Barriers to women’s advancement entrenched, McKinsey & Co. says
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
business needs to bring more women into the workforce and fully develop their
skills if they want to sustain productivity, according to a new report by
McKinsey & Company. But long-entrenched attitudes and behaviors remain
barriers to women reaching their potential.
the sincere efforts of major corporations, the proportion of women falls quickly
as you look higher in the corporate hierarchy, according to "Unlocking the Full
Potential of Women,” a report by Joanna Barsh and Lareina Yee, produced for the
Wall Street Journal.
this picture has not improved for years,” Barsh and Yee said. "We believe,
however, that there is an opportunity to make substantial progress in
developing and advancing women on the path to leadership.”
could substantially boost the odds of achieving gender diversity in top
management by increasing the number of women who advance to the vice
presidential level. "We found that more
women in middle management roles are focused on leading than
their colleagues at the entry level,” the authors concluded. "And they have
already demonstrated enough to advance and acquire managerial skills. Moreover,
many are younger women with relatively light work/family concerns. If companies
can win their loyalty at this stage of their careers, they will be more likely
to stay the course. These
women are ours to lose.”
Companies have become very good at recruiting women and have introduced
mechanisms, such parental leaves, part-time policies and travel-reducing
technologies to alleviate work-life constraints. Though substantial barriers
remain, interventions at critical career points can have outsized impact, the
authors reviewed more than 100 existing research papers, surveyed 2,500 men and
women, and interviewed 30 chief diversity officers and experts to understand
the factors that hold women back. They found women don’t opt out of the
workforce. Most can’t afford to. However, they do leave specific jobs for
others to pursue personal achievement and more money and recognition. In other
cases, women hold themselves back not only because of family responsibilities
but to pursue greater satisfaction across all parts of their lives.
report identified several reasons promising female managers remain at their
current level or move on to another organization, including: lack of role
models, exclusion from the informal networks, and not having a sponsor in upper
management to create opportunities.
they derive meaning from their current jobs, women often prefer to remain where
they are -- and that can limit gender diversity in an organization's
leadership, according to McKinsey. Women value making a difference and
working closely with colleagues, and many don’t want to trade that for the
endless meetings and corporate politics they fear at the next management level.
companies have worked hard to eliminate overt discrimination, women still face
"the pernicious force of mindsets that limit opportunity,” the report
concluded. Male and female managers continue to take female candidates out of
the running, often on the assumption that they can’t handle certain jobs and
also discharge family obligations.
found many women hold limiting beliefs that stand in their own way, such as
waiting to fill in more skills or just waiting to be asked.
imbedded mindsets are often institutional as well as individual— and difficult
to eradicate,” the authors reported. "A CEO’s personal crusade to change
behavior does not scale. A diversity program by itself, no matter how
comprehensive, is no match for entrenched beliefs. Targeting behavioral change
without mindset shifts generally leads to an early burst of achievement
followed by reversion to old ways. Our evidence points to the need for
systemic, organizational change.
aspire to achieve sustained diversity balance must choose to transform their
cultures. Management needs a powerful reason to believe such as the potential
competitive and economic advantage from retaining the best talent.”