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Why are women still underrepresented in today’s corporations? McKinsey looks for answers

McKinsey finds it difficult to make progress in regards to gender equality. Despite the fact that McKinsey has, for a number of years, been conducting research that has helped many organisations improve their gender balance – for example, through their “Women Matter” initiative - they are not where they want to be, write Dominic Barton, Sandrine Devillard and Judith Hazlewood on the consultant’s website.

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“Women now represent about 39 per cent of McKinsey’s entry-level hires, but occupy just 11 per cent of the senior-leadership roles within the firm. There are currently four women on our 30-member Shareholders Council.”

This is their take on the reasons for the persistent unbalance between the genders in their own firm and everywhere else in the corporate world:

  • For one, in many organizations, senior leadership has only recently committed itself to addressing this challenge. A “Women Matter” study showed that gender diversity was a top-ten strategic priority for only 28 per cent of companies in 2010 – and for a third of companies, it was not on the strategic agenda at all. It’s widely acknowledged that without a commitment from the top, nearly any major change programme will fail.
  • A second reason for sluggish progress has to do with the nature of the gender inequality issue itself, which, like many efforts to change organizational cultures, requires companies to take action across a broad range of factors and keep their managers aligned with multiple objectives for years at a time. Our research shows that the focus in these interventions must be to help women better develop as leaders, and to design the conditions in which this can take place. Crucial aspects include sponsoring (not just mentoring), neutralizing the effects of maternity leave and ongoing parenting responsibilities on career advancement and wage increases, and evolving the criteria companies use for promotions to include a diversity of leadership styles.
  • Addressing these interrelated gender issues is difficult, which brings us to a third reason why change has been slow: major transformation efforts require steady, broad-based interventions over time. After an initial commitment from the top, significant changes can typically take as many as eight or more years, requiring the close and visible monitoring of progress by the executive team. It’s never easy and it’s rarely quick.


Find the full report here:
Gender equality: Taking stock of where we are

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