Women in the workplace

Ghïmeesha Lourens

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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. That’s according to the latest Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey, in partnership with LeanIn.Org.

The state of the pipeline

Despite modest gains in representation over the last years, women and especially women of color, are still dramatically underrepresented: only one in four C-suite leaders is a woman, and only one in 20 is a woman of color (Exhibit 1).
Moreover, most companies are grappling with two pipeline problems that make achieving gender equality in their organizations impossible:

The ‘broken rung’ remains unfixed

For every 100 men who are promoted from entry-level roles to manager positions, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted (Exhibit 2). As a result, men significantly outnumber women at the manager level, and women can never catch up. There are simply too few women to promote to senior leadership positions. (McKinsey, 2022)

More women leaders are leaving their companies.

Now companies have a new pipeline problem. Women leaders are leaving their companies at the highest rate we’ve ever seen and at a much higher rate than men leaders. To put the scale of the problem in perspective: for every woman at the director level who gets promoted to the next level, two women directors are choosing to leave their company (Exhibit 3). (McKinsey, 2022)

Three primary factors are driving their decisions to leave:

  1. Women leaders want to advance, but they face stronger headwinds than men.
  2. Women leaders are overworked and underrecognized.
  1. Women leaders are seeking a different culture of work

Recommendation for companies.

To make effective and sustainable progress toward gender equality, companies should start focusing on two goals: getting more women into leadership and retaining the women leaders they already have. That will require pushing beyond common practices. Companies with better representation of women, especially women of color, are going further. For example, they’re offering more specific and actionable training so that managers are better equipped to support their teams. Companies that want to see better results would benefit from following their lead and break new ground.