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Majority of Workers Don’t Aspire to Leadership Roles, Finds New CareerBuilder survey

-1 in 5 workers think a glass ceiling holds back women and minorities at their organization

-A third of women, half of African Americans, and 6 in 10 disabled workers aspiring to leadership roles say a glass ceiling exists

Chicago, IL – WEBWIRE

Most American workers are not aiming for the corner office, according to a new CareerBuilder survey. Approximately one third (34 percent) of workers aspire to leadership positions, with only 7 percent aiming for senior or C-level management.

By an 11 percentage point margin, men (40 percent) are more likely than women (29 percent) to desire a leadership role. Additionally, African Americans (39 percent) and LGBT (44 percent) workers are more likely to aspire to a leadership role than the national average. Thirty-two percent of workers with disabilities aspire to leadership positions, as well as 35 percent of Hispanics – both near the national average.

The nationwide survey, which was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 13 to June 6, included a representative sample of 3,625 full-time workers in government and the private sector across salary levels, industries, and company sizes.

Why are workers content to avoid climbing the corporate ladder? A majority (52 percent) say they are simply satisfied in their current roles, and a third (34 percent) don’t want to sacrifice work life balance. Seventeen percent say they do not have the necessary education.

“While most workers don’t want a top job, it is important for organizational leaders to promote a culture of meritocracy in which all workers, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, are able to reach senior-level roles based on their skills and past contributions alone,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “The survey found that employees at companies that have initiatives to support aspiring female and minority leaders are far less likely to say a glass ceiling holds individuals back.”

Worker Perceptions of a Glass Ceiling

A lack of female and minority executives has long been a criticism of corporate America, but to what extent do workers feel organizations hold these groups back? One in 5 workers (20 percent) feel his or her organization has a glass ceiling – an unseen barrier preventing women and minorities from reaching higher job levels.

However, when looking only at workers who aspire to management and senior management positions, the percentage increases to 24 percent and is even higher among females (33 percent), Hispanics (34 percent), African Americans (50 percent) and workers with disabilities (59 percent). The perception of a glass ceiling is not as prevalent among LGBT workers aspiring to leadership roles; 21 percent feel there is a barrier to leadership at their organization, slightly less than the national average.

Of note, only 9 percent of nondiverse males think there is a glass ceiling for women and minorities at their organization.

Some companies choose to address the issue directly. Twenty-seven percent of employers have initiatives to support females pursuing leadership roles and 26 percent have initiatives to support minorities. Thirteen percent of employees at these companies think there is a glass ceiling.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder among 3,625 workers ages 18 and over (employed full-time, not self-employed, government and non-government) between May 13 and June 6, 2014 (percentages for some questions are based on a subset, based on their responses to certain questions). With a pure probability sample of 3,625 one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 1.63 percentage points. Sampling error for data from sub-samples is higher and varies.

About CareerBuilder®

CareerBuilder is the global leader in human capital solutions, helping companies target and attract great talent. Its online career site,®, is the largest in the United States with more than 24 million unique visitors and 1 million jobs. CareerBuilder works with the world’s top employers, providing everything from labor market intelligence to talent management software and other recruitment solutions. Owned by Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE:GCI), Tribune Company and The McClatchy Company (NYSE:MNI), CareerBuilder and its subsidiaries operate in the United States, Europe, South America, Canada and Asia. For more information, visit


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