We Just Got Our 2015 Report Card for Women in the Workplace

Sheryl-Sandberg1We don’t care how long your reading list is; this study on the state of women in corporate America, published by McKinsey and Lean In last week, needs to go right to the top. It’s not long—there are only 25 or so pages of actual content—but it’s packed with important and timely information for anyone who cares about women’s leadership.The bottom line, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, is this: many women still aren’t making it to the C-suite, and the barriers to advancement women face are a big reason why.In surveying over 30,000 employees at 118 companies, researchers also found a few things that don’t have as big an impact on the leadership gender gap as you’d think:

  • Motherhood: Parents of both genders were more likely to be interested in a leadership role than men and women who aren’t parents. Plus, among the women who indicated they don’t want a C-suite job, work/family balance wasn’t the number-one reason behind their lack of interest; they were more concerned about the stress and pressure associated with a top role.
  • A lack of ambition: Among those who don’t want a C-suite job, more men than women reported feeling that they wouldn’t be successful as a top executive. Those men were also less interested in the type of work that goes along with being an executive. On the other hand, fewer women cited fears of incompetence or not liking the work as reasons for not wanting to advance.
  • Attrition: Women leave organizations at the same or lower rates as men, and senior-level women are more likely to stay with a company than senior-level men.

McKinsey and Lean In conducted a similar study in 2012. Based on the rate of progress that’s happened since then, the authors predict that “it will take twenty-five years to reach gender parity at the senior-VP level and more than one hundred years in the C-suite.”Sheryl Sandberg put that stat in context in a post on Facebook: “If NASA launched a person into space today, she could soar past Mars, travel all the way to Pluto, and return to Earth ten times before women occupy half of C-suite offices.”So what can be done to speed up the timeline to parity? The McKinsey/Lean In report outlines a five-step roadmap to gender equality for organizations that includes good suggestions like tracking metrics on gender diversity, training employees to defuse gender bias, and making work more flexible for everyone.We’d add changing women’s relationship with power to that list. If you’ve got other thoughts or ideas, please share them in the comments!