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Women in the Workplace 2021: The state of women hangs in the balance

Despite important gains, women are still underrepresented in corporate America and women of color continue to lose ground at every job level. By following top-performing organizations’ example, companies can accelerate women’s progress, improve the workplace, and become more competitive.

During a McKinsey Live webinar, partners Jess Huang and Ishanaa Rambachan reviewed the findings of the seventh annual Women in the Workplace report, joint research by McKinsey and LeanIn.org. A year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, women in corporate America are even more burned out than they were in 2020—and increasingly more so than men. Women, particularly those of color, those with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ women, are much more likely than men to encounter microaggressions such as challenges to their competence and disrespectful behavior.

While there is no easy fix for burnout and other issues explored in the report, the research shows that top-performing companies invest in improving diversity, representation, and inclusion and actively working to reduce burnout. To hire and retain top talent and thereby boost their competitiveness, companies can:

  • Track diversity metrics by gender, race/ethnicity, and the intersection of the two
  • Hold senior leaders accountable for progress on diversity goals, often with financial incentives and penalties
  • Minimize gender bias in performance reviews as well as in hiring and promotions
  • Provide mentorship and sponsorship—that is, people who can provide new opportunities—for women of color
  • Focus on intersectionality and allyship, which improves the work experience, particularly for women of color
  • Create a sustainable work culture by adjusting policies, systems, and norms to enhance employee well-being

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For more on this topic, please read the article “Women in the Workplace 2021” and the full report as well as the Harvard Business Review article “Women do more to fight burnout—and it’s burning them out.”

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