New study reveals it will take more than 100 years to reach gender equality in the C-suite at the rate of progress over the last three years.

PALO ALTO, Calif., Sept. 30, 2015 — LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company released Women in the Workplace, a comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America. Their study of 118 companies and nearly 30,000 employees reveals that despite modest improvements, women remain underrepresented at every level in the corporate pipeline. Based on the rate of progress over the last three years, it will take more than 100 years to reach gender equality in the C-suite.

“Our findings show that companies have prioritized advancing women and want to change the numbers but are finding it difficult,” said Dominic Barton, global managing director of McKinsey & Company. “Some of the biggest barriers are cultural and related to unconscious biases that impact company hiring, promotion, and development processes.”

“This study shows how far we all have to go to achieve gender equality in corporate America,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and founder of LeanIn.Org. “Since companies can’t improve what they don’t measure, it offers a way to track employee attitudes on gender and job satisfaction. This data creates a road map to faster progress for women in the workplace.”

Key Findings

Many people assume that women are underrepresented in the corporate pipeline because they are leaving companies at higher rates than men or due to difficulties balancing work and family. However, our analysis tells a more complex story: women face greater barriers to advancement and a steeper path to senior leadership.

A majority of manager-level women hold line roles (positions with profit-and-loss responsibility and/or focused on core operations), but by the VP level more than half of women hold staff roles (positions in functions that support the organization like legal, human resources, and IT). In contrast, a majority of men hold line roles at every level. Since line roles are closer to the company’s core operations and provide critical preparation for top positions, this disparity can impede women’s path to senior leadership.

The Women in the Workplace study shows that while CEO commitment to gender diversity is high, organizations need to make a significant and sustained investment to change company practices and culture so women can achieve their full potential:

– The leadership ambition gap persists: At every stage, women are less eager than men to become a top executive. Women are more likely to cite “stress/pressure” as a top issue, and this is not solely rooted in concern over balancing work and family. There is evidence pointing to another explanation–the path to leadership is disproportionately stressful for women.

– Women experience an uneven playing field: Women are almost four times more likely than men to think they have fewer opportunities to advance because of their gender–and are twice as likely to think their gender will make it harder for them to advance in the future.

– Gender diversity is not widely believed to be a priority: Seventy-four percent of companies report that their CEOs are highly committed to gender diversity. However, less than half of employees believe that gender diversity is a top priority for their CEO, and only a third view it as a top priority for their direct manager.

– Employee programs are abundant, but participation is low: A majority of companies offer flexibility and career development programs, but many women and men are not using them. There is evidence that employees are reluctant to participate for fear of being penalized. More than 90 percent of both women and men believe taking extended family leave will hurt their position at work.

– Women and men have very different networks: Men predominantly have male networks, while women have mostly female or mixed networks. Given that men are more likely to hold senior leadership positions, women may end up with less access to senior-level sponsorship. In fact, only 10 percent of senior-level women report that four or more executives have helped them advance compared to 17 percent of senior-level men.

– There is still inequality at home: Women continue to do a disproportionate share of child care and housework, so they are more likely to be affected by the challenges of juggling home and work responsibilities. Even in households where both partners work full-time, 41 percent of women report doing more child care and 30 percent report doing more chores.
While there is still significant work to do, it is encouraging to note that a majority of women and men report being satisfied with their careers, family situations, and personal lives–and at equal rates.



Women in the Workplace offers steps companies can take to advance the careers of women. In addition, participating companies can compare their pipeline data, HR practices, and employee attitudes to industry benchmarks, giving them unprecedented insight into how they measure up to their peers.

Women in the Workplace is the inaugural result of an ongoing partnership between LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, building on a baseline study of sixty companies conducted by McKinsey & Company in 2012. The organizations announced they will continue to release study results for the next five years to provide third-party benchmarking across industries and measure progress in critical areas. Both organizations would like to acknowledge and thank SurveyMonkey for its contributions to the study.

The complete Women in the Workplace 2015 study can be found at From the website, organizations can distribute a portion of the survey to their employees and sign up to participate in Women in the Workplace 2016.

LeanIn.Org is the nonprofit organization founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to empower all women to achieve their ambitions. LeanIn.Org offers inspiration and support through an online community, free expert lectures, and Lean In Circles, small peer groups that meet regularly to share and learn together. Since the organization’s launch in March 2013–following the release of the best-selling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead–the LeanIn.Org community has grown to more than 700,000 women and men and more than 24,000 Lean In Circles in more than 120 countries. LeanIn.Org is a private operating nonprofit organization under IRS section 501(c)(3).

McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm.