It’s Time for Companies to Try a New Gender-Equality Playbook


256px McKinsey and Company Logo 1 The old one isn’t working. We need bolder leadership and more exacting execution. Gender equality is a priority for most CEOs, but their companies fall short.

More than 75 percent of CEOs include gender equality in their top ten business priorities, but gender outcomes across the largest companies are not changing.

Our research indicates, for example, that corporate America promotes men at 30 percent higher rates than women during their early career stages and that entry-level women are significantly more likely than men to have spent five or more years in the same role

Why is gender inequality in the workplace so persistent despite growing attention from business leaders and the media—and what should we all do differently? Our research suggests we fall short in translating top-level commitment into a truly inclusive work environment. We see strong evidence that even when top executives say the right things, employees don’t think they have a plan for making progress toward gender equality, don’t see those words backed up with action, don’t feel confident calling out gender bias when they see it, and don’t think frontline managers have gotten the message. Consider these findings from our survey conducted with LeanIn.Org, which included more than 130 companies and over 34,000 men and women:

Improving gender outcomes is extremely hard, as we well know from the obstacles our own organizations continue to encounter in making deep and lasting progress on this front. We offer these ideas not to discourage leaders about the magnitude of the challenge but to embolden us all to be persistent and creative.

As our research underscores, we need to look more carefully at the day-to-day experiences, for better or worse, of the people in our organizations. Such a look, even if sobering, will be an invaluable step toward breaking gender gridlock.

 This article originally appeared in Commentary – McKinsey Quarterly – February 2017