Women in the Workplace More Stressed Than Ever


Women in the Workplace More Stressed Than Ever


The last week in October is dedicated to Businesswomen in America. The goal of this week is to celebrate the achievements of business and professional women in all levels of the workplace.

While there are many areas of company life where women are stepping up and leaning in, the 2021 Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey and LeanIn.org, shows that the last year-and-a-half has taken a bigger toll on women than men.

One of the areas where women are doing more is supporting their teams and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. They’re also more likely to be allies to women of color. The bad news is that instead of being celebrated, these efforts often go unrecognized.

The report emphasizes that this approach could lose companies the very leaders they need right now. And it’s hard to imagine organizations navigating the pandemic and building an inclusive workplace culture if this work isn’t truly prioritized.

Key Findings of the Women in the Workplace Report

Women are still under-represented in the workplace.

Key Findings of Women in the Workplace

This graph clearly shows that despite the advances made, women are not yet at parity across all levels in the workforce. The entry level is where women are best represented. The numbers drop fast across the higher positions.

Women of Color are Least Well Represented at Every Level

 Women in the Workplace

This graph shows at a glance that women of color are the smallest group in all levels of employment. It starts at 17 percent in the entry level positions and by the time you reach the C-suite, it’s down to just four percent.

Broken Rung or Glass Ceiling

An earlier study by McKinsey and LeanIn.org uncovered the fact that it is not the glass ceiling that is keeping women out of top management positions. The problem lies in what they called the Broken Rung – it’s that first promotion from entry level into a management position where the stall occurs.

Far more men than women get promoted from entry level to management and women just never catch up. There are 47 percent women in the entry level positions, but only 42 percent make the next rung. Fifty-two percent of the entry level positions go to men and that number increases to 59 percent at the management level. This gap gets wider as you progress up the ladder. At C-suite level there are only 24 percent women!

Women are Experiencing More Stress and Burnout than Men

Everyone has experienced a higher level of stress in the last eighteen months, but women in the workforce have borne the brunt of stress and burn out. The lockdowns and school closures put an extra burden on working women, as they had to deal with childcare and education on top of keeping up their workload.

While the work/life/family balance is no new thing for women, the pandemic has taken it to new heights. A recent LinkedIn Survey shows that 74 percent of women feel stressed for work-related reasons. Only 61 percent of men polled felt the same way.

Solutions that Can Improve Your Company Culture

  1. Recognition of Initiatives and performance.

Look at what the women in your company are doing and support their efforts. Celebrate the success of their initiatives and their engagement with their teams.

  1. Check the broken rung syndrome

Check that first rung up the ladder – what percentage of women make that leap in your business? See if there are ways to improve the advancement of women to management positions. Support those in entry level positions with training and mentoring, so they are ready for that move.

  1. Allyship – a critical company culture element

An ally is anyone who aims to advance the culture of inclusion in a company.  It’s an ongoing process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people. Anyone can be an ally – it’s a question of individual perception, beliefs, and commitment. Allyship can cover many activities – advocating for advancement, sharing growth opportunities, and offering support.

  1. Learn about micro-aggressions

These are the commonplace verbal, behavioral, or environmental slights, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups. These slights are based on unconsciously held prejudices and beliefs. Originally applied to insults aimed at black people, the term now covers the casual degradation of any social marginalized group. It can cover gender, race, ethnicity, culture, education, or physical ability.

  1. Avoid the “Only” and “Double Only” Phenomenon in your workforce

When an employee is the “only” person of a particular designation – color, race, gender, etc. – they are inclined to feel more stress and exclusion. When that becomes a “double only” – the only black woman, or the only disabled Hispanic, or the only LGBTQ Latinx in a team or section, the feeling of exclusion and stress can be much more severe. Strive to avoid these scenarios.

Become an Amazing Workplace

With this data in mind, take a new look at your company culture. Is there a chasm between how the C-suite executives see the culture and how the employees experience it?

The best way to discover any disconnects is by asking the right questions and letting your employees give you honest feedback in a safe, transparent, and open exchange. This will uncover any areas that need improvement.

There is no one fix that will fit every company.  Each business has its own situations.  Once you’ve identified the areas that need attention, create initiatives to move your company closer to the goal of becoming an amazing workplace.

Read the full study results here: