Women’s History Month celebrates women’s accomplishments and contributions in society and the workplace. However, as we honor women this month, it’s important to acknowledge the challenges and inequities women continue to face.
Walker Sands invited award-winning entrepreneur, speaker and change-maker Sage Ke‘alohilani Quiamno to discuss data from the annual McKinsey & Lean In Women in the Workplace report and how to dismantle systematic barriers for advancement at all levels. The Women in the Workplace report is the largest study on the state of women in corporate America. It includes data from 423 participating organizations who employ 12 million people, and was created from a survey of more than 65,000 employees as well as interviews with women of diverse identities.
There are several important takeaways from the presentation Sage shared with our agency:
- The representation of women in corporate America over the years has improved, but the distribution remains largely uneven based on gender. Importantly, women lose the most ground at the manager level — only 86 women are promoted to manager for every 100 men who are promoted to the same role. This leaves far fewer women available for promotion to higher levels of leadership with men significantly outnumbering women at the manager level.
- During the pandemic, we saw growing awareness of the “workplace mothering effect” — a phenomenon where women managers significantly outpace their male counterparts in supporting their teams. This support can include helping team members manage workloads, providing support for individuals who are dealing with burnout or helping coworkers navigate work/life challenges. By playing a proactive role in supporting team members, women are leading the way in talent retention by addressing factors that frequently contribute to employee turnover. And while 87% of companies say that the work women managers do to support employee well-being is critical, only 25% of them recognize this work in formal evaluations like performance reviews.
- Women leaders are twice as likely to spend time on DEI work that falls outside of their formal job responsibilities. This includes supporting ERGs, organizing events and recruiting employees from underrepresented groups. Women leaders are also more likely than men to take allyship actions such as mentoring women of color, advocating for new opportunities for them and actively confronting discrimination. Similarly to the support women managers offer their team members, the allyship women provide is also a driving factor in talent retention. Still, less than a quarter of companies formally recognize this despite the 70% that say the work employees do to promote DEI is critical.
- As women in the workplace continue doing critical work for businesses with little to no recognition or reward, they are also routinely facing microaggressions in the workplace. Examples of microaggressions include being interrupted or talked over by male colleagues, instances of conscious or unconscious bias, hearing comments on their emotional state, gendered terminology (e.g., terms like “little lady”), or constantly having their judgment questioned. Stuck in a vicious cycle, it comes as no surprise that women are more burned out than they were a year ago, and that the gap in burnout between women and men has almost doubled.
So, how can we better champion women in the workplace? By investing in learning opportunities to build a workplace characterized by inclusivity and equity. It requires the participation of all employees, and a sustained commitment to understanding and recognizing diverse perspectives, privilege/systemic advantage, microaggression, racism and unconscious bias.
As individuals, we must work toward embodying critical leadership skills like listening, managing difficult conversations, seeing and thinking systemically, and acting as agents of change. It may also be helpful to create a personal action plan that includes engaging in dialogue with others about diversity topics, and ongoing education through books, podcasts or other media.
Thank you, Sage, for shedding light on how we can bring inclusion into our leadership practice, increase awareness of our biases, strengthen diversity partnerships, and create an action plan to become better champions of women in our agency.