Last year, even in the face of a global pandemic, women made progress in the workplace. They are, however, burning out in greater numbers.
Women’s representation improved across most of the corporate pipeline in 2020, according to a new report from McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org. More than 65,000 employees from 423 organizations chose to participate in the annual report.
While the progress is encouraging, women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions. Women of color face a particularly serious problem.
“As companies continue to manage the challenges of the pandemic and look to build a more equal workplace for the future, they need to focus on two key priorities: 1) advancing all aspects of diversity and inclusion, and 2) addressing the increasing burnout that all employees — but particularly women — are experiencing,” the report said.
Women’s representation in leadership roles, such as manager, vice president, and senior vice president, has increased over the last five years, but women remain underrepresented at all levels of management.
Women held 41 percent of management positions at the start of 2021, up from 37 percent at the start of 2016. Women of color, on the other hand, made up only 12% of managers this year.
In 2021, 27 percent of senior vice presidents were women, up from 24 percent in 2016. Women of color, on the other hand, only made up 5% of these positions this year.
“The gains in representation for women overall haven’t translated to gains for women of color,” the report said.
According to Rachel Thomas, co-founder and CEO of LeanIn.Org, women of color are losing ground at every stage of the pipeline. “They lose more ground than white women and they lose more ground than men of color,” she said. “And by the time you get to the C-suite…none of us should be celebrating what the C-suite looks like: Only one in four C-suite executives is a woman and only one in 25 is a woman of color.”
Women of color also experience higher rates of workplace microaggressions, which can stifle their career advancement and lead to burnout, according to the report.
Employee burnout has increased across the board as a result of the pandemic, but it has been particularly severe among women, who are increasingly considering taking time off.
Among the women polled, 42% said they were frequently or almost always burned out this year, compared to 35% of men. Last year, 32 percent of women and 28 percent of men said they felt this way.
Even more concerning, according to the report, one in every three women has considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers. This is up from one out of every four in the early months of the pandemic.
Women in management positions are at an even higher risk of burnout, with more than half of those polled saying they were frequently or always burned out.
Climbing the corporate ladder is difficult when you can’t even get on it.
According to the report, only 86 women are promoted to manager-level positions for every 100 men.
“The broken rung likely explains why representation of women at the senior-manager, director, and vice-president levels has improved more slowly than the pipeline overall,” the report said.
Companies can do more to improve diversity by reviewing hiring, promotion, and performance evaluation practices to ensure fairness, holding company leaders accountable, and keeping a more detailed track of representation.