Women Are Still Not Being Offered Management Positions at Equal Rates, But There's Hope, Sheryl Sandberg Says

One in five senior leaders is a woman, according to LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company.
Women Are Still Not Being Offered Management Positions at Equal Rates, But There's Hope, Sheryl Sandberg Says
Image credit: Marla Aufmuth | Getty Images
Sheryl Sandberg
Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
5 min read

Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company this week released its fourth annual Women in the Workplace study. The report's aim is to explore how companies are promoting and improving gender diversity.

This year the study surveyed 279 companies that employ more than 13 million people about their leadership pipelines and HR practices. Sixty-four-thousand employees were also polled about their experiences at work. In a nutshell, things aren’t great.

“If companies continue to hire and promote women to manager at current rates, the number of women in management will increase by a mere 1 percentage point over the next 10 years,” Sandberg wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. “But if companies start hiring and promoting women and men to manager at equal rates, we can nearly close the gender gap in management over the same 10 years. That’s a huge opportunity.”

But as it stands now, the study found that one in five senior leaders is a woman, and one in 25 is a woman of color. A quarter of women said that they were the only woman in the room at work. Just 7 percent of men reported the same.

Related: 4 Proven Ways Women in Male-Dominated Fields Can Establish Themselves and Feel Fulfilled at Work

From the start, women are operating at a disadvantage when it comes to being promoted to leadership positions, despite more women entering the workforce with bachelor’s degrees than men. According to the study, for every 100 men that become managers, 79 women are promoted to manager positions. That means that men hold 62 percent of manager positions, while women hold only 38 percent.

Part of reaching the top tiers of an organization is getting face time with existing leadership. The study found that while only 27 percent of men reported that they “never have a substantive interaction with a senior leader about my work,” 33 percent of all women across the board said the same, but when you break out into different demographics, 32 percent of white women, 33 percent of Asian women, 34 percent of Latina women, 41 percent of black women and 32 percent of lesbian women said the same.

Eight percent of men and 24 percent of women said that they believe gender has played a role in missing out on a raise, promotion or chance to get ahead. And while 45 percent of men think women are well represented when one in 10 senior leaders in their company is a woman, 28 percent of women think this.

Related: How Women Should Be Championing Female Leadership, Post #MeToo

The study also found persistent instances of microaggressions at work with 64 percent of women saying that they had experienced them at the office.

Twenty-seven percent of all men said that they had their judgment questioned in their area of expertise and 36 percent of all women said the same. Sixteen percent of men said that they had been asked to provide more evidence of their competence while 31 percent of women said the same. Ten percent of men said that they had been mistaken for having a much lower position within the company while 20 percent of women said the same. Sixteen percent of men reported being addressed in a less than professional manner and 26 percent of women said the same. Ten percent of men reported hearing demeaning comments about them or people like them and 16 percent of women said the same.

In all of these categories, when breaking into different demographic groups, women of color and those belonging to the LGBTQ community reported higher instances of microaggressions.

When it comes to sexual harassment, the study found that 55 percent of women in senior leadership positions, 48 percent of lesbian women and 45 percent of women working in technical fields reported that they had been sexually harassed at work.

Related: 4 Mistakes We All Make to Perpetuate Gender Bias

While 98 percent of companies surveyed said that they have clear no-tolerance policies for sexual harassment, 62 percent of employees polled said that their company has reaffirmed that policy or provided training on the issue. Sixty percent of employees think a sexual harassment claim would be investigated and addressed properly by their employer and just 32 percent said they believed it would be handled quickly.

Only 32 percent of women think that disrespectful behavior toward women is addressed in a timely fashion by their employer, while 50 percent of men said the same. The women surveyed by the study were twice as likely as their male counterparts to say that it would dangerous or pointless to report an instance of sexual harassment.

So what can businesses do to foster significant change by making equality a top priority? The study lays out a checklist of how to hold company leadership, particularly managers and directors, accountable, including tracking and setting representation targets for gender and race and sharing diversity metrics with employees. When it comes to minimizing bias in hiring and promotions, the study laid out steps that companies can take including using automated resume screening tools, requiring a more inclusive slate of candidates, starting with a consistent evaluation criteria across the board, requiring unconscious bias training and tracking outcomes after the fact.

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