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Women in the Workplace

Insights from 5 years of research

Across hundreds of organizations and thousands of employees, these biases and barriers are holding women back

About the study

Women in the Workplace is the largest comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America. LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company have published this report annually since 2015 to give companies the information they need to advance women and improve gender diversity. Over the past five years, we have collected information from almost 600 organizations employing more than 20 million people.

Read our 2019 report to learn more


The broken rung:

Women are overlooked early and never catch up

Conventional wisdom says women hit a “glass ceiling” that prevents them from reaching senior leadership positions. But in reality, inequities in hiring and promotions start much earlier, at the first critical step up to manager. For every 100 entry-level men promoted to manager-level roles, only 72 women are promoted—despite the fact that women and men ask for promotions at similar rates. This “broken rung” leads to an ever-widening gap: although women make up almost half of the entry-level workforce, they hold only about a third of manager-level roles and less than a quarter of C-suite positions.

Key Findings

  • Women of color are promoted even more slowly than women overall—for every 100 entry-level men promoted to manager-level roles, just 58 Black women and 68 Latinas are promoted.
  • 1 in 4 women thinks their gender has played a role in missing out on a raise, promotion, or chance to get ahead—and slightly more than 1 in 4 think their gender will make it harder going forward.
  • If entry-level women were promoted at the same rate as men, the number of women at the SVP-level would more than double.

“I sit on our promotion committee. One thing I see is that when women are given more scope and responsibility, and then they deliver success, it takes six months to a year for them to be recognized. Whereas when men get a new responsibility, I’ve seen them immediately get promoted or get recognized.”

—VP, 6 years at company, Middle Eastern woman


Intersectional bias:

Women with intersectional identities face more barriers and get less support

Many women face compounding biases because of their identity, background, or beliefs. Year after year, our research shows that women of color, lesbian and bisexual women, and women with disabilities are having distinct—and by and large worse—experiences compared to women overall. This is particularly true for Black women and women with disabilities, who are frequently overlooked and undervalued.

Key Findings

  • Black women and women with disabilities get less support from managers and leaders. Compared to women overall, they are less likely to report that their manager advocates for new opportunities for them, helps them navigate organizational politics, or provides opportunities for them to showcase their work. They are also less likely to receive sponsorship and access to senior leaders.
  • Given this lack of support, it’s not surprising that Black women and women with disabilities see their workplaces as less fair. Fewer than a third of Black women and women with disabilities believe that the best opportunities go to the most deserving employees at their company, and they are also less likely than women overall to feel that they have equal opportunity for growth and advancement.

“I don’t feel I have the same opportunities as others. If you look like the people making the decisions, it’s easier to advance. And I don’t look like any of the people making decisions here.”

—VP, Black lesbian woman

Learn about The State of Black Women in Corporate America

Read the report


Everyday discrimination:

Women face daily bias and microaggressions at work

Seventy-three percent of women report experiencing day-to-day inequities, discrimination, and bias at work. These experiences often take the form of microaggressions, such as when someone questions a woman’s judgement, interrupts her in a meeting, or mistakenly assumes that she’s a junior employee. Although microaggressions may seem small when dealt with one by one—hence their name—they add up. Women who experience microaggressions view their workplaces as less fair, and are three times more likely to regularly think about leaving their job than women who don’t.

Key Findings

  • For the one in five women who say they are “often the only or one of the only women in the room at work,” microaggressions are even more common. “Onlys” are twice as likely as women overall to be asked to prove their competence, more than three times as likely to be mistaken for someone more junior, and about twice as likely to be subjected to demeaning remarks.
  • Women with intersectional identities experience a greater variety of microaggressions. Black women are more than twice as likely as white women to hear someone in their workplace express surprise at their language skills or other abilities. Lesbian women are twice as likely as women overall to feel like they can’t talk about their lives outside of work. And women with disabilities are more than one and a half times as likely as women overall to regularly hear demeaning remarks about themselves or others like them.

“I was in the elevator and pressed the button for the executive office. Someone said to me, ‘Um, no honey. That’s for the executive offices. The interns are going to this floor.’”

—Director, 4 years at company, Asian woman

Combat bias and discrimination at your company

Explore 50 Ways to Fight Bias

Women in the Workplace 2019

Read the report

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