Corporate America Far from Gender Equality


LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company recently released Women in the Workplace, a comprehensive study of 118 companies and 30,000 employees focused on the state of women in corporate America. The study reveals that despite their advancements, women remain largely underrepresented in every sector of the corporate world.

The report discredits dismissive explanations for the absence of women in C-suite positions, “Many people assume this is because women are leaving companies at higher rates than men or due to difficulties balancing work and family. However, our analysis tells a more complex story: women face greater barriers to advancement and a steeper path to senior leadership.”

The study presents the following key findings:

  • There is a gap in leadership ambition: “At every stage, women are less eager than men to become a top executive. They are more likely to cite “stress/pressure” as a top issue, and this is not solely rooted in concern over balancing work and family. There is evidence pointing to another explanation—the path to leadership is disproportionately stressful for women.”
  • Women endure an unfair playing field: “Women are almost four times more likely than men to think they have fewer opportunities to advance because of their gender—and they are twice as likely to think their gender will make it harder for them to advance in the future.”
  • Gender diversity is not a prevalent priority: “74 percent of companies report that their CEOs are highly committed to gender diversity. However, less than half of employees believe that gender diversity is a top priority for their CEO, and only a third view it as a top priority for their direct manager.”
  • Participation in employee programs is low, even though they are available: “A majority of companies offer flexibility and career development programs, but many women and men are not using them. There is evidence that employees are reluctant to participate out of fear of being penalized. More than 90 percent of women and men believe taking extended family leave will hurt their position at work.”
  • Inequality persists in the home: “Even in households where both partners work full-time, 41 percent of women report doing more child care and 30 percent report doing more chores. Women continue to do a disproportionate share of child care 
and housework, so they are more likely to be affected by the challenges of juggling home and work responsibilities.”
  • Female and male networks differ greatly: “Men predominantly have male networks, while women have mostly female or mixed networks. Given that men are more likely to hold senior leadership positions, women may end up with less access to senior-level sponsorship.”

As NAWRB addressed in yesterday’s blog, American companies lacking female executives lost out on $567 billion in 2014. The present corporate landscape suggests this revenue will remain untapped, as researchers conclude that achieving gender equality will take 25 years at the senior-VP level, and over 100 years in executive roles if we continue at the current rate of progress.

These workplace imbalances display that most of the work for true gender equality still needs to be done. This is exceptionally important work, and a century is too long to wait to overturn inequality that should have never existed.

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