Graphic for research summary for women in the workplace

A Summary of McKinsey’s Research


Women in the Workplace is the annual report from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, comprising an extensive study of working women in America. It provides a comprehensive overview of women’s priorities regarding work in the context of the pandemic and focuses on the critical importance of diversity and inclusion practices in the workplace. This research is hugely influential and helpful for industry practitioners in the USA and globally.  


This study was undertaken by surveying over 40,000 women from 333 organisations and interviewing a diverse range of women to provide qualitative anecdotal evidence.  


According to this research, there are two main reasons why women are underrepresented in C-suite positions. Firstly, it’s harder for women – particularly women of colour – to progress to senior positions. Whilst men ascend the workplace ladder; women must attempt to climb past the ‘broken rung’*. Few make it to the top. The second factor explaining the underrepresentation of women at senior levels is that women still leave roles at the highest rate. For every one woman that does make it, two decide to go. 

 Key Findings 

  • Women are significantly underrepresented at senior levels. At the C-suite level the report outlines how 61% are white men, 21% are white women, 13% are men of colour, and just 5% are women of colour.
  • Women experience micro-aggressions that stall progression.
  • There is double the chance that a woman leader compared to a man as a leader will be assumed as someone more junior. 
  • Latinas and Asian women are the most likely to be asked where they’re ‘really from’.  
  • LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities are likelier to be told they ‘look mad’ and ‘smile more’ by their colleagues. 
  • 20% of black women leaders had experienced someone saying/implying that they were not qualified, compared to 12% of all women and just 6% of men. 55% had their judgement questioned, compared to 38% of all women and 28% of men.  
  • Women often report losing out on promotion due to their gender or care responsibilities. In stark contrast to 13% of men with care responsibilities, 52% of senior women managers are responsible for all/most housework/childcare.
  • Women do more to support employee well-being, which goes unrecognised. They are stretched thin and more likely to burn out. 31% of men leaders are burnt out, compared to almost half (43%) of women. 

Proposed Solutions – in summary, if organisations don’t take action, they will lose their women. 

  • Prioritise supporting managers to support women. with 76% feeling that checking in on well-being, giving constructive feedback and encouraging inclusivity (amongst other factors) fosters feelings of psychological safety in teams. 
  • Invest in supporting team leaders to manage hybrid and remote working because there is not one solution that suits all remote working.
  • Workers need autonomy to choose what’s right for them. 
  • Remote working can remove women from managers’ line of sight regarding promotional opportunities. 
  • Women are less likely to leave a role if they can choose where they work. 
  • A woman with disabilities reported hybrid working to be ‘life changing’.  
  • Women want better work cultures, including flexibility and company commitment to DEI strategies. The last two years, i.e. the Covid-19 pandemic presented opportunities to rethink workplace priorities:  
  • 76% of women under 30 said flexibility is now more critical than it was.
  • Nearly 1/5 (18%) of women are switching jobs because of employer DEI strategies. 
  • The broken rung – a term coined by Mckinsey – is the broken rung to the first step up to manager. According to McKinsey, for every 100 men promoted to manager positions, there is a promotion of only 87 women and 82 women of colour.


To find out more about women’s development and career progression, visit:

Women’s Progression in the Workplace

“Potential” and the Gender Promotion Gap Summary

Broken Ladders

Click here to learn more about Women’s Development Programmes: 6 Lessons from Designing Women’s Development Programmes