Organizations are missing out on innovation, performance, and economic advantages that come not only with having women on their staff, but also in executive leadership roles.
“You cannot, as an organization, claim that you have the best talent if less than 50% of the people in the organization are women,” says Dominic Barton, global managing director at McKinsey & Co.
“Women in the Workplace,” a study by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.org, shows men continue to outnumber women in executive positions at companies throughout North America.
The study gathered data from 118 companies and surveyed nearly 30,000 employees about promotions, attrition, and trajectories for women in the workplace.
While men (78%) and women (75%) want to be promoted, the research indicates more men (53%) than women (43%) have the ultimate goal of becoming a top executive. The study shows females make up 17% of the executive suite population, and 25% of women believe their gender is hindering their career progress.
Stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be male, female, or a leader, are some of the barriers that women face when trying to advance in their careers.
“What the data says is nothing that is surprising, but it is alarming,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sanberg during a recent Wall Street Journal event highlighting the “Women in the Workplace” study results. “At our current pace of change, it will take 100 years for women to reach parity in the system.”
As organizations try to increase the number of women in leadership roles, Barton says CEOs need to make a statement—not only to others in leadership roles within the organization, but to all employees about the effort.
This informs employees about leadership’s goals, but it also prevents a disconnect forming between what the CEO says and what employees believe.
Organizations also need to make sure they consider female candidates when making appointments to executive level positions, Barton says, even if a woman is not ultimately selected to fill the position.
“Making it a priority means other things are not the priority,” Barton says. “Making a statement is critical and having some sense of progress is also important.”