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Many Companies Are Failing Their Senior-Level Women, Study Finds

February 1, 2017, 8:52 PM UTC

Many companies are failing their senior-level women, a new study has concluded.

Researchers at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm, have found that about three-quarters (69%) of companies generate lower levels of employee engagement among senior women than their male counterparts. To obtain those results, BCG analyzed factors that contribute to engagement levels — like appreciation, mentorship, work-life balance, compensation and promotion opportunities, and cooperation with colleagues, among other things — for more than 345,000 female and male employees at 36 private companies across the world.

For the 25 companies that were in the bottom three quartiles of overall engagement scores, women’s scores increased by a mere 4% from non-manager levels to senior manager levels, where men’s scores increased by a full 12%. For the 11 remaining companies in the top quartile, women’s scores actually increased more than men’s, the study found — by 7% and 5%, respectively.

Companies in the top quartile do not have a gender-engagement gap between senior female managers and their male counterparts, according to the study, mainly because those companies had higher scores in mentorship, appreciation, and cooperation with colleagues — a few of the areas researchers determined are critical to engagement.

Overall, researchers found that the engagement gap occurs as employees become more senior. Even in the bottom three quartiles, both male and female junior employees typically reported similar levels of engagement, as did those at the manager level.

Ensuring engagement for all female employees (but especially those at the senior level) is crucial for companies, the researchers explain in the study, as two major problems can incur without proper levels of engagement: Weaker financial performance, and a less diverse leadership team. The latter, notes the study, can also cause additional financial penalties.