Let this sink in, women are leaving the workforce at a rate of four times the rate of men. Furthermore, one in four women in America is now considering downshifting their jobs or leaving the workforce. According to the 2020 Women in the Workplace report by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company that number holds steady even for the country’s senior-most women leaders. In a single year, this alarming statistic would wipe out many of the hard-earned gains for women in management—and unwind years of advancement toward gender diversity.
This gender recession has been fueled by Covid-19 and the sudden shift to a virtual / work-from-home environment – particularly for mothers with school-aged children. The report finds that mothers are more than three times as likely as fathers to be managing most of their family’s housework and caregiving during the pandemic—and twice as likely to worry that their performance will be judged negatively due to their caregiving responsibilities. Women are also far more likely to feel uncomfortable sharing work-life challenges with colleagues—or that they have children at home.
A few CXR takeaways…
We have made slow but steady progress in women’s representation over the past six years. That progress is most pronounced in senior management: Between 2015 and the beginning of 2020, the share of women in SVP roles grew from 23 to 28 percent—and 17 to 21 percent in the C-suite. Women remain dramatically underrepresented—particularly women of color—but the numbers are slowly improving.
Senior-level women are under enormous pressure. Senior-level women are more likely than men at the same level to feel burned out, under pressure to work more, and “always on.” Several factors are contributing to this dynamic: Senior-level women are more likely than women at other levels to be mothers, more likely than senior-level men to have partners who work full-time, and nearly twice as likely as women overall to be “Onlys”—the only or one of the only women in the room at work.
Senior-level women have a meaningful impact on company culture. Compared to senior-level men, women are much more active allies to women of color. They are also more likely than senior-level men to mentor or sponsor women of color, suggesting that the loss of senior-level women could impact the whole diversity pipeline for years to come.
Black women are having a worse experience and receiving less support. In addition to the heightened pressures Black women who are mothers and senior leaders are experiencing, they are dealing with distinct issues because of their race. And for many, work isn’t a supportive place: Fewer than 1 in 3 Black women report their manager has checked in on them in light of recent racial violence and a similar number say their manager has fostered an inclusive culture on their team. Plus, Black women are far less likely than white colleagues to say they have strong allies at work.
We’d love to hear your takeaways from this report. It certainly has us thinking about how we can help inspire change and foster conversation at our next Women in Talent Meeting.