June 29, 2004 -- In a blow to the theory that few women hold chief executive positions simply because they don't aim that high, research firm Catalyst released a survey showing that women in high-level jobs want the top post just as badly as men do.

The survey of 243 men and 705 women senior-level executives found that 55 percent of the women and 57 percent of the men desired the chief executive or equivalent position.

Such ambitions should come as little surprise to small businesses, which know very well that women like to be in charge. As of 2004, there are 6.7 million privately-held businesses that are majority women-owned, according to the Center for Women's Business Research. This accounts for nearly 30 percent of all private companies in the U.S.

Men and women employed similar strategies in trying to get ahead, according to the Catalyst report. Most common were seeking high-profile assignments, consistently exceeding expectations and networking.

Women, however, indicated that they regularly faced cultural barriers that men didn't. Forty-six percent of the women said they were excluded from informal networks and faced gender stereotypes. Women also reported a lack of role models as a common barrier.

The survey comes at a time when rumors of more and more women opting out of the workforce to pursue personal objectives have swirled. However, its findings suggest that men have just as much trouble finding a work-life balance as women. Roughly half the women and 43 percent of the men reported difficulty achieving a balance between work and personal lives. Both genders desire more flexible work arrangements, such as the ability to telecommute.