Women in the Workplace, first launched by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company in 2015, is the largest study on the state of women in corporate America that gives companies insights and tools to advance gender diversity in the workplace. Their 2023 report debunks four myths about women’s workplace experiences and career advancement.
These myths include:
- Women are becoming less ambitious. False — women are more ambitious than before the pandemic, largely due to flexibility.
- The “glass ceiling” is the largest obstacle to women’s advancement. The biggest hurdle is actually the “broken rung” at the first critical step up to become manager.
- Microaggressions have a “micro” impact. They have a large and long-term impact on women’s careers and well-being.
- It’s mostly women who want—and benefit from—flexibility and remote work. Both men and women see flexibility as a “top 3” employee benefit, second only to healthcare.
Additionally, this report is divided into three parts:
- The state of the pipeline
- Debunking four myths on the state of women
- Recommendations for companies
As an employer, the findings in this report give you insightful information on how you can help women advance within your organization and provide better workplace experiences. Having collected information from 270+ participating organizations employing more than 10 million people and surveyed more than 27,000 employees, this report shares an extensive and remarkable amount of information.
To break it down for you, we’ve recapped all three parts to highlight stats, perspectives, and stories that stood out to us the most.
SUMMARY OF THE 2023 WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE REPORT
Part I: The State of the Pipeline
Women, and especially women of color, remain underrepresented in the corporate pipeline. Although there is a slight increase throughout the past nine years of this report, women still aren’t where they should be in terms of representation.
Here are some stats we’re seeing:
- Women make up 48% of the workforce, but only 39% of managers, 29% of directors, and 25% of vice presidents.
- Women now hold 28% of C-suite roles, up from 24% in 2021. However, progress has stalled in recent years, and women are still underrepresented in the highest levels of leadership.
- Women of color are even more underrepresented in leadership roles. Women of color make up 17% of the workforce, but only 12% of managers, 6% of directors, and 4% of vice presidents.
It’s also important to note that the “Great Breakup” remains an issue for women at the director level, which is the group next in line for senior leadership positions. According to NASDAQ, the “Great Breakup” has “seen women executives switching jobs at the highest rate in years as microaggressions they regularly face underscore the hurdles they face to advancement.”
This means that there are much fewer women in line for top positions.
PART II: DEBUNKING FOUR MYTHS ON THE STATE OF WOMEN
Myth One: Women Are Becoming Less Ambitious
Despite headlines painting a picture that women are supposedly losing their ambition, the data from the 2023 Women in the Workplace Report proves otherwise. The report found that women are equally as ambitious as men, and women of color are even more ambitious than white women. It’s also important to note that young women are especially ambitious, and 9 out of 10 young women want to be promoted, and 3 out of 4 of those young women aspire to become senior leaders.
Although many people assumed that the pandemic and workplace flexibility would dampen women’s ambition, it actually improved it. Many women who are in a hybrid or remote position found themselves feeling less fatigued and burned out due to the flexibility, which gave them more focused time and productivity. Despite women prioritizing their personal lives more — as they should! — they remain just as committed to their careers.
Myth Two: The Biggest Barrier to Women’s Advancement is the “Glass Ceiling”
It’s not the “glass ceiling” that’s preventing women from advancing — it’s the “broken rung.” This phenomenon explains the fact that women are less likely than men to be promoted from entry-level to manager positions. In 2023, for every 100 men who were promoted, only 87 women were promoted. This number is actually worsening for women of color. This year, 73 women of color were promoted for every 100 men, compared to 82 women of color last year.
The report explains that there are three things to keep in mind when it comes to the broken rung:
- Women aren’t responsible for it.
- Bias is a strong driver of it.
- Gender parity in senior leadership remains out of reach until this is fixed.
This is a critical barrier to advancement, preventing further advancement into senior positions.
Myth Three: Microaggressions Have a “Micro” Impact
Despite the name of the term, microaggressions have a big negative impact on women when it comes to advancing their careers. According to Merriam-Webster, a microaggression is “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group.” Microaggressions can showcase disrespect, cause stress, and even negatively impact women’s health and their careers. It may cause women to feel less safe, causing them less likely to share ideas, take risks, or speak up for themselves.
As noted, 78% of women who face microaggressions “self-shield” at work to protect themselves. That means that they may not share their opinions out of fear of seeming difficult or aggressive to their colleagues. In return, they’re three times more likely to consider quitting their jobs and four times more likely to be burned out.
Myth Four: It’s Mostly Women Who Want — and Benefit From — Flexible Work
As of this year, the majority of both men and women view flexibility as the future of work, as it benefits and satisfies everyone — not just women. In fact, the vast majority of employees view flexibility as a top 3 benefit for work, second only to healthcare. This has been especially crucial for mothers who seek not only the flexibility of where to work but also when to work. If they didn’t have flexibility, 38% say that they would have had to otherwise leave their company or reduce their work hours.
Additionally, flexible work is known to increase productivity and decrease stress.
PART III: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR COMPANIES
The 2023 Women in the Workplace Report shares five core areas that companies should focus on to support and advance women:
- Tracking outcomes for women’s representation
- Empowering managers to be effective people leaders
- Addressing microaggressions head on
- Unlocking the full potential of flexible work
- Fixing the broken rung, once and for all
More specific recommendations for each of these focus areas can be found below.
Recommendation One: Tracking Outcomes for Women’s Representation
Although many companies track their financial outcomes, few track their outcomes for women’s advancement. The Report suggests measuring your employees’ outcomes and experiences, and then using that information to resolve issues. It’s important to look at hiring, promotions, and attrition and then use that data to create equal opportunities for advancement.
Race, gender, and other self-reported identifiers should also be tracked. This brings more visibility and prevents women with traditionally marginalized identities from getting overlooked. Additionally, don’t shy away from being transparent about your goals with your employees, as it may help to inspire change and allow your employees to feel more supported.
Recommendation Two: Empowering Managers to Be Effective People Leaders
As managers work to create an inclusive environment, support employee well-being, and stand behind flexible work, these managers need the tools and resources to deliver on these goals. Companies can do that by:
- Identifying managers’ priorities and rewarding results
- Providing managers with the skills they need to be successful
- Ensuring managers have the time and support to be successful
Having support at the top will trickle down to the bottom, giving employees of all levels what they need to be successful and the opportunities for advancement.
Recommendation Three: Addressing Microaggressions Head On
Microaggressions are harmful to the employees that they affect and can result in missed opportunities and talent. Companies can end microaggressions by:
- Making it clear that microaggressions are inexcusable
- Teaching employees to avoid and disprove microaggressions
- Create a culture where it’s the norm to call out microaggressions
By fostering a workplace where employees feel safe and protected, they’ll be less likely to submit their resignations, avoid taking risks, and feel burned out.
Recommendation Four: Unlocking the Full Potential of Flexible Work
With many companies adopting flexible work for their employees, it’s now time to ensure that it reaches its full potential. That can happen by:
- Establishing clear expectations around working flexibly, in terms of working hours
- Measuring the impact of new initiatives to support flexibility and making adjustments as needed
- Ensuring a level playing field across work arrangements
Although flexible work can benefit every company, it’s crucial that steps are taken to ensure that it’s being used to the best of its ability.
Recommendation Five: Fixing the Broken Rung, Once and For All
More women need to be promoted to management positions from entry-level positions to set a positive reaction in the pipeline. That can be achieved by:
- Tracking inputs and outputs
- Removing bias from performance reviews and promotions
- Investing in career advancement for women of color
By creating opportunities for all, more women will be able to advance to higher positions, as they deserve.
How Does MomUp Support These Findings?
From our perspective as a recruiting firm whose candidate base is largely made of women, Women in the Workplace accurately captures everything that we’re seeing and hearing from our talent pool who comes to us looking for a new position. At MomUp, we seek to bring better representation to organizations, particularly with women and women of color in leadership positions, and partner with organizations who understand, value, and offer flexible work arrangements.
Whether you’re an employer who also incorporates this approach into your mission or you’re a job seeker who wants to work for an organization that holds these values true, we’d love to partner with and support you.