Listen To The Story

It’s still lonely at the top for women. McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org are out with their annual study of women in the workplace, which looked at data from 222 companies employing more than 12 million people.

The findings confirm a lot of what we already know: women continue to be underrepresented across the corporate landscape. Only one in five C-suite leaders is a woman, and fewer than one in 30 is a woman of color. But that’s not the whole story.

Women are falling being early. Even though they earn more college degrees than men, women are hired less often for entry level positions, according to the research. For manager positions – often the first major step-up – women are 18 percent less likely than their male peers to get the job.

“And that drop-off just continues all the way through the pipeline, all the way to the very top,” said Lareina Yee, senior partner at McKinsey.

And the climb is even tougher for women of color. They represent about 18 percent of the population, but less than three percent of C-level executives – despite their ambition. 

“Nearly 50 percent of women of color want to be a top executive in the United States,” Yee said. “That’s compared to 33 percent of white women.”

The research shows that women are asking to be promoted at the same rate as men – but they’re less likely to ask for specific numbers when negotiating a raise or salary.

Another misconception? That women leave companies at higher rates than men, perhaps to focus on family. The research shows that the lack of representation is not driven by attrition. In fact, many women still work a double shift: women with a partner and children are 5.5 times more likely than their male counterparts to do all or most of the work at home.

To begin leveling the playing field, corporate America needs to adapt to changes in the culture, said Ellen Kossek, a management professor at Purdue University.

“If people feel like they have to give up being a mother, time for exercise … or other pursuits, they’re going to opt out,” Kossek said. “It doesn’t mean they aren’t career-committed. It just means we haven’t redesigned corporate life to make it attractive to people’s many identities.”

The McKinsey study notes that many employees and companies fail to understand the scale of the problem – nearly 50 percent of men think women are well represented in the upper ranks of companies where 1 out of 10 senior leaders is a woman. A third of women agree. 

As a nonprofit news organization, Marketplace is on a mission that drives what we do every day: to increase economic intelligence across the country. But we can’t do it alone. Become a Marketplace Investor today, in whatever amount you choose, and your donation will go twice as far, thanks to a dollar-for-dollar match from The Kendeda Fund.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.