Corporate America was created with males in mind, and change has been painfully and obstinately slow. Even though we’ve moved past the era in which women were largely excluded from the workplace and leadership positions, corporate America still has to do more to promote, advance, and include women.
That much is evident in the 2022 Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org, a yearly study that has offered insights on gendered diversity in the workplace since 2015.
Many of the issues that previous Women in the Workplace studies identified as problematic still exist, such as the representation and advancement gaps, and new threats present themselves that could undermine the meager progress we’ve made over the past ten years.
Women are now demanding more and waiting less at a time when a global pandemic has upended traditional ideas of employment and sparked shifting expectations of the workplace. That’s excellent news in a way. Women are reluctant to accept the current state of affairs. Companies have the chance to take action and significantly speed up gender diversity, equality, and inclusion at work; some have done so, luring women away from organizations that haven’t.
The research for the 2022 report came from 333 organizations, more than 40,000 employees responded to the poll, and interviews with a wide range of professional women, including women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities.
It’s worthwhile to read the entire report, but to get you started, here are 11 ways that corporate America is still ignoring women in 2022:
- Women still are embarrassingly underrepresented, and the situation only becomes worse as you move up the corporate ladder.
Only 48% of entry-level workers are women, but representation declines steadily as one moves up the corporate ladder. Women take up only 40% of the workforce at the manager level. Only 36% of positions in senior executive and director positions are held by women. In the positions of vice president and senior vice president, women make up 32% and 28%, respectively. When you reach the C-suite, women make up just 26% of the workforce.
These grim statistics’ lone bright spot is that representation has increased across the board from five years ago by ranging between one and seven percentage points.
Of course, when it concerns representation, some organizations perform better than others, and women are keeping notice. One Black woman at the managerial level told the researchers, “When I joined this organization, I realized there were a bunch of women and people of color in leadership.” “That gave me hope that I could get ahead. It just feels different when you enter a company and see leaders who look like you.
- The bottom rung leading to the manager is still broken.
The intractable “broken rung” phenomenon is mentioned in the report as a possible explanation for how we go from having nearly 50% of women in entry-level roles to just around a quarter at the topmost executive levels. The initial step from entry-level positions to manager weakens advancement through the ladder, as they have emphasized year after year (thus the term “broken rung”).
Only 87 women and 82 women of color are promoted from entry-level to manager for every 100 men, according to the survey. Men outweigh women at the management level by a large margin, and women will never catch up. Simply said, there aren’t enough women promoted to senior leadership roles.
In other words, until women are advanced more fairly from entry-level to management posts, it will be hard to achieve equity in inclusion at the top levels (or anything close to parity).
- Women who have worked their way up to more senior positions are leaving their employment at far higher rates than men.
These first two facts are persistent problems that earlier studies have already noted. However, there is a recent and (also) alarming tendency. Women executives are quitting their jobs at higher rates than ever before, and they do it more frequently than men. For instance, two women in director roles are quitting their businesses for every woman who is promoted.
When women feel they lack possibilities for advancement, adequate flexibility or assistance, or a tolerable workload, Robinson claims that they are “voting with their feet.” “Companies must recognize this risk and take appropriate action. If not, they run the danger of losing the next wave of female leaders to rivals who value what women tell us is crucial.
- It is more difficult for women to advance and more demanding to work since they experience more microaggressions and other barriers.
Women are less likely than men to feel psychologically safe at work and are more likely to encounter microaggressions. It shows itself in a variety of ways that make working less enjoyable and career advancement more challenging: Colleagues praise others for their ideas, criticize their judgment, presume they are more junior than they are, make comments on how they look, criticize how they act, and assume things about their nationality or culture. Additionally, women are more likely to feel alienated at work and are less likely to feel comfortable arguing with colleagues. That lengthy list is exhausting to read but to live it is even harder.
- Women devote more time to DEI and people management. Not only are they not compensated for it, but it may prevent them from getting promoted.
However, 40% of these senior women in leadership roles claim that their efforts aren’t even acknowledged, let alone taken into account, in their performance reviews. Women in the power structure are two times as likely as men at their stage to devote significant effort and time to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Another area where female leaders are much more likely to invest energy than male leaders but which may not always be rewarded with possibilities for promotion is employee well-being, where a similar tendency can be seen.
- In addition, women at every level provide more care and household work than males.
Women are overworked at work and home, in addition to being underpaid. Most of the time, as they advance, they continue to take up most of the childcare and/or housework, while a decreasing number of men do. With each passing stage, the gap with peer guys widens. In comparison to men at their level, double that many entry-level women (58% vs. 30%) perform the majority or all of this work. It is roughly three times more at the management level (58% vs. 21%) and four times greater at the advanced manager level and above (52% vs. 13%).
a white woman with limited mobility working in a senior manager position, told the researchers, “I know that most guys in the C-suite have one stay-at-home spouse.” “My CEO is a good person. But he does not live with any children. He is not considering the logistical difficulties of needing to take care of your family.
- At their level, women are much more likely to burn out than males.
It is not surprising that women burn out at greater rates than the males they work with because they spend more time at work on DEI and employee well-being, deal with stressful microaggressions and hurdles, and take on more housework and childcare. Burnout affects 31% of males in leadership positions, but it affects 43% of women.
- Companies are failing to meet the demands of women for genuine commitments to flexibility, employee wellbeing, and DEI.
Returning to the attrition issue, women who have overcome obstacles to reach senior positions are increasingly changing occupations.
This means that organizations that don’t make leaps in areas like flexibility, DEI, and workload aren’t just seeing senior-level women leave, they’re also less attractive to women who might potentially take on those leadership roles in the future. These factors that drive women already in management to look for other opportunities are even more important to women under the age of 30. Companies that don’t address these issues take serious risks with their potential recruiting and retention, especially for underrepresented personnel. This is resulting in a new funnel problem for organizations that aren’t willing to adapt.
- Women with disabilities, LGBTQ+ women, and women of color experience employment more negatively.
Eight years of research support the terrible reality that inequality and experience gap is real and ongoing. Yes, women often perform lower than males, but when you start examining women in diverse groups, the picture becomes more complex.
We have repeatedly observed that “despite modest gains in representation,” women who have historically been marginalized, such as women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities, have a worse experience at work: They are more likely to experience stereotypes and biases, and barriers to advancement.
Below are just a few examples of how women who have historically been excluded from certain groups at work endure poorer conditions.
- Women with disabilities are much more prone than other women to have their decision called into question, to have others receive rewards for their ideas, to be mistaken for more subordinate, to have their looks commented on, and to be reprimanded for their temperament, such as “should smile more.”
- LGBTQ+ women are also extra prone than other women to receive criticism for their behavior and their appearance.
- Women of color and Latinas were far less likely than some other women to feel psychologically safe at work, to indicate that their manager cared about their careers, or to say that their boss encouraged inclusion on the team.
- The likelihood that Asian and Black women have powerful allies on their team, as well as the likelihood that a senior colleague has publicly praised their abilities or pushed for them to obtain a raise or promotion, are both the lowest.
- Mandating particular work arrangements only makes things worse.
Women who can choose the work arrangements that are best for them are more likely to report being happy (81% vs. 61%), believing they have a fair chance to advance (67% vs. 47%), being unlikely to quit their jobs (64% vs. 41%), and reporting that they are rarely burned out (30% vs. 21%) than women who are unable to choose the work arrangements that are best for them.
Women are higher likely than men to prefer to work largely remotely (61% vs. 50%), and much less inclined to want to be physically present most of the time. This is because remote work has helped decrease the frequency of microaggressions and raise levels of emotional safety for women.
One woman, a Black VP with a hybrid work environment, told the researchers that “certain microaggressions just 100% don’t happen when I’m remote.” “A lot of people have told me that I should be concerned about not getting face time, but there’s another side, which is that individuals of color don’t want to work in a setting where they don’t feel like they can be themselves.”
- Managers who thrive in the areas that matter the most to women aren’t being trained or rewarded by their employers.
Women were much more susceptible than men to report having quit a job within the last 2 years due to a lack of support from their management (22% vs. 18%). And it’s become more and more important—42% of women executives and 56% of women under 30 said that in the past two years, having manager support has been more critical to them. Women also anticipate options for flexible and remote work, as well as pledges to DEI and psychological empowerment, in addition to personal assistance. Companies, however, don’t recognize or compensate managers for the former, and they haven’t given them the training they need to succeed in remote and hybrid situations.
It’s not all terrible, though. “There is momentum and energy.”
After eight years, there has been some advancement in this yearly survey. Even though the pace of change in corporate America is positive, it is much too sluggish. There is still more work to be done to enhance the condition of women in the work environment at all stages, but we should not give up our battle or accept less. If there is one thing that young women can learn from the study, it is this.
And that is precisely what the female role models and mentors they look up to are doing by leaving behind underperforming businesses. Additionally, they are seeing new opportunities at organizations that have advanced beyond the fundamental “table stakes” of DEI to adopt what the report refers to as “leading” and “emerging” practices that genuinely and effectively promote women in the workplace.