Lower confidence and ambition are putting women off the top jobs and companies should take positive steps to nurture them for management, a study published on Monday said.
The survey, "Ambition and Gender at Work" by Europe's Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) found almost three-quarters of women believed a "glass ceiling" exists, barring them from senior roles.
While women make up almost half of the UK workforce, they occupy just 12 percent of FTSE 100 directorships, according to Cranfield School of Management.
Former trade minister Mervyn Davies is due to publish a review later this month with recommendations on how to increase the number of women on company boards. Statutory quotas are among a raft of measures under consideration.
Just under half of the women surveyed supported quotas, compared with 24 percent of men. However, 62 percent of female managers were more in favour of "positive action" to increase the number of women in senior roles.
"Quotas may be seen as the quickest solution and some countries, notably Norway, have introduced them with some success," said Penny de Valk, Chief Executive of the ILM.
"However, although they drive compliance, they do not necessarily drive a commitment to the more fundamental changes that are required," she said.
De Valk said companies should try to address the reasons why women might be put off more senior roles.
Lack of confidence in their abilities and lower career expectations are holding women back, the study found, making them likely to take up management roles three years later than men.
Half of female managers admitted feelings of self doubt, compared with 31 per cent of men. Similarly only 50 percent of women expected to become managers at the start of their careers, while two-thirds of men did.
"Employers who are serious about increasing gender diversity at the top need to recognise and respond to these differences, and find ways to nurture women's ambition," De Valk said.
She said companies should consider more flexible career models, as well as coaching and mentoring for women looking to take on senior positions.
The ILM surveyed 3,000 male and female managers for the study.
Follow Emirates 24|7 on Google News.