Story at a glance:

  • Women who hold leadership positions are outshining men on the same level when it comes to how they’ve supported their teams.
  • Women took more action to support their employees’ well-being and address diversity and inclusion measures than men in manager positions.
  • More than three-quarters of white employees call themselves allies to women of color, but less than 39 percent speak out against discrimination.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic taking a disproportionate toll on women in the workforce — from more women leaving their jobs to experiencing high rates of burnout, women who hold leadership positions are outshining men on the same level when it comes to how they’ve supported their teams. 

Lean In and McKinsey, the nonprofit that offers educational resources and programming to encourage female leadership, finds women took more action to support their employees’ well-being and address diversity and inclusion measures than men in manager positions — and their work went largely unrecognized. 


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In a survey published Monday, Lean In and McKinsey reports that 31 percent of employees say their manager who is a woman provided emotional support and 61 percent checked in on their overall well-being. Comparatively, 19 percent and 54 percent, respectively, of employees with a manager who is a man said the same thing.

Compared to male managers, women in leadership positions were also 29 percent more likely to help their employees navigate work and life challenges, 42 percent more likely to ensure manageable workload and 21 percent more likely to help prevent or manage burnout. 

The nonprofit also reported that women leaders championed diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives more so than male leaders, an action that went unrewarded or unrecognized. 

“Senior-level women are twice as likely as senior-level men to spend substantial time on DEI work that falls outside their formal job responsibilities, such as recruiting employees from underrepresented groups and supporting employee resource groups. And women leaders are more likely to be allies to women of color,” Lean In and McKinsey wrote.

Sixty-one percent of women in managerial positions regularly take at least three allyship actions, compared to 48 percent of men who do. Allyship actions include advocating for new opportunities for people of color, actively confronting discrimination, giving credit to women of color, educating themselves about the experiences of people of color and mentoring. 

“Despite this added stress and exhaustion, women are rising to the moment as stronger leaders and taking on the extra work that comes with this,” the report wrote. “Yet this critical work is going unrecognized and unrewarded by most companies, and that has concerning implications.”

Still, inclusiveness in the workplace is not a priority overall, Lean In and McKinsey says, despite a renewed national and global push for racial equality in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“Despite increased focus on DEI and racial equity in corporate America, we see little improvement in the day-to-day experiences of women of color. Women of color face similar types and relative frequencies of microaggressions as they did two years ago,” Lean In and McKinsey’s report stated.

“They are far more likely than white women to be on the receiving end of disrespectful and ‘othering’ behavior,” the report continues.

White employees consider themselves allies to women of color (77 percent). But in reality, only 39 percent confront discrimination when they see it and only 21 percent advocate for new opportunities for women of color. Overall, white employees are no more likely than they were last year to confront racism and discrimination in the workplace. 

Another problem in the workforce is that 1 in 8 women of color are “double Onlys,” meaning they are the only woman and the only person of their race in the room.

As a result, women of color face higher instances of microaggressions than other women.

Part of the solution, according to Lean In and McKinsey, is for companies to reduce bias in reviews and promotions and increase accountability. 

More than 90 percent of companies track women’s overall representation, but when it comes to promotion rates, only 65 percent track gender differences.

Companies that hold senior leaders accountable for diversity goals account for about 70 percent, but 30 percent of the industry managers who are crucial in hiring and promotion are being held. 

Anti-racism training in the past year was conducted by 34 percent of employees, and 14 percent received allyship training.


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Published on Sep 27, 2021