Women in the Workplace

by Neha Ajmera

McKinsey and Company is a leading global management consulting firm with 88 years of experience and 107 offices spanning 61 countries. McKinsey plays a unique role in addressing some of the world's most critica l social problems and has published frequently on the topic of Women in the Economy. Neha is an engagement manager in McKinsey's Silicon Valley office where she focused most of her time with technology and telecom clients. Outside of work she enjoys traveling, rock climbing and running.

Much has been written recently about the gender gap in the workplace - both in numbers, particularly at the senior most levels and in wages. The good news is that our research shows that companies that take on the challenge of addressing this gap can drive real improvements over time.

We believe there are five areas of focus:

No two companies will start this journey from the same starting point. Each company's combination of industry, heritage, location, regulation and aspiration is unique. That said, there are a handful of practical steps that companies can take to accelerate progress. A great starting point would be to ascertain where you stand, and what good looks like. This will help you find the problem: Is it your industry, your recruitment or focus on advancement and retention? From there you can systematically take the steps needed to start moving the needle.

While there are many things women should be doing to support their own success, it should be noted here that organizations too frequently put the onus back on women and we have found that this rarely works. Com panies must begin to ask or require men in leadership roles to step up - to prioritize their own time to change the dynamics, actively sponsor women, take on the biases in the system and become champions to build superior female talent.

That said, our research has highlighted a few trends that women at entry and mid-levels should be actively trying to reverse in order to accelerate their growth:

First, women do not seek out sponsors enough, and when they do, they do it too late. Early and mid-level women should be building sponsorship relationships. It is never too early and every woman needs men and women who will sponsor and agitate for their continued progression by creating opportunities, promoting and championing them.

Next, women do not ask for advice and feedback the way men do. Proactively seek feedback, including feedback from men. Unbiased, candid feedback can be incredibly useful in finding and addressing blind-spots early on.

And finally, women question their ability far too much. Have confidence in yourself and be willing to take more risks. Let senior leaders know your goals and aspirations.

Winning the war for female talent is a matter of strategic imperative - companies that focus on it will build superior talent pipelines, of both men and women over time, and those that don't will fall behind. No ac tion is in itself a strategic choice. In our experience companies that invest to build awareness about where they're starting from, even if behind, begin to put in motion the elements that enable them to improve. Like many strategic issues, this is not one that if left alone improves on its own.

Back to Articles