A vast majority of teenage girls in America say they will shun business as
a possible career, prompting concern about a potential serious shortage of future
women business leaders, according to a survey by The Committee of 200 and Simmons
School of Management.
The study of girls' attitudes toward careers and business found that while
97 percent of girls polled expect to work to help support themselves or their
families, fewer than 10 percent anticipate careers in business.
"This study is a wake-up call for us all," said Connie K. Duckworth,
chair of The Committee of 200, a national women's business leaders organization.
"Despite the progress women have made in the corporate and entrepreneurial
worlds, we're clearly not doing enough to underscore for girls that women can
thrive and make a difference in business. It seems that a good first step is
to provide girls with a more accurate view of business; their aversion to business
careers seems to stem from a lack of familiarity with business and a sense that
it's `what men do.'"
The "Teen Girls on Business: Are They Being Empowered?" survey was
designed to explore factors affecting the pipeline of women business leaders.
Currently, for example, women hold only 6 percent of the highest-ranking corporate
leadership positions, according to the researchers. And while half of law school
and medical school students are women, their representation has stalled at 30
percent in business schools.
The study found that while girls are moving away from some "traditional"
female career choices, such as nursing and childcare, and envisioning themselves
more often in other professions, such as law, medicine or architecture, they
rank business low as a career choice.
Forty percent fewer girls than boys listed business as their first career choice
(9 percent of girls vs. 15 percent of boys). The researchers note that this
is despite the fact that the vast majority of teen girls and boys don't have
a negative impression of business: 85 percent of both teen girls and boys reported
a neutral-to-favorable impression of business.
More girls (73 percent) than boys (55 percent) say it's most important to have
a career in which they can help others and improve society, but few girls see
business as a way to do this, according to the researchers.
The survey found that girls and boys rate themselves equally as leaders, but
girls are less likely than boys to aspire to leadership positions in their future
careers. Only 22 percent of girls ranked "being in charge of people"
as extremely or very important.
In general, the researchers concluded that girls of color express more interest
in business careers and have more favorable impressions of business than white/Caucasian
girls, according to the survey. Asian American girls expressed the highest level
of interest in business as a career, and African American and Hispanic girls
were more interested in starting their own business. Girls of color also placed
more importance on making money, and expect to bear more financial responsibilities,
than white/Caucasian girls.
The researchers' conclusions are based on the results of a written survey
of 4292 middle and high school teenage girls and boys. Results reported are
statistically significant at a 95% or higher confidence level. These surveys
were administered during April-June 2002 in 29 schools across four different
geographic areas (New England, Illinois, California and Texas). A range of school
types participated, including both public and private, single sex and coed,
and urban, rural and suburban schools. In all, responses from 3028 teen girls
and 1264 teen boys were analyzed. Additional qualitative research was also conducted
in Spring, 2002, including 17 focus groups with teen girls, parents and teachers,
15 interviews with education specialists and a content analysis of the images
of business in media popular with teenage girls.