True or False: Men Earn More Money and Promotions Because They Work More Hours Than Women

True...sort of. Several years ago, Mandy O'Neill, then a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, and Charles O'Reilly, her dissertation advisor, set out to study the career trajectory and income of MBA students. Their findings were fascinating: Four years after graduation, the women were earning at least as much as the men. Yet just four years later (or eight years after graduation), the men were out-earning the women. Even more intriguing was the fact that the only discernible difference was the number of hours the men and women worked. The women were working fewer hours than men on average, even when compared with men who had the same number of children.i

This can create a problem when it comes to identifying and advancing talented women to more senior levels of leadership. One could argue that the number of hours worked should not be the only factor for promoting your talent. In my new book, Make Room for Her, I make the case that we must step back and take a holistic view of this issue. I believe there are a myriad of reasons why men still far outnumber women at the senior leadership level. (We'll save that topic for another blog.)

The book also makes the case that the solution to the problem of advancing more women into senior leadership requires a three-pronged approach:

  • Organizations need to create a culture that shuns an "either/or" mentality about work-life balance and embraces the notion that its employees and leaders can work productively and also have a vibrant personal life. Organizations must wake up to the fact that leadership talent is in great demand and consider every possible way to attract, retain and advance their talented leaders, no matter their gender.
  • Men need to be brought into the conversation regarding the advancement of women as partners rather than bystanders. With their vast leadership experience, men have incredible value as mentors and sponsors for high potential women in the leadership pipeline.
  • Women need to "lean in," as my colleague Sheryl Sandberg says. Based on SHAMBAUGH's gender studies and more than 20 years of experience working with and coaching talented women leaders, we have found several key areas in which women tend to hold themselves back. When women focus on these areas and overcome their self-limiting beliefs and behaviors, they are able to take control of their career destiny and rise to higher levels of leadership. Some of these key areas are:
  1. Developing confidence. Learning how to effectively utilize their core strengths to benefit the organization is a big confidence boost for women. We also encourage them to get clear on their career and life goals and create a plan to achieve them.
  2. Identifying and leveraging strategic relationships through sponsorship. While women have a unique capacity to cultivate strong relationships, they often fail to do so with a strategic perspective. At SHAMBAUGH, we help women focus on having the right sponsor(s) and cultivating those relationships over time.
  3. Showing up strategic through executive presence. Over 80 percent of men and women executives believe that executive presence is essential for advancing to the C-suite. The higher in the organization one moves, the less important technical competency becomes and the more important executive presence (executive voice, decisiveness, energy, poise and the ability to connect with others) becomes.

Today's organizations cannot afford to limit their ability to tap into their full leadership capacity. A leader's value and potential to the organization is far more than the number of hours they work. Women now represent more than 50 percent of the leadership talent pool. Organizations that understand this and build an integrated talent development strategy will be better able to attract, retain and leverage the broader spectrum of leadership intelligence in order to thrive in today's market place.

Learn more about SHAMBAUGH's upcoming Leadership Programs, Becky Shambaugh's Keynote Offerings, Sponsorship Consulting and Professional Development, Integrated Leadership, Coaching and our signature Women In Leadership and Learning Program (WILL) by visiting

iO'Neill, Mandy. "Why Do Highly Capable Women Not Always Realize Their Workforce Potential?" Stanford Graduate School of Business., 8 May 2013. Web. 17 July 2013.