The 30% Club has released findings of its research which undermines ten common myths about how women progress to top positions in organisations.
According to the research, men and women have similar career aspirations, leadership behaviour and push and pull factors for career moves.
Small differences, however, can result in significantly different outcomes. A man starting his career in a FTSE 100 organisation is 4.5 times more likely to make it to the Executive Committee ('ExCo') than his female counterpart.
The research was conducted in four streams by business psychology consultancy YSC and professional services firm KPMG.
It encompasses a representative cross-section of FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, accounting for over 680,000 employees.
Barriers to progression tend to be at the top level of organisations: senior women are two times less likely to be promoted and four times less likely to leave than their male peers.
Only a minority of women at senior level (seven per cent of ExCo positions) have the responsibility for the profit-generating area of the business.
Most women are in charge of HR and legal functions, while men tend to have responsibility for commercial activity.
YSC director Rachel Short said: "Removing the 'psychological' barriers for women is just as important as removing the 'structural' barriers if we are to fundamentally shift the dial in women's progression to the very top."
Men are as important as women when it comes to role-modelling behaviour that inspires women to progress – women alone, therefore, cannot drive the changes needed to achieve greater gender parity.
Organisations need to be more honest about gender diversity, the report says, with all leaders showing an interest in women advancing their careers and reaching the top.
Helena Morrissey, chief executive officer of Newton Investment Management and founder of the 30% Club, said: "What I take from this research is that we will only really take a quantum leap towards better gender balance at all levels when organisations treat this as a mainstream, not a 'diversity' issue."