Yesterday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer abruptly announced that Windows head Steven Sinofsky had left the company. Sinofsky led the company’s flagship project, the Windows operating system, and his departure was a surprise to outsiders. Ballmer quickly announced that two women will be replacing Sinofsky. Julie Larson-Green will head up all Windows software and hardware engineering, and CFO and CMO Tami Reller will take on managing the Windows business. It’s cool to see two women take over top leadership at a top tech company. But can we also point out that one amazing job for a man turned into two great-but-not-quite as great jobs for women?
Brand-new research from Catalyst suggests this isn’t unusual: Women get fewer “hot jobs” — defined as high-visibility, high responsibility jobs with international components — than men do, and it’s a major factor in holding back their careers.
Researchers surveyed 1,660 MBA graduates all over the world as part of a longitudinal study that began in 2008. Here’s how Bloomberg Businessweek sums up the Catalyst findings:
Men get projects that boast more than twice the budget and three times the staff as projects headed by women. It’s no surprise that they also have more face time with folks in the C-suite—with 35 percent of men saying they get high visibility there while only 26 percent of women say the same. From there, Catalyst says, women are less likely to get profit-and-loss responsibility, a chance to manage people, and a budget of more than $10 million. So even if they start with the same skills and ambition as men, women’s careers can get stalled by lesser projects that aren’t even on the CEO’s radar screen. As Catalyst’s Senior Director of Research Christine Silva says, “It’s not just about leading projects. It’s how big those projects are.”
I’m not suggesting that these top-level jobs at Microsoft are anything to sniff at, or that Microsoft didn’t have great reasons for dividing Sinofsky’s role into two. Larson-Green and Reller are advancing and being promoted, which we should celebrate. But their new jobs are slightly smaller than the one that came before them.