Despite workplace gender equality gains since the MeToo movement burst onto the scene in 2016, women remain significantly under-represented at all levels of management in corporate America.
They also continue to have a worse day-to-day experience at work than men. This reflects similar studies by The Pipeline and Women on Boards UK that focus on gender equality in the UK market, and particularly FTSE companies.
“Women are more likely than men to have their competence questioned and their authority undermined, and women of color and other women with traditionally marginalized identities are especially likely to face disrespectful and “othering” behavior”, according to the seventh annual Women in the Workplace Report from McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.
The survey of 432 companies and 65,000 employees found that companies have benefitted from women’s leadership during the pandemic, but this has largely gone unrecognized and unrewarded.
Further to this, women suffered more with burnout than their male counterparts; McKinsey and LeanIn found that 42% of women struggled with burnout, compared to 35% of men.
This was largely due to the ‘always on’ cultures that have been strengthened by the pandemic and remote working. One in three of the 65,000 US employees surveyed felt that they were expected to be always available and those who felt like these were twice as likely to be burned out.
Companies in the US are particularly failing women of color in the workplace with racist microaggressions at work occurring on the same scale as two years ago. These microaggressions cause women of color to be twice as likely to be burned out and three times more likely to have struggled at work due to stress.
Women are champions of D,E&I
“Burnout is at an all-time high. While women have been resilient, it is a moment of reflection,” notes McKinsey senior partner Lareina Yee.
“Companies cannot afford to miss the signals of talent attrition,” Yee adds.
“It’s time to invest in the leaders who have kept companies afloat throughout the challenges of the past two years.”
This is particularly the case as one area where women are leading the charge, particularly during the pandemic is in terms of championing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace (D,E&I).
Women are twice as likely to do D,E&I work, particularly around recruitment, on top of their existing job responsibilities than men and more likely to be allies to women of color.
Therefore, if burnout and lack of recognition starts to push American women out of the workplace, then companies could be losing the leadership and managerial talent that they actually need to drive D,E&I forward even more in the future.
How to rectify the situation
LeanIn’s co-founder and CEO Rachel Thomas added: “This year’s report should serve as a wake-up call.
“Despite bold commitments to racial equity, the experiences of women of color aren’t getting better.
“This points to the critical need to engage employees as change agents and allies, so we can truly transform the culture of work.”
Therefore, the report suggests that companies need to invest even more deeply in areas of D,E&I, as well as create a culture that fully leverages the benefits of diversity.
It explains that while many companies have done well in terms of unbiasing recruitment – with both solutions and training – it is time that companies focus more doing the same with performance reviews to help women climb the ladder.
Further to this, the report calls on companies to better track the outcomes of performance reviews and promotions, particularly for women of color. Data and analytics tools like Visier can help companies pool their data on this into one place, as well as turn it into helpful visualizations to chart progress.
In addition, McKinsey and LeanIn applaud companies for focusing on training. However, it notes that only 14% of companies surveyed carry out allyship training, which may explain why only 39% of white employees confront discrimination of women of color when they see it.
In terms of tackling burnout at work, the report notes that organizations have done well to invest in new policies and benefit offerings. However, it calls on this investment to continue.
To figure out what works best for companies, McKinsey and Leanin suggest they experiment with lots of different tools and policies. “There is no playbook for this unprecedented moment, but companies can make strides by listening closely to employees, exploring creative solutions, and trying something different if a new norm or program falls flat.”
Further, they call on managers to lead by example in tackling this damaging ‘always on’ culture. “Managers need to respect company-wide boundaries around flexible work—if employees aren’t expected to respond to emails during certain hours, managers need to abide by that norm.
“Managers can further reinforce the importance of these norms by celebrating employees who push back when boundaries are crossed and by encouraging candid conversations.
“Finally, companies need to impress upon managers that the work they do to support employee well-being is critical to the health and success of the business. For this work to feel like a real priority, it needs to be tied to concrete outcomes for managers, including performance ratings and compensation,” concludes the report.