Study: Unlocking the Full Potential of Women in the U.S. Economy (McKinsey Consultants, 2011)
Finding: Retaining and promoting women in middle management is a key leverage point to helping women reach their full economic potential.
InPower Insight: Women are good for business, so help women advance into leadership and we help men too.
The fact is that women are crucial to the U.S. economy, and that they also have not yet met their economic potential. The question is how can women contribute more to the U.S. economy? According to McKinsey the answer may be found in the “ability to retain and promote more women middle managers as a key point of leverage.”
In this study, McKinsey found that many women are held back by factors such as structural obstacles, lifestyle issues, and embedded institutional and individual mindsets, but their contributions can be astronomical if they are given the opportunity to advance. Structurally, there is a lack of support for females looking to move up in managerial ranks. Women also still find it hard to manage work life balance responsibilities. Finally, notions about the positions women should hold in a company can be problematic when it comes to their promotion opportunities. The study purports that if women in middle management positions were promoted 25% more frequently, more women would obtain higher ranking positions.
The less visible problems that this research uncovered were problems such as, “perceptions that certain jobs just shouldn’t be available to women and a tendency to reward men for their potential but women only for their performance.”
This research included a survey of approximately 2,500 college-educated women and men. The findings of this survey showed that among women in entry level positions, 79% desired to move to the next level. Those in middle management positions wished to do so 83% of the time, with an increase at each level in the desire to be a leader and the belief that those opportunities existed.
In order to retain and nurture this enthusiasm companies are “working hard to reduce structural problems (such as a lack of role models or access to informal networks) and are trying to shift work practices to meet their employees’ desire for a work–life balance.”
McKinsey suggests that “helping middle-management women to develop and advance will make the biggest difference because it will begin to reshape the corporate talent pipeline and help companies reach their goal of advancing more women to the top.”
Career Coaching Tip: If you feel you’ll be more lonely at the top due to your gender, you may be right, but why should that make you less interested in getting there? Women who are making it into leadership are not only helping their companies, but helping change perceptions of what women can do in the leadership ranks. The challenges of work-life balance and cultural stereotypes are real, but that doesn’t stop the women who are at the top and it doesn’t have to stop you unless you let it. There are plenty of good reasons not to aspire to leadership positions, but don’t let one of them be that you’re not good enough. If you want it, you can have it and if you work for a good company, you should ask them to support you in achieving it. It’s totally in their interest.