Since complaints alleging deplorable behavior by Harvey Weinstein surfaced late last year, hardly a week goes by without one or more new sexual harassment allegations being made by women against men with whom they’ve worked or, most tragically, for whom they’ve worked. The #MeToo movement that has burgeoned in the wake of these revelations has empowered women (and men) to speak truth to power, challenge the status quo and demand an inclusive workplace that ensures opportunities for success for women on equal grounds with their male peers and supervisors.
 
However, a recent study by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey, “Women in the Workplace 2017,” suggests that progress will be slow unless we’re also willing to confront “blind spots on diversity — particularly regarding women of color, and employee perceptions of the status quo.” The authors surveyed more than 70,000 employees, held a series of interviews and examined data from 222 companies with more than 12 million employees.
 
Here are several takeaways from this must-read report.
 
Commitment to Gender Diversity is at an All-Time High. Companies realize that having a diverse workforce places them at a strategic advantage in their sector. Recent studies by McKinsey and Intel show that the most diverse companies have better financial performance and higher employee satisfaction.
 
And Yet, We Have Blind Spots When it Comes to Gender Diversity. Because we are so used to the status quo — so few women in senior positions — when we see a few, we think that women are well represented, and thus we see no urgency for change.
 
In addition, we lack a nuanced understanding of the unique experiences of women of color (black, Latina and Asian). Solving “the woman problem” at companies often fails to get at the unique “double bind” experiences of women of color, as we pointed out in our paper “Ignored Potential,” about the distinctive experiences of black women in engineering.
 
Finally, and understandably, men fail to grasp the barriers that hold women back in the workplace. The false belief that success is predicated solely on individual effort suggests that structural barriers are invisible to men, particularly those in authority.
 
Inequality Begins at the First Promotion and Gets Worse the Higher Up the Ladder Women Go. Despite being a majority of the general population, and a larger majority of recent college graduates (57 percent), significantly fewer women than men are hired in entry-level positions. Less than 20 percent of C-suite executives are white women, and a paltry 3 percent are women of color.
 
People of Color Are More Likely to Leave the Workforce. Although men and women leave their companies at similar rates, men and women of color leave at much higher rates than their white counterparts do.
 
Women Are Promoted at Lower Rates than Men. The data support what many of us already suspected: that women are promoted less often than men, particularly at the first step to becoming a manager. According to the study, “entry-level women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male peers.” One could suppose that women are less motivated than their male peers, but the data don’t bear out that myth either. Women in the study were as interested as men in being promoted, although they were understandably less optimistic about their prospects.
 
Women of Color Receive Less Support than White Women Do. A particularly troubling finding is that women of color generally receive less advocacy from their managers about their work and about career opportunities than do white women, and they are given less insight into how to navigate organizational politics.
Given these and other findings, it’s no surprise, then, that women of color report a greater likelihood that they will leave the workplace, with black women reporting the highest intention to leave.
 
What Can Be Done About It?
 
To ensure we have workplaces where women can bring their best selves to the job, the report turns to the following five suggestions for supporting and advancing women in the workplace:
  1. Make a compelling case for gender diversity
  2. Invest in employee training
  3. Ensure that hiring, promotion and reviews are fair
  4. Give employees the flexibility to fit work into their lives
  5. Focus on accountability and results.
Success breeds success. As our mothers, sisters, daughters, mentors and role models strive and thrive in the workplace, their success will have a positive effect on the self-efficacy of younger girls and women as they choose to pursue similar in-demand majors and corporate careers. Most important, a more diverse pipeline, coupled with the report’s recommendations for advancing women in the workplace, will lead to safer, less threatening and more inclusive workplaces. We’ll all benefit from that change.
Since complaints alleging deplorable behavior by Harvey Weinstein surfaced late last year, hardly a week goes by without one or more new sexual harassment allegations being made by women against men with whom they’ve worked or, most tragically, for whom they’ve worked. The #MeToo movement that has burgeoned in the wake of these revelations has empowered women (and men) to speak truth to power, challenge the status quo and demand an inclusive workplace that ensures opportunities for success for women on equal grounds with their male peers and supervisors.