Stereotypes and myths are the reason women are held back in business rather than issues such as childcare, according to a new report.
The study — called Cracking the Code — found women without children to be as disadvantaged as working mothers when it comes to achieving top-level positions.
The report aims to dispel ten myths that companies use to justify why women are not making it through the ranks.
According to the research, a man starting at a FTSE 100 organisation is 4.5 times more likely to make it to the executive committee than a woman, while senior women are two times less likely to be promoted than their male peers.
Rachel Short, director of consultancy firm YSC which collated the data said: “This really debunks the nonsense about ambition, confidence and child-rearing that are used to justify why women are not making it to executive committee levels.”
Currently FTSE 100 companies have an average of 23 per cent female members working on executive committees.
Helena Morrissey, chief executive of Newton Investment Management and founder of the 30% Club, said: “What I take from this research is that we will only really take a quantum leap towards better gender balance at all levels when organisations treat this as a mainstream, not a 'diversity' issue”.
“Companies have been hiding behind these myths. Firstly businesses must acknowledge these myths and then change their businesses outlook.”
The report, revealed by 30% Club and compiled by business psychology consultancy YSC and KPMG, collated data from top firms accounting for over 680,000 employees.
Pavita Cooper, a 30% Club steering committee member who is leading its Balancing the Pyramid initiative, said: “The research shows women are staying at a senior level in their companies longer than men but are not able to crack through those final two levels to the executive committee.”
Short said the stereotype that women do not have commercial acumen or that men do not have emotional intelligence were to blame for men and women being pushed into different areas of business during their careers.
Despite many women reaching a very senior level with wide commercial experience, the research found that only 7% of women at executive level have responsibility for a profit-generating area of the business with the majority of senior women responsible for internal functions such as HR, legal or marketing functions.
Short added: “Removing the ‘psychological’ barriers for women is just as important as removing the ‘structural’ barriers if we are to fundamentally shift the dial in women’s progression to the very top”.
The report is aimed at showing companies how to tackle pipeline issues to reach equality at all levels across business