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McKinsey: Women face career-long headwinds

Thursday, October 6, 2016  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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A new report from McKinsey & Company and demolishes many of the old alibis for the lack of women in business and shows they lag behind men in promotions from the start of their careers.

Women are less likely to receive the first critical promotion to manager — so far fewer end up on the path to leadership — and are less likely to be hired into more senior positions, according to Women in the Workplace 2016, a study based on pipeline and HR data from 132 companies employing more than 4.6 million people and results of a survey completed by 34,000 employees.

Compared to men, women get significantly less access to the people, input and opportunities that accelerate careers, according to the study. The disparities are especially pronounced for women of color, who face the most barriers to advancement and experience the steepest drop-offs with seniority, the report noted.

Among the report’s key findings:

For every 100 women promoted to manager, 130 men are promoted.

Promotion rates for women lag behind those of men, and the disparity is the largest at the first step up to manager. As a result, far fewer women end up on the path to leadership.

Very few women are in line to become CEO.

By the time women reach the senior vice president level, they hold just 20 percent of line roles, which lead more directly to the c-suite. In 2015, 90 percent of new CEOs in the S&P 500 were promoted or hired from line roles.

Women are negotiating as often as men — but face pushback when they do.

Women who negotiate for a promotion or compensation increase are 30 percent more likely than men who negotiate to receive feedback that they are “bossy,” “too aggressive” or “intimidating.”

Women get less access to senior leaders.

Women and men both view sponsorship by senior leaders as essential for success. Yet women report fewer substantive interactions with senior leaders than their male counterparts do — and this gap widens as women and men advance.

Women ask for feedback as often as men — but are less likely to receive it.

Despite asking for informal feedback as often as men do, women report they receive it less frequently. Moreover, there appears to be a disconnect in the way managers convey difficult feedback. Most managers say they rarely hesitate to give difficult feedback to both women and men, but women report they receive it less frequently.

Women are less interested in becoming top executives — and see the pros and cons of senior leadership differently.

Only 40 percent of women are interested in becoming top executives, compared to 56 percent of men. Women and men worry equally about work-life balance and company politics. However, women with and without children are more likely to say they don’t want the pressure, and women who want a top job anticipate a steeper path than men who do.

To level the playing field, companies must treat gender diversity like the business imperative it is, starting with better communication, more training and a clearer focus on results, the report concludes.

Download full report

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