Women in emerging economies such as India, China and Brazil feel better equipped to succeed in the global economy than do their counterparts in the West.
The startling conclusion that years of "affirmative action" and diversity initiatives have failed to help Western female managers feel they can succeed in the workplace has come in research by management consultancy Accenture, and has been published to coincide with tomorrow's International Women's Day [Mar 8].
Its poll of more than 4,000 male and female business professionals in 17 countries across Europe, Asia, North America and South America found that just four out of 10 overall felt well-equipped to compete in the business economy of the future.
Intriguingly, women in several key emerging markets believed they were better equipped to succeed than their female counterparts in many developed markets.
Specifically, nearly seven out of 10 businesswomen in India, six out of 10 in South Africa and China and more than half in Brazil, said they felt equipped to succeed in the global world of 2011.
"As we look toward 2011, both men and women will have to be prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the multi-polar world, in which emerging-market economies are competing with the collective dominance of the United States, Europe and Japan," said Armelle Carminati-Rabasse, managing director, human capital and diversity, at Accenture.
"In this increasingly competitive landscape, companies have a mandate not only to adapt their business models, but also to equip each of their employees with a wide array of skills – many of which have not yet been demanded of executives," she added.
The survey also identified continuing, and sometimes surprising, gender gaps between men and women when it came to career advancement.
Women were more likely than men to attribute their career advancement to ambition and drive, to passion for their chosen careers and to family support.
On the other hand, men were more likely than women to cite technical capabilities and their success at fostering professional relationships.
More than half of both genders felt that men and women were equally effective at building professional networks that help advance their careers.
Yet more than a quarter felt men were more effective at this than women, against 13 per cent who felt the opposite.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, younger workers were more likely to say they felt equipped for success in 2011, with almost half of Generation Y respondents (those between 26-35 years of age) saying so, against 45 per cent those in the 36 to 45 age bracket and 41 per cent of Baby Boomers, or those aged 46 years or older.
The main barriers to career advancement for women were simply their gender, the need to devote energy to children/family and an unwillingness to relocate.
For men, similarly, the unwillingness to sacrifice work-life balance was a key factor, but also the failure to pursue a more advanced degree and the lack of adequate mentoring.
Overall, 47 per cent of men said that they felt equipped to compete in 2011, slightly higher than the 43 percent of women who answered similarly.