Thought for the week

McKinsey in Partnership with LeanIn.Org: 'Women in the Workplace 2018'

In partnership with, McKinsey and Company published the ‘Women in the Workplace Report’ last year to document the headway, or lack thereof, made to improve gender diversity at work. 

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Despite growing attention to these issues – in large part thanks to the traction of #MeToo and #TimesUp movements – there has been little in the way of meaningful progress here. Findings indicate that the representation of women from entry level right through to C-Suite has hardly changed in recent decades, let alone years.

Serenity in Leadership has summarised the key findings in this work below, however a copy of the full report can be found at

- This work incorporated data from 297 companies, involving over 13 million employees. A survey of over 64,000 employees was also conducted alongside a series of qualitative interviews.

- The take-home message is this: women remain woefully underrepresented in the workplace at every level of seniority, particularly women of colour. Companies must make dramatic changes to the way they hire, promote and reward their employees to have any hope of achieving parity for gender and racial representation. Attrition does not explain this stagnant level of representation – the ‘curse of motherhood’ excuse is not only outdated but is fundamentally untrue.

- A mismatch exists between the qualification of female candidates and their success in landing positions and succeeding at work across the board – despite earning more bachelor’s degrees than men, women lag behind at key professional milestones, including when being considered for promotion and when negotiating salary.  

- Gender diversity must be treated as a key business priority that is as detrimental to the success of an organisation when improperly addressed as any other major commercial risk factor.

- Workplaces must strive to be more accommodating for women – parental leave policies and working hours must ease the burden on women, not enhance it.

- Businesses should be looking beyond simple perks to retain their talent. Cracking down on microaggressions, sexual harassment and bullying behaviour will be key to creating the respectful and rewarding working environment that employees want to remain part of. Microaggressions are reported by a two-thirds of female employees and sexual harassment has been reported by 35%; statistics like this do little to convey the personal and professional harm that is created by such experiences, damage that can take an entire career to resolve.

- Tokenism leads to isolation: 40% of senior figures report being ‘the only’ women during high-level proceedings. These ‘only’ women are far likelier to be targeted with abuse – 80% of these figures report microaggressions compared to 64% of women as a whole. Being unable to find someone to identify with means these women often feel unable to discuss personal matters at work or report misconduct they have observed or harassment they have experienced.

- Companies must do more than express a commitment to gender parity. They must work to create publicly visible action plans on these matters, incorporating the perspectives and aspirations of their employees to create results that unite and inspire the entire organisation. These action plans must be reviewed and refined on a regular basis to make sure change goes further than the lip-service level.

- This report highlights six key actions companies need to take today to make the progress on gender diversity that they are capable of:

  1. Get the basics right – prioritise targets, reporting, and accountability
  2. Ensure that hiring and promotions are meritocratic
  3. Develop senior leaders and managers to become champions of diversity
  4. Develop an inclusive and respectful working culture
  5. Make the Only experience as rare as is possible
  6. ‘Ensure employees are offered the flexibility to fit work into their lives’ – not the other way around!
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Tuesday, April 23, 2019
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by Serenity in Leadership
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