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Survey: More women reject the executive suite

women lose ambition courtesy flickr user allan_cleaver2000

With the appointments of Virginia Rometty as CEO of IBM and Heather Bresch as CEO of Mylan, the Fortune 500 got two new female CEOs within a week. But if the results of a new survey from More magazine are any indication, it's going to be a long time before we see significant numbers of women moving into the executive suite.

The reason? According to More's survey, most women don't particularly want to be in the corporate rat race. They'd rather have more flexibility and more free time.

More magazine employed Polling Company Inc./Woman Trend to survey 500 professional women, ages 35 to 60, who had at least a college degree and earned at least $60,000 a year. As a group, they're not terribly enthusiastic about rising through the ranks. Specifically:

1. Ambition among these women is waning. Some 43% of the women surveyed say they are less ambitious now than they were ten years ago.

2. Family is not the issue. Only 15% of professional women say childcare responsibilities have hindered their careers. And more single women than moms were willing to take a cut in pay for more time. In other words, it's not just moms who crave more free time and a break from their jobs.

3. Promotions aren't that attractive. Only a quarter of the women surveyed say they're working toward their next promotion. And nearly three out of four -- 73% -- say they would not apply for their boss's job.

4. Big jobs aren't worth it. Some 38% of women, or about two in five, say they don't want to deal with the stress, office politics and responsibility that bigger jobs entail.

5. Women are willing to sacrifice for free time and flexibility. Two-thirds say they'd prefer more free time to more pay, and 40% said they'd accept less pay if it meant they could have a more flexible schedule.

6. Flexibility is "career suicide." Almost all the women -- some 92% -- said they value workplace flexibility. But a third say they consider it career suicide to actually ask for more flexibility.

More Editor-in-Chief Lesley Jane Seymour says she hopes the survey results are a reflection of poor economic times, not of a general disinterest in corporate America on the part of women. "We're bemoaning the lack of women in top Fortune 500 companies or women in political office," Seymour says. "We're sliding backwards, and here's your answer. It's because we have thrown ice water all over ambition."

Do you agree? Have we really thrown ice water all over ambition? With two new women among the ranks of Fortune 500 CEOs?

Kimberly Weisul is the co-founder of One Thing New. She is also a freelance writer, editor, and editorial consultant. Follow her on twitter at

Image courtesy of flickr user allan_cleaver2000.

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