The idea of gender equality in the workplace is a priority for most corporations and employees. But the truth is, in most cases, this concept doesn’t progress into action. A 2019 study on women in the workplace, conducted by LeanIn.org and McKinsey, uncovered some key findings surrounding this talking point.
In its fifth year of publication, the “Women in the Workplace” report shines a light on how the United States workforce is really doing when it comes to inclusivity. The results demonstrate the glass ceiling has yet to crack. Although there are some areas where we’re seeing steady progress overall, albeit slow, underrepresentation and accountability are on-going issues in the workforce.
Room for Improvement
For the last five years, representation, a sense of security, and opportunities to grow have been consistent pain points in the fight for inclusion. Since 2015, less than 5% of participants reported working at a managerial level or higher. Less than 5% of participants also reported seeing women of color in leadership positions.
These issues are more than just clerical. Representation isn’t a checkbox on a company’s to-do list. Having a team that spans a broad range of backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, and opinions allows for a more authentic sense of community. It offers women and minorities security and confidence knowing they’ll be judged based on the merit of their work—not their identity.
The need for reform is pressing. Since the initial report in 2015, most participants reported little to no change in the number of microaggressions they encounter at work. About the same number of women also still believe their gender posed a barrier toward their professional advancement.
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The 2019 report did highlight some positive areas of growth. In 2019, more women have held leadership roles than in previous years:
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Women also saw improvements in their work-life balance. Since 2015, 30% more participants cited opportunities to work from home. This type of flexibility is a necessity for many women who are trying to raise a family while also advancing in their career—especially since women on average spend about twice as much time on household chores and childcare compared to their male partners.
There were also 8% more participants who cited companies offering sponsorship opportunities for women, paving the way for their future advancement.
How to Build a Culture of Support
To create an inclusive workplace, enterprises need to focus on getting people through the door and up the ladder. Making a conscientious effort to promote women within the organization creates a domino effect of positive change. To start, it sets a clear precedent that the company values and recognizes the achievements of people based on merit, which is a powerful incentive for all employees. It also creates room within the enterprise to fill vacated positions with other qualified women, whether that’s through subsequent promotions or hiring new candidates.
Breaking the glass ceiling can often seem like an insurmountable feat. But the truth is, to get to those heights in the first place, there needs to be structure. People need a ladder to reach their highest potential.
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