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We Are in the Midst of a “Great Breakup”: Women Leaders Are Demanding More and Leaving Their Companies in Unprecedented Numbers to Get It

The largest study of the state of women in corporate America shows women are switching jobs at the highest rate in years—and at a much higher rate than men in leadership

By Girl Power News , in News , at October 26, 2022

Today, LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company released the eighth annual Women in the Workplace report, the largest study on the state of women in corporate America. This year’s findings show that women leaders are switching jobs at the highest rate in years, and at a much higher rate than men in leadership. Companies that don’t take action in response to this trend are at risk of losing hard-won progress toward gender equality—and they may also struggle to attract and retain the next generation of women leaders.

“We are in the midst of a Great Breakup in corporate America. Women leaders are leaving their companies at the highest rate we’ve ever seen. They aren’t leaving the workforce entirely but are choosing to leave for companies with better career opportunities, flexibility, and a real commitment to DEI,” said Sheryl Sandberg, founder of Lean In. “This creates a looming pipeline disaster for companies. The broken rung is still broken, so we aren’t promoting as many women into management as men. Now, senior women, who are disproportionately doing the hard work that employees want around people management and DEI, are leaving for better opportunities elsewhere. And women, particularly women of color, still face biases at work that make it much harder to advance. Companies need to double down to remove bias from the workplace and make serious investments in DEI, or we are in real danger of losing decades of progress toward women’s equality. The time to act is now.”

This could all have serious implications for companies. Women are already dramatically underrepresented in leadership. For the eighth consecutive year, the “broken rung” remains broken: for every 100 men promoted from entry level to manager, just 87 women and 82 women of color are promoted. Now, companies are struggling to hold on to the relatively few women leaders they have. 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.

The reasons women leaders are switching jobs are telling. Women leaders are just as ambitious as men, but they’re more likely to experience microaggressions that signal it will be harder to advance. For example, women leaders are twice as likely as men at their level to be mistaken for someone more junior. Women leaders are also doing more to support employee well-being and foster inclusion, but this critical work is spreading them thin and is rarely reflected in their company’s performance evaluations. While 93 percent of companies take business goals into account in managers’ performance reviews, less than 40 percent do the same for factors like team morale and progress on DEI metrics. And finally, it’s increasingly important to women leaders that they work for companies that prioritize flexibility, employee well-being, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Women have long faced significant challenges to advancement in the workplace, and these findings confirm that serious barriers continue to exist. Yet we have also seen that the companies that take the right steps can – and do – improve the representation and experience for women in their organizations,” said Bob Sternfels, global managing partner of McKinsey & Company. “To make sustained progress toward gender equality, companies need to focus on getting more women into leadership and retaining the women leaders they have. The ‘broken rung’ is real and small differences early in advancements add up over time.  In addition to illustrating the scale of the challenge, this year’s report identifies practices – such as setting goals for representation in management and senior leadership, really investing in coaching and sponsorship, and experimenting with effective hybrid working models—that can help companies deliver on the promise of gender equality in their enterprises.”

The 2022 study also highlights several trends that all companies should be aware of:

This year’s report speaks to concrete actions companies can take to retain and advance women and build more equitable and inclusive workplaces, including data-driven recommendations for fixing the broken rung, evaluating remote employees fairly, and recognizing managers who invest in DEI. Based on an analysis of top-performing companies, the report also outlines a series of leading practices that are more prevalent in organizations with a higher representation of women and, in particular, women of color—such as providing formal sponsorship programs specifically for women, offering expanded support for parents like emergency backup childcare, and sharing diversity metrics publicly.

The complete Women in the Workplace report is available at womenintheworkplace.com.

ABOUT THE STUDY
The Women in the Workplace study is conducted in partnership with LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company. The first study was released in 2015, and each year examines current issues facing women in corporate America. This year’s report is based on data and insights from 333 companies representing more than 12 million people, along with survey responses from over 40,000 individual employees. The complete Women in the Workplace report is available at womenintheworkplace.com.

ABOUT LEANIN.ORG
An initiative of the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, LeanIn.Org helps women achieve their ambitions and works to create a more equal world. LeanIn.Org conducts original research on the state of women, supports a global community of small peer groups called Lean In Circles, and provides companies with programs to address the biases and barriers women face in the workplace. Last year, Lean In released Allyship at Work, a training program designed to help employees take meaningful action as allies. For more information about LeanIn.Org and its programs, visit leanin.org. The Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, which also runs OptionB.Org, is a private operating nonprofit organization under IRS section 501(c)(3).

ABOUT MCKINSEY & COMPANY
McKinsey is a global management consulting firm committed to helping organizations accelerate sustainable and inclusive growth. We work with clients across the private, public, and social sectors to solve complex problems and create positive change for all their stakeholders. We combine bold strategies and transformative technologies to help organizations innovate more sustainably, achieve lasting gains in performance, and build workforces that will thrive for this generation and the next.

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