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The facets of workplace misogyny and what companies can do to combat it

McKinsey & Company have released a detailed report on barriers and experiences of women in the workplace and why they leave for more inclusive environments.

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Continuing a series of surveys conducted since 2015, McKinsey & Company have released their 2022 Women in the Workplace report, collating the experiences of more than 40,000 female professionals from over 333 companies, including women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities in their surveying.

This report provides insight into the hardships faced by women and the factors impacting the growing trend of women leaving their positions in search of more hospitable work environments.

One of the first barriers to women entering leadership positions is the ‘broken rung’ of promotions: the difficulty women face in being promoted from entry level positions to managerial ones.

For every 100 men who make the step up from entry level, 87 women are able to follow, with that number shrinking to 82 for women of color. While the difference may seem small at first, the barriers to promotion women face only compound as they try to advance beyond manager.

By the time women reach the C-suite — where the CEOs, CFOs and other Chief members of the company are — White men comprise 61% of those positions, with White women following behind at 21%, and women of color at 5%.

In certain industries the effect is exacerbated, like in STEM positions where nearly a third of all women report being the only woman in the room at work.

But difficulties don’t stop when women reach the leadership position. Many women leaders frequently have their skills needlessly put into question, have credit for their ideas taken, or face burnout at work, all at higher rates than their male peers.

Even outside the workplace, over half of all women return home and are then expected to do most — if not all — of the household labor and/or childcare.

WHY WOMEN LEADERS LEAVE

Women leaders face many challenges when they take on leadership roles, ranging from barriers to entry to workplace misogyny. But a rising number of them are weighing their options and leaving their companies in search of a better environment.

A comparison of the rate at which women leaders are leaving their positions and women being promoted to director positions found that twice as many women leave their director positions as women are being promoted to them.

These leaders are seeking workplaces with better work culture, such as flexibility, commitment to employee wellbeing, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light a new factor to the workplace: flexible work. While remote or hybrid work models won’t work for all industries, 32% of companies have stated they intend to expand on the flexibility these options grant.

In contrast, only 7% of these organizations have stated they intend to pull back on remote and hybrid work.

For women, 49% of women leaders placed flexible work as one of their top three most important aspects of the workplace, with only one-in-ten women wanting to work mostly on-site.

When doing so, women face less microaggressions — particularly women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities — and feel psychologically safer than on-site.

But that is no replacement for systemic change to combat the problems women face in the workplace, neither does it make up for a truly inclusive workplace culture.

BUILDING AN INCLUSIVE WORKPLACE

Currently, women are twice as likely to take on more responsibility than their male peers in creating an inclusive environment, despite the fact that 40% of women report their DE&I efforts are completely unacknowledged in performance reports.

The McKinsey & Company report details several steps organizations can take to create this much needed inclusive workspace, providing extensive examples of initiatives that will create a comprehensively inclusive environment.

These steps can be separated into three categories: table stakes, leading practices, and enabling practices.

Table stakes, the bare minimum necessities that 75% of all companies follow, include policies such as tracking diverse representation, proactively supporting employees, and paid sick leave.

For companies with more prevalent women and people of color, leading practices become more common. These involve setting goals for representation by race or gender within management and senior positions, publicly sharing diversity metrics, and formal mentorship/sponsorship programs for women and people of color.

The last and rarer policies — ones adopted by only 30% of companies — are the enabling practices. These range from financial incentives to senior leaders for progress on diversity metrics, to hiring bias monitors during the hiring process, to subsidies for childcare.

Successful programs rely on high quality, broadly rolled out initiatives that are regularly reinforced. Some companies, like LinkedIn, create their own DE&I team to ensure a culture of inclusion and belonging across the organization.

Regardless of the policies implemented, if a company manages them poorly, or takes a one-and-done approach they may cause more harm than good, driving away women leaders and depriving themselves of skilled leadership.

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