What does McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2022 report tell us?
The Women in the Workplace report is the largest study of women in corporate America. The research collected information from 333 participating organizations employing more than 12 million people, surveyed more than 40,000 employees and conducted interviews with women of diverse identities—including women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities—to get an intersectional look at biases and barriers.
According to the latest Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey, in partnership with LeanIn.Org, “women leaders are switching jobs at the highest rates we’ve ever seen, and ambitious young women are prepared to do the same. To make meaningful and sustainable progress toward gender equality, companies need to go beyond table stakes.”
Companies Face Serious Implications
In the past year, women leaders have switched jobs at the highest rates we’ve ever seen—and at higher rates than men in leadership. This could have serious implications for companies. Women are already significantly underrepresented in leadership. For years, fewer women have risen through the ranks because of the “broken rung” at the first step up to management. Now, companies are struggling to hold onto the relatively few women leaders they have. And all of these dynamics are even more pronounced for women of color.
- Women are still dramatically underrepresented in leadership: only 1 in 4 C-suite executives is a woman, and only 1 in 20 is a woman of color.
- The “broken rung” is still holding women back: for every 100 men promoted from entry-level to manager, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted.
- Now, women leaders are leaving their companies at higher rates than ever before. To put the scale of the problem in perspective: for every woman at the director level who gets promoted, two women directors are choosing to leave their company.
Women are Facing Barriers
Women leaders are as likely as men at their level to want to be promoted and aspire to senior-level roles. In many companies, however, they experience microaggressions that undermine their authority and signal that it will be harder for them to advance—such as having colleagues question their judgment or imply that they aren’t qualified for their jobs.
- Among employees who switched jobs in the past two years, 48% of women leaders say they did so because they wanted more opportunity to advance.
- 37% of women leaders have had a coworker get credit for their idea, compared to 27% of men leaders.
- Women leaders are 2X as likely as men leaders to be mistaken for someone more junior.
“I’ve asked many times what I can do to get promoted, and I don’t get a good answer. I’m thinking of leaving. And it will be my company’s loss since they didn’t offer me the opportunity to advance. I hit a ceiling that didn’t need to be there.” —South Asian Woman, Senior Manager
Women Leaders are Overworked and Under-Recognized
Compared to men at their level, women leaders do more to support employee well-being and promote DEI—work that improves retention and employee satisfaction but is not formally rewarded in most companies. Spending time and energy on work that isn’t recognized makes it harder for women leaders to advance, and may partly explain why they are more burned out.
- Women leaders are about 1.5X as likely as men leaders to have switched jobs because their workload was unmanageable.
- Women leaders are 2X as likely as men leaders to spend substantial time on DEI work, and 40% of women leaders say their DEI work isn’t acknowledged at all in performance reviews.
- 43% of women leaders are burned out, compared to only 31% of men at their level.
Companies Also Run The Risk Of Losing Young Women
The factors that drive women leaders to leave their companies are even more important to young women. Young women care deeply about opportunity to advance—more than two-thirds of women under 30 want to be senior leaders, and well over half say advancement has become more important to them in the past two years. Young women are also more likely than women leaders to say they’re increasingly prioritizing flexibility and company commitment to well-being and DEI.
- 58% of women under 30 say advancement has become more important to them in the past two years.
- More than two-thirds of women under 30 say they care more than they did two years ago about flexibility and company commitment to well-being.
Remote Work Has Changed The Game For Women
A vast majority of women prefer remote or hybrid work to being fully on-site—and this preference is about more than flexibility. When women work remotely, they experience fewer microaggressions and higher levels of psychological safety. The decrease in microaggressions is especially pronounced for women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities—groups who typically face more demeaning and othering behavior.
- Only 1 in 10 women want to work mostly on-site, and many women point to remote and hybrid work options as one of their top reasons for joining or staying with an organization.
- Women of color and women with disabilities are about 1.5X as likely to experience demeaning and “othering” microaggressions when they work mostly on-site as opposed to mostly remotely.
Here are six actions companies need to take to make progress on gender diversity. Without action on these fronts, the numbers will not move:
- Get the basics right—targets, reporting, and accountability.
- Ensure that hiring and promotions are fair.
- Make senior leaders and managers champions of diversity.
- Foster an inclusive and respectful culture.
- Make the Only experience rare.
- Offer employees the flexibility to fit work into their lives.
To learn more about Women in the Workplace, read the full report by McKinsey here.