Women In the Workplace 2017

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Getting to gender equality starts with realizing how far we have to go

Women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America, despite earning more college degrees than men for thirty years and counting. There is a pressing need to do more, and most organizations realize this: company commitment to gender diversity is at an all-time high for the third year in a row.

 Despite this commitment, progress continues to be too slow—and may even be stalling. One of the most powerful reasons for this is a simple one: we have blind spots when it comes to diversity, and we can’t solve problems that we don’t see or understand clearly.

We’re comfortable with the status quo

Many employees think women are well represented in leadership when they see only a few. Because they’ve gotten comfortable with the status quo, they don’t feel any urgency for change. Further, many men don’t fully grasp the state of women in the workplace, and some worry that gender diversity efforts disadvantage them. As a result, men are less committed to the issue, and we can’t get to equality without them.

Women fall behind early and continue to lose ground with every step

Women remain significantly underrepresented in the corporate pipeline. From the outset, fewer women than men are hired at the entry level. At every subsequent step, the representation of women further declines, and women of color face an even more dramatic drop-off at senior levels. This disparity is not due to company-level attrition or lack of interest: women and men stay at their companies and ask for promotions at similar rates.

The workplace is especially challenging for women of color

The intersection of race and gender shapes women’s experiences in meaningful ways. Women of color face more obstacles and a steeper path to leadership, from receiving less support from managers to getting promoted more slowly. This affects how they view the workplace and their opportunities for advancement. Overall, two patterns are clear: compared to white women, things are worse for women of color, and they are particularly difficult for Black women.

Men think women are doing better than they really are

When it comes to how women and men see the state of women and gender diversity efforts, there are striking differences. Men are more likely to think the workplace is equitable; women see a workplace that is less fair and offers less support. Men think their companies are doing a pretty good job supporting diversity; women see more room for improvement. Given the persistent lag in women’s advancement, women have the more accurate view.

The bar for gender equality is too low

Nearly 50 percent of men think women are well represented in leadership in companies where only one in ten senior leaders is a woman. A much smaller but still significant number of women agree: a third think women are well represented when they see one in ten in leadership.

Women hit the glass ceiling early

At the first critical step up to manager, women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male peers. This gender disparity has a dramatic effect on the representation of women: if entry-level women were promoted at the same rate as their male peers, the number of women at the SVP and C-suite levels would more than double.

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There should be an expectation in business that the selection process is based entirely on merit...Given the disproportionate number of men to women in senior roles, business should question the soundness of their meritocracies.

Sir Philip Hampton, Chairman GlaxoSmithKline

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