Women executives often receive less coaching than their male counterparts, putting them at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to advancing their careers, a U.S study has concluded.
The research by Boston consulting and training organisation Novations Group of more than 3,000 senior human resources professionals found that more than a fifth provided coaching to women at a lower rate than their share of the organisation's workforce.
But the good news was that a large majority that did offer coaching provided it at a rate in proportion to women's presence in their workforce.
What this signalled was that, while progress had undoubtedly been made, many women still were not getting the access to coaching that they should, so depriving them of equal career opportunities, said Novations senior consultant Deborah Felton.
"Coaching has become increasingly critical for advancement into top positions, and this applies to both women and men," she advised.
"But men generally have stronger informal networks and understand the 'unwritten rules' of the organisation, so coaching is that much more crucial for women, who sometimes find it hard to ask for help because of their socialisation," she added.
Part of the problem, she acknowledged, was that there frequently were not enough successful senior women to serve as coaches to other women.
"Women need to become more assertive in seeking the support they need. All employees should have access to coaching and other career development tools," she explained.
And another worrying statistic from the poll was that half of large organisations surveyed did not provide any executive coaching at all.
In a separate development, a U.S executive coaching coaching firm has said coaching is now starting to put more of an emphasis on business performance and leadership development rather than simply individual performance.
Minnesota firm CO2 Partners said the past decade had seen coaching become increasingly professional and focused on leadership development.
"Coaches initially came from psychology or counselling and their mission was to solve a problem with a rising manager, like an overly assertive management style or poor interpersonal skills," said CO2 Partners president Gary Cohen.
But now coaching was splitting into various segments, such as career coaching, intervention coaching, "command" coaching, therapeutic coaching and business coaching.
Other growing areas included "attention-management" coaching or time management plus life coaching, Cohen added.