreneurs and mompreneurs to achieve a better work/life balance. In fact, 20% of the 2014 Forbes Most Powerful Women list are entrepreneurs.

The study found traditional assumptions about male and female skills and the cultural expectations of each gender can lead both sexes to be less career-centric, but this impacts women more. A Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows these outdated stereotypes are slowly changing, with mothers the sole or primary provider in four of 10 households with children, compared to just 11% in 1960.

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To read more of the study results, visit Taylor & Francis.

Do you agree that a lack of opportunity is holding women back? What do you think women can do to incite societal change and influence companies to open doors for women? Share your thoughts below.

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