At the beginning of 2020, representation of women in corporate America was slowly trending in the right direction for senior management, but the “broken rung” still persists six years in a row according to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace Report conducted with And for two groups in particular, Black women and mothers, the struggle to meet systemic gendered expectations at work and home have been so hard that they are considering what was unthinkable six months prior – leaving the workforce.


So what could attrition of this scale mean for corporate America?


Gathering pipeline insights from 2019 along with surveys and in-depth interviews in 2020, the report is a snapshot of how well DEI and succession planning efforts in corporate America are going, what systems are slowing progress, and what an unbiased path forward could look like. 


The 2020 Women in the Workplace Report’s key findings include:


  1. America risks losing 2 million women from the workforce (100,000 in senior leadership), especially Black women and mothers, setting pipelines and the benefits of DEI initiatives back half a decade
  2. The #1 area needing improvement to see more women and diversity in leadership is still – for the 6th year in a row – the “broken rung” or the first promotion from individual contributor to first line manager
  3. Burnout and increased pressures are hitting women, especially mothers and Black women hardest, as 1.3x are more likely to consider leaving the workforce (and 1 in 4 women in senior leadership)
  4. To protect and stabilize their pipeline, companies need to fix the “broken rung” by removing gender bias from career pathing and promotion decisions on a foundation of objective behavioral assessments that draw a direct line to successful outcomes 


A key challenge is that people are biased – and companies are made of people. To protect your workforce planning and DEI strategies from harmful bias and blind spots, McKinsey recommends starting with two key practices:


  1. Focus on outcomes – as a business, the profit margin lies in efficiency. You have tools to track who is creating the most activity, but that doesn’t mean those who are the busiest are the most efficient at closing sales or booking meetings. Instead, start tracking how your people’s behaviors are leading to the most efficient deal closures to get the most efficiency out of your human capital on increasingly dispersed teams. Once you understand the behaviors of the people doubling your pipeline, you can coach to specific gaps


  1. Take bias out of performance reviews – remove opinions by understanding what objective, successful performance looks like by mapping behaviors, the primary predictor of performance, to successful outcomes. This is called a Success Profile. Then clearly coach the specific behaviors that lead to each and every team member’s best performance based on specific behaviors that move the needle on success to accelerate onboarding. Communicate that employees’ performance will be measured based on results—not when, where, or how many hours they work. Finally, promote and hire based on those behaviors and success profiles.


The McKinsey report highlights how gender bias is still the primary roadblock in hiring and promoting women for parity at work in America, especially for underrepresented people of color. Without an objective way of looking at performance and success, systemic gender and racial bias will cost corporate America missed business opportunities.


If you’re looking for a way to better understand what drives success and help reduce bias throughout the employee journey, consider a full Aptology demo.