Leadership Challenge: Women Fall Behind Early and Continue to Lose Ground

October 10, 20168:08 am1168 views

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. Women also get less access to the people, input, and opportunities that accelerate careers. As a result, the higher you look in companies, the fewer women you see.

This disparity is especially pronounced for women of colour, who face the most barriers to advancement and experience the steepest drop-offs with seniority. According to findings by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company released in a report titled, Women in the Workplace 2016 highlights on the need for organisations to promote female leadership and foster gender equality in the workplace.

132 companies employing more than 4.6 million people shared their pipeline data and completed a survey of HR practices. In addition, 34,000 employees completed a survey designed to uncover their attitudes on gender, job satisfaction, ambition, and work-life issues.

Companies’ commitment to gender diversity is at an all-time high, but they are struggling to put their commitment into practice and many employees are not on board. To level the playing field, companies need to treat gender diversity like the business imperative it is, and that starts with better communication, more training, and a clearer focus on results.

This is hard work but work worth doing. Many studies link diversity to better business results and all employees benefit from a workplace that is inclusive and fair.

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 the CEO

By the time women reach the SVP level, they hold just 20% of line roles, and line roles lead more directly to the C-suite: In 2015, 90% of new CEOs in the S&P 500 were promoted or hired from line roles.

Women experience an uneven playing field. Women get less access to the people and opportunities that advance careers and are disadvantaged in many of their daily interactions. These inequities appear to take a toll on women: They are less likely to think they have equal opportunities for growth and development—and more likely to think their gender will play a role in missing out on a raise, promotion, or chance to get ahead.

See: How Can HR Managers Promote Women Leadership in an Organisation?

Key findings:

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

Women who negotiate for a promotion or compensation increase are 30% 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 seems 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% of women are interested in becoming top executives, compared to 56% 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.

Company commitment to gender diversity is at an all-time high, but companies are struggling to put their commitment into practice, and many employees are not on board. Although there’s no “one size fits all” solution, there are steps companies can take to advance their gender diversity efforts and create a fairer, more inclusive work environment.

Also read: Breaking the Silos to Promote Women Leadership Development in Philippines: Isabel “Pao” Barrientos Gets Candid

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