Corporate America is not on a path to gender equality

Find out why—and what you can do about it—in the Women in the Workplace 2015 study.

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About the Study

Women in the Workplace is a comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America. The study is part of a long-term partnership between LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company to encourage female leadership and foster gender equality in the workplace.

One hundred eighteen companies and nearly 30,000 employees participated in this 2015 study, building on similar research conducted by McKinsey & Company in 2012.


Women are still underrepresented at every level in the corporate pipeline. Many people assume this is because women 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.

Female leadership is an imperative for organizations that want to perform at the highest levels. Yet based on the slow rate of progress over the last three years, it will take twenty-five years to reach gender parity at the senior-VP level and more than one hundred years in the C-suite.

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.

Key Findings


  • The leadership ambition gap persists.

    At every stage, women are less eager than men to become a top executive. They 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 they 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.

    74 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 out of fear of being penalized. More than 90 percent of women and men believe taking extended family leave will hurt their position at work.


  • There is still inequality at home.

    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. 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.


  • 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.

Read the full report for more insights on the state of women in corporate America and steps companies can take to advance the careers of women.

Read the Full Report
Sign up for 2016 study
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