More than getting more women into boardrooms, “we need more women who work in cubicles to stay long enough so they can attain leadership positions,” Caroline Fairchild writes in Fortune.

As little as two years into a job, women start losing their drive for the top, according to a report on gender parity from Bain & Co. Fairchild writes that among experienced employees, 16% of women still aspire to a top job compared with 34% of men. As women’s corporate status rises, their confidence decreases by half. Men’s confidence does not decline.

Don’t assume the difference is that more women take time away from work to have children, Fairchild writes. When Bain examined the data, “marital and parental status did not significantly differ for women who aspire to the C-Suite and those who don’t. Instead, Bain’s research indicated that women’s confidence and aspiration levels erode because they don’t feel supported by their supervisors and they had a hard time fitting into stereotypes of success within the company. Women have far fewer role models in senior and top management than men do.”

Direct supervisors at mid-management levels—not human relations personnel—need to drive employee loyalty and engagement, says Julie Coffman, partner with Bain & Co. in Chicago.

Caroline Fairchild’s Fortune article can be read here. Do you agree that the problem of boardroom inequality needs to be addressed from the middle out? Share your opinions and experiences on

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