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Women in Business

We've all read countless articles explaining reasons why women do not reach top jobs in companies — one of them being that they take time off to rear children. The Economist just published a report (premium content, subscription required) that cites re-entry after a maternity leave as the true challenge for women to overcome — ahead of the popular myth of them dropping out because the approach to higher rungs requires greater political skill and sharp elbows.

In conjunction with the need to take time off in mid-career, the report highlights "up or out" cultures in managing-consulting businesses, exclusion from informal networks, pervasive stereotyping of women's capacity for leadership and type of work as powerful factors in pushing women away.

Yet, countless research argues many of the strengths that make women superior in business, such as the ability to multi-task, teambuilding and communicating have become the essential skills for running a 21st century corporation.

If it's true, as researchers like Ilene Lang, president of Catalyst say, that given the chance, many women would be just as ambitious to do top jobs as men, why aren't they represented in greater numbers at the top? Why aren't women chosen to join the ranks of executive directors?

Most curiously, what happens to those women who choose not to rear children and focus on their careers?