Senior leaders call Women in the Workplace report a “Wakeup Call”

McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace report launch

Notable leaders from the public and social sectors gathered to reflect on the state of working women during the pandemic. The conversation took center screen at the virtual launch of McKinsey & Company’s 2021 Women in the Workplace report with

The event, hosted by McKinsey and Company’s Washington DC office partners Megan McConnell, Traci Nowski and Nora Gardner, featured critical insights from the 2021 study, followed by a panel discussion on ways to address the heightened challenges women face.

Panelists included Lindsey Parker, Assistant City Administrator (ACA) for Internal Services and Chief Technology Officer for the District of Columbia; Meroë Park, Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer for The Smithsonian; and Dr. Nicole Bates, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Initiatives at Pivotal Ventures.

Topics at the forefront of the discussion evaluated employee burnout, gender equity and the gap between perceived and effective allyship. The research came to life as panelists reflected on their personal experiences and career journeys.

“One of the things that really resonated with me is that one in three women are reporting burnout,” said Lindsey Parker. “I’m not surprised; it’s just sad.”

According to research, burnout hits senior-level women the hardest, with one-third considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether. Parker said the validity of that finding is evident in the double and triple shifts women are working to take care of their home life, careers and additional work responsibilities.

One of many contributing factors to burnout is invisible remote work. Women reportedly did twice as much as their male counterparts supporting colleagues and driving diversity, equity and inclusion; however, their efforts were often unrecognized. Navigating the virtual workspace left one-third of employees feeling the need to “be on” 24/7 and one-half feeling the need to work long hours to get ahead.

We need to create healthier boundaries, said Meroë Park. “Employers need to revisit policies and incorporate insights from the lesson learned during the pandemic – and reverting to what it was isn’t the answer.”

A growing concern across the broader workforce is the “broken rung” or the lack of progression of women beyond entry-level positions. The report shows that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted. Interestingly, the public and social sectors are leading the charge forward for equal representation for women across the pipeline.

Women’s representation saw modest gains over time, with women at parity at entry-level and occupying a quarter of the C-suite. However, an area of particular interest is the lack of representation for women of color.

Women of color make up only 17 percent of entry-level jobs and four percent of the C-suite. McKinsey attributes the gap in representation to ineffective allyship. According to the report, seventy-five percent of white employees believe they are good allies. However, only 20 percent of those employees advocate for women of color, and less than half of them serve as an ally overall.

Despite companies’ growing commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion, women of color continue to have the same experience.

“And we know that this has to change,” said Dr. Nicole Bates. “What gives me hope is that some of these adjustments are potentially light lifts that can happen at an individual or team level. But then there are these more comprehensive changes at organizational levels that we need to make sure happen so we can bring about a better reality to life for working women.”

To watch the complete panel discussion and hear recommendations on ways to create an equitable environment for working women, click here. For more information on the Women in the Workplace report and participating in the 2022 survey, visit

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