Young women are overwhelmingly more interested in becoming entrepreneurs than CEOs, and even more of them would prefer to not hold any kind of management position at all, according to a new survey conducted on behalf of the Telegraph. About 17% of British women between ages 18 and 35 days the would like to run their own company someday, compared to just 3% who say they’d like to be CEO of an established firm. The contrast suggests that climbing the career ladder — the traditional path to traditional success — isn’t as appealing anymore as going it alone. Is that good news, or a worrying sign that women are abandoning hope?
First, a worrying sign: Men are twice as likely than women to say they aspire to become CEOs. True, that means only 6% of men have their eye on that corner office, but it’s still disturbing that they’re so much likelier than women to want to work their way up in a corporate setting. Those jobs are not going away, after all. There are currently just 20 women heading Fortune 500 companies — and that’s a record high.
Second, although women are significantly more interested in starting their own businesses than becoming CEOs, once again men are even more ambitious in this arena: 17% of women want to run their own businesses, compared to 22% of men.
Overall, the survey conductors seem surprised at just how little ambition displayed by both young men and young women. More young British people said they hope to earn between $32,000 and $48,000 at the peak of their careers than said they wanted to earn $160,000 (that is, £100,000). About a fifth of both men and women said they’d prefer to stay “one of the team” rather than managing anybody.
The survey was conducted in part to launch the Telegraph’s new women’s section, Wonder Women, and it’s important to keep in mind this survey focused on British young people. (Adorably, American teenagers expect to earn $73,000 as a starting salary.) But it’s still an interesting snapshot of young women’s goals — and the persistent “ambition gap” that Sheryl Sandberg warned of earlier this year.