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Gender Equity for Working Women Needs Work

Gender Equity for Working Women Still Needs Work

Gender equity for working women still needs work. That according to McKinsey’s latest report Women in the Workplace. The good news? Women’s representation in the C-suite is the highest it has ever been. However, women’s progress is lacking in the middle of the pipeline with persistent underrepresentation of women of color.

Women in the Workplace

The “Women in the Workplace” report, by McKinsey & Company in partnership with LeanIn.Org, is the ninth annual study analyzing the status of women in corporate America and Canada. The study includes data from 276 organizations employing over 10 million people, with insights from more than 27,000 employees and 270 senior HR leaders.

Key Findings:

  1. Representation and Progress:
    • Women have made significant gains in senior leadership roles over the past several years, with the proportion of women in the C-suite increasing from 17% in 2015 to 28% in 2023.
    • Despite these improvements at the top, women, particularly women of color, remain underrepresented at all levels of the corporate pipeline. The “broken rung” at the manager level continues to be a significant barrier, where women are promoted at lower rates than men, especially impacting women of color.
  2. Ambition and Flexibility:
    • Contrary to some reports, women’s ambition has not diminished; instead, workplace flexibility has enhanced it. Women, especially younger ones, are eager to advance in their careers, with 80% aspiring for promotions this year, compared to 70% in 2019.
    • Flexibility in work arrangements (hybrid and remote work) has been crucial in sustaining and boosting women’s career ambitions. Many women report that flexible work helps them manage fatigue and burnout, contributing to better productivity and job satisfaction.
  3. Challenges and Barriers:
    • Microaggressions remain a pervasive issue, causing significant stress and hindering women’s career progression. Women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities face higher rates of microaggressions and often resort to self-shielding behaviors to cope.
    • The “Great Breakup” trend continues, with women at the director level leaving their positions at higher rates than men, creating a gap in the pipeline for future senior leaders.
  4. Recommendations for Companies:
    • Address the Broken Rung: Companies should focus on ensuring equitable promotion practices from entry-level to manager positions to create a robust pipeline for future leaders.
    • Promote Inclusivity: Implement training and policies to combat microaggressions and foster an inclusive culture where diverse identities are respected and valued.
    • Leverage Flexibility: Embrace flexible work arrangements as a permanent feature, ensuring policies support work-life balance without compromising career advancement opportunities.
    • Data-Driven Approaches: Regularly track and analyze data on hiring, promotions, and attrition to identify and address disparities, particularly for women of color.

The report underscores that while there have been significant strides in women’s representation at the top, much work remains to achieve true gender parity across all levels of the corporate hierarchy. Companies must continue dismantling barriers and creating inclusive, flexible work environments to support the advancement of women.

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Krista Bradford

Krista Bradford

Krista Bradford is CEO of the retained executive search firm The Good Search and of its research division Intellerati. A former award-winning television journalist and investigative reporter, Ms. Bradford now pursues truth, justice, and great talent in the executive suite.View Author posts

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