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Letting the Research Speak: Women in the Workplace 2017

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If there is one thing that we rely on more heavily than anything else in the work that we do at Gild, it is research. When it comes to women's advancement in the workplace, the research is not always pretty. In fact, it is usually downright frustrating, sometimes even maddening. But even in reading the facts and figures that make us want to shout or pull our hair out, there is power in the research. It gives us the information that we need to make informed recommendations to our clients, and to empower organizations to make real change. 

One of the most valuable pieces of research that we have been waiting for all year is the 2017 Women in the Workplace study from Lean In and McKinsey&Company. The report is one of the most readable, actionable pieces of research related to women's workplace advancement (or lack thereof- which we will get to in a moment) available today, and for those reasons we believe it is one of the most powerful tools that leaders of women's initiatives can present to their organizational leadership. 

This year, as we waited anxiously for the report to be released, we had high hopes. We hoped that there had been drastic improvements over last year's numbers regarding women in leadership and employee experiences. We wanted to see that companies had begun to really listen and pay attention to the numbers, which do not lie, regarding the benefits of having more women in leadership roles. But we didn't. 

What we learned from the Women in the Workplace 2017 study is that progress is much too slow, even stalling. But thanks to this research, we have power, through knowledge, on where to make actionable changes. 

What we learned from the Women in the Workplace 2017 Study

Please note: All graphics featured in this post come from the Women in the Workplace 2017 report. Please find the full report here for additional information and images. 

Women, especially women of color, are still just as underrepresented as ever in leadership.

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Women do NOT leave their jobs at higher rates than men, and if they do, it is NOT to focus on family. It is to take roles at other companies. 

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Women as for promotions at comparable rates to men, but are not advancing at the same rate (EXCEPT in top performing companies*).

One of the key factors that the study identifies for women's lower rates of promotion is the fact that they are statistically less likely to receive advice from senior leadership on how to advance. 

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Women are less optimistic than men that they CAN advance to top levels of leadership. 

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Women of color face a much steeper uphill battle than white women. 

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Men and women see the state of gender equity in the workplace very differently.

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Women are negotiating for raises at the same rate as their male counterparts.

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However, women are still much more likely to receive feedback that they are too intimidating or bossy when they do so. 

Women are doing the majority of work in their households, especially if they have children. Even if they are the primary breadwinners. 

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Women are much less likely to benefit from having a stay at home partner that can manage the majority of household responsibilities, too. 

What we can do going forward

Yes, we know. That was a lot of information delivered through a lot of (incredibly helpful and demonstrative) graphics. But there is good news- the Women in the Workplace 2017 report comes with several actionable takeaways to move toward gender parity at work. We highly advise you to read the highlights here (below), but to truly dig in to the full report for a much more comprehensive overview on how to drive change based on this year's findings. We won't attempt to do the full report justice, only to wet your appetite for more!

The 2017 Women in the Workplace report recommends that organizations start with these core actions:

1. Make a compelling case for gender diversity. Employees tend to see their companies' commitment to gender diversity, or why gender diversity matters, differently than their company leadership does. There are actions companies can take to fix this.

2. Invest in more employee trainingLess than half of employees know what to do to improve gender diversity in their organizations. There are simple solutions (such as Gild Collective workshops and trainings!) to close this gap.

3. Give managers the means to drive changeManagers need visibility to the scope of the problem that is gender inequity at work, and the tools to fix it. 

4. Ensure that hiring, promotions, and reviews are fair. There are many actionable (and inexpensive) ways to to review and change processes to ensure greater equity in hiring, promotion, and review practices. Companies can begin implementing these immediately. 

5. Give employees the flexibility they need to fit work into their lives. Companies should prioritize ways that their employees can balance work and family. When implemented, these practices benefit women drastically. 

6. Focus on accountability and results. True accountability ties back to transparency. Companies can and should be more transparent in their targets and tracking. 


Again, we know that there is a lot to process here. There is much more in the full report, which is worth every minute of the time it will take for you to fully absorb. We can't wait for you to dive in, and to share it within your organizations. 

If you need assistance with how and when to bring the findings of this research to your organization to drive change, do not hesitate to reach out– we would be thrilled to help you guide that conversation!


Thank you sincerely to Lean In and McKinsey&Company for this amazing research. It makes what we do so much easier, and we are incredibly thankful for it.