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Men Overestimate How Much They’re Helping The Women They Work With, Says New McKinsey Report

October 10, 2017, 11:41 AM UTC
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For this year’s Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey and, 222 companies completed a survey of human resources practices and shared pipeline data for their total combined workforce of more than 12 million people.

More than 70,000 employees completed a survey about their experiences regarding gender, opportunity, career, and work-life issues.

The findings this year echo the well-known obstacles that have been identified in previous reports: Slow career advancement, fewer raises and promotions, and more obstacles for women of color.

Women account for 47% of entry-level employees, but only one-third of senior managers and one-fifth of c-suite executives. For women of color, the drop-off is even steeper. Women of color hold 17% of entry-level positions, but just 8% of senior manager jobs and 3% of c-suite roles.

It’s not driven by the pipeline — women have earned more college degrees than men for more than 30 years — or by the desire to put careers on hold to raise children. Less than 2% of women surveyed plan to leave the workforce to focus on family, according to the report.

In an op-ed about the findings for the Wall Street Journal, Sheryl Sandberg argues in order to move closer to gender parity, we need to realize how much work remains to be done.

Companies and employees don’t necessarily agree on the importance of gender diversity

While 90% of companies surveyed said prioritizing gender diversity leads to better business results, only 37% of employees agreed with them, according to the McKinsey report.

It’s important to include everyone in diversity initiatives, both to avoid backlash and to clear up misconceptions that might be held by majority groups in the workplace.

For example, nearly 50% of men think women are well represented in company leadership at organizations where only 10% of senior executives are women, according to the McKinsey survey. It’s a well-known phenomenon: Tech employees tend to overestimate the diversity of their companies, even while recognizing the need for improvement in the industry as a whole.

It’s not just a generational divide

While younger men and women were more likely to say that supporting women in the workplace is important, there’s a big disparity between the way the youngest generation in the workforce prioritizes this work. The largest gap in personal commitment — saying gender equality is important and being willing to address it — shows up in this age group, with young women being the most committed and young men being the least committed.

This finding follows other trends which show that while millennial men tend to sound like feminists, the level of misogyny and the imbalance of household chores in this generation have not seen significant improvement.

It takes more than women speaking up

Women ask for promotions and raises with about the same frequency as the men who are their peers. Senior women ask for promotions more often than their male colleagues, according to the research from McKinsey.

But men get more without asking, have more frequent meaningful interactions with superiors, and receive less backlash when asking for additional compensation or responsibility, according to the McKinsey study.

Even speaking up about workplace culture that hurts women can cause damage: Recent sexual harassment allegations negatively impact women’s careers as some men have taken the news to mean it’s best that they not forge professional relationships with or speak out on behalf of the women they work with.