Cosmo asked real women in a survey what's holding them back from taking the top position in their jobs. It all comes down to these four reasons:

1. Stress and Pressure

"It's more important to me to have a certain quality of life than to be number-one 'whatever'—I wouldn't sacrifice that for a promotion."

—Keerti K., 26, event planner

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Tip from the top

"I always left the office at 5pm to go to yoga class, and then I'd go home and check my e-mail for an hour," says Anne Kreamer, author of Risk/Reward. "You need to get your work done, but if you are working all the time, you get brittle. Find your yoga, baking or hiking, whatever it is that gives you inner fortitude."

2. Balancing Family and Work

"I've always grown up wanting a family and a good work life—so my ideal job would be something that made space for that part of my life, when it happens."

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—Abhaya S., 21, law student

Tip from the top

Just because you aren't crushing it at work for a couple of years doesn't mean you aren't ambitious. Life happens. "The important thing is not to scale back ambitions in anticipation of conflicts that don't yet exist," Sandberg says. "Anyone who is lucky enough to have options should keep them open for as long as possible."

3. I am not interested

"As long as I'm paid enough to live comfortably and derive a great sense of satisfaction from my job, I don't need a fancy designation to keep my juices flowing."

—Gauri S., 24, editorial assistant

"I'm more of a do-your-own-thing kind of girl than a corporate stooge."

—Hansika M., 29, stylist

​4. I Don't Think I'd Succeed

"Just because I'm good at my job doesn't necessarily mean I'm cut out for top-level management. I don't see the need to try for something I'm doubtful about my skills at, and then fail." 

—Sarika G., 27,
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Tip from the top

"To make sure the fear of failing doesn't stop me, I over-prepare to ensure I know my stuff cold," says Tai Wingfield, SVP at the Centre for Talent Innovation and co-author of CTI study Black Women: Ready to Lead. "Command your subject and you'll command the room."

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