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Exclusive: Even when they reach the top, executive women aren't sure the climb is worth it

Valentina Zarya writes, "There’s a lot of talk about how and why it’s so difficult for women to get to the C-suite. But what happens once they’re there?

According to preliminary findings from a joint Bain & Company and LinkedIn study shared exclusively with Fortune, many senior-level women continue to question their success even after they’ve made it to the top.

The study looked closely at the aspiration, confidence, and endurance of male and female executives at different stages in their career (entry-level, midcareer and senior). Aspiration was defined as the desire to reach top management, confidence as the belief that one could reach it, and endurance as not questioning one’s ability to succeed despite bad days.

The research is based on an online survey of over 8,400 LinkedIn users, all of whom have undergraduate degrees.

'Endurance is the reservoir on which all of us draw in order to keep going,' explains Bain partner Julie Coffman, who also chairs Bain’s Global Women’s Leadership Council.

For the most part, the study’s findings were consistent with existing research: men tend to aim higher and be more confident than women at the beginning and middle of their careers. At the senior-level, however, these gaps more or less disappeared. 'The men and women in senior roles were pretty much identical in these respects,' says Coffman.

Yet when it comes to endurance, the gap never closes, a finding that Coffman says translates to women asking themselves: Is the day-to-day effort that I put in really worth it?

The study found that only 73% of female executives have endurance, compared to 81% of men."


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