April 1, 2022 - MoFo Diversity, MoFo Women

Celebrating Women’s History Month: A Closer Look at Research from McKinsey & Company: Women in the Workplace 2021

MoFo’s New York Litigation associate Lena Hughes recently hosted an informative and compelling conversation with McKinsey & Company’s Joanna Si, engagement manager and leader in McKinsey’s legal and professional services, to review the findings of McKinsey’s seventh annual Women in the Workplace 2021 report—the largest of its kind in corporate America.

The research was conducted in conjunction with LeanIn.org and provides insight into women’s experiences in the workplace as well as representation of women as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The 2021 report includes data collected from 423 participating organizations employing 12 million people. More than 65,000 employees were surveyed, including interviews with women of diverse identities: women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities.

Women are at increased risk for burnout

A notable finding from the report indicates there is a growing gap between men and women who become burned out at work. Joanna mentioned that one contributing factor for both men and women is that remote work blurs the lines between home and work life, creating difficulties. However, the burnout gap between men and women increases as women tend to take on a disproportionate amount of household and childcare responsibilities.

On top of that, women also place greater emphasis on advancing the well-being and DEI efforts at work. While the data doesn’t speak to why women take on more DEI initiatives, from Joanna’s personal experience, she credits the increase to women feeling motivated to contribute, especially women of color.

Lena asked how client service-focused companies, in an effort to decrease burnout, can create more flexible work arrangements while also addressing the needs of their clients. Joanna stated that it’s important for companies (and their clients) to explicitly outline expectations at the outset and for managers to normalize conversations about working preferences with employees.

Allyship actions deemed most important by women of color

The report indicates that, while companies are striving to enhance diversity and racial equity, women of color continue to face microaggressions—including being interrupted or spoken over and having one’s judgement questioned—in the workplace and are especially underrepresented in leadership roles. Joanna noted that allyship is critical to addressing microaggressions and even more crucial is the need for conversations in the workplace about what it actually means to be an ally. The report highlights three allyship actions deemed most important by women of color:

  • Advocating for new opportunities for women of color
  • Being verbally proactive to confront microaggressions against women of color
  • Publicly acknowledging women of color for their ideas and work

Companies who prioritize DEI have higher retention rates

Joanna also highlighted the finding that companies that continuously invest in DEI initiatives perform better and have higher employee retention rates. Senior leadership’s sponsorship of DEI efforts and high employee engagement are paramount to making progress for women of all identities. Companies can raise awareness, set clear expectations of employees, adopt policies that are built into performance reviews, and create programs that recognize and reward DEI efforts. In order to drive change, it’s equally as important for companies to track their progress, be transparent, and hold people accountable for their actions.

To read the full 2021 report or express interest in the 2022 study, please visit Women in the Workplace 2021: The State of Women in Corporate America.