The world needs more women in leadership. The problems we face today – from our local communities to the workplace, and the global stage – require diverse leaders who have a variety of skill sets. Women bring the additional skills needed, as well as a different perspective to drive effective solutions. In short, female leaders change the game, and in many cases, change the way the world does business.
Perhaps one of the best snapshots of where we are, and how far we have to go, is the Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey and LeanIn.org. This year’s report, which was just released, has results from 222 companies that completed a survey of human resource practices and shared pipeline data for their total combined workforce of more than 12 million people. More than 70,000 employees also completed a survey about their experiences regarding gender, opportunity, career, and work-life issues.
The report’s findings illustrate the well-known obstacles to womens’ leadership that have been identified in previous reports – slow career advancement, fewer raises and promotions, and more obstacles for women of color. In spite of the fact that women make up 50% of the workforce, have higher education levels than men, are often the primary breadwinners in their families. Also study after study demonstrates that having more women in the workplace can lead to significantly higher productivity and efficiency. So what is the hold up?
First of all, for many it is a matter of perspective, and requires shedding light on the facts to shift perception. According to Women in the Workplace, “When it comes to how women and men see the state of women and gender diversity efforts, there are striking differences. Men are more likely to think the workplace is equitable; women see a workplace that is less fair and offers less support. Men think their companies are doing a pretty good job supporting diversity; women see more room for improvement. Given the persistent lag in women’s advancement, women have the more accurate view.”
We also need to raise the bar. Women in the Workplace finds that, “Nearly 50 percent of men think women are well represented in leadership in companies where only one in ten senior leaders is a woman. A much smaller but still significant number of women agree: a third think women are well represented when they see one in ten in leadership.”
We also need to give women the support they need, not only in their day-to-day work, but on the road to advancement. Women in the Workplace finds that women are less likely to receive advice from managers and senior leaders on how to advance, and employees who do are more likely to say they’ve been promoted in the last two years. Similarly, women are less likely to interact regularly with senior leaders, yet employees who do so are more likely to aspire to be top executives.
We can’t unlock the full potential of women in the workplace, in the community, or in our homes until we see how far from equality we really are. That means it is up to all of us to raise awareness of the true status of women in leadership, and celebrate each woman’s accomplishments. By recognizing that we do indeed need more women in leadership, and working together to help women gain confidence and the skills they need to overcome barriers and reach their goals, we truly can change the world into one of 50/50 parity, where both genders value each contribution and shed the concept of living in a male-dominated culture.