An exclusive survey by Silicon.com of 250 IT directors at the IT Directors' Forum revealed earlier this week that two-thirds do not see themselves going above the level of CIO into other 'C-level' positions such as COO or even CEO.
But when asked if being CIO is realistically the limit of most IT executives' career ambitions, two-thirds (eight) of silicon.com's CIO Jury user panel gave an emphatic 'no'. The remaining third agreed that few CIOs make that next step up the ladder.
Indeed some CIO Jury members have wider operational roles. David Yu has moved from CTO to COO at Betfair.com while Ric Francis, former CIO at supermarket chain Safeway, has recently become operations director at the Post Office.
Francis said: "As someone who has recently made the jump after three CIO roles to incorporate other business functions as operations director this is clearly not true.
"One simple piece of advice and guidance in this space is to really nail down your IT role and then look broader. I hear too many IT directors advocating that they are really 'business' people - whatever that means - long before it is the case."
Iain Andrew, CIO at Dixons, said there are more IT executives with a broader mix of business experience currently coming through the ranks.
"More and more CIOs have a diverse background placing them in a strong position to compete for the COO and CEO positions," he said.
Graham Yellowley, director of technology at Mitsubishi Securities International, said if there is a glass ceiling it is a self-imposed one rather than a wider reluctance to promote IT directors up the corporate ladder.
"IT should be managed as a business unit and those skills, if applied to a business, will allow IT directors to be suitable candidates for other organisational roles. The limit, if any, depends on the individual themselves and their career ambition."
But a third of the panel still said it is difficult for IT executives to progress up the ladder in the way that, for example, many finance or sales directors go on to become a CEO.
Richard Rundle, IT director at BAA, said: "In most organisations it is a rare exception that the CIO makes the transition."
Silicon.com's Andy McCue reported from London.