For the last four years, companies have reported that they are highly committed to gender diversity. But that commitment has not translated into meaningful progress.

Women continue to be vastly underrepresented at every level. For women of color, it’s even worse. Only about one in five senior leaders is a woman, and one in twenty-five is a woman of color.

Progress isn’t just slow—it’s stalled. And we know why.

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About the Study

Women in the Workplace 2018 is the largest comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America. Since 2015, LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company have published this report annually to give companies and employees the information they need to advance women and improve gender diversity within their organizations. McKinsey & Company also conducted similar research in 2012. This year, 279 companies employing more than 13 million people shared their pipeline data and completed a survey of their HR practices. In addition, more than 64,000 employees were surveyed on their workplace experiences, and we interviewed women of different races and ethnicities and LGBTQ women for additional insights. Since 2015, 462 companies employing almost 20 million people have participated in the study.

A closer look at the corporate pipeline

Since 2015, the first year of this study, corporate America has made almost no progress in improving women’s representation. From the outset, fewer women than men are hired at the entry level. And at every subsequent step, the representation of women further declines. Women of color are the most underrepresented group of all—behind white men, men of color, and white women.

The 2018 corporate pipeline

Women of Color
White Women
Men of Color
White Men

Total percent of women and men per level in race and gender pipeline may not sum to overall corporate pipeline totals, as the race pipeline only includes companies that were able to supply race data. Due to rounding, representation by race may sum to 101 or 99 within some levels.

The main takeaways

Companies need to treat gender diversity like the business priority it is.

Experts agree that articulating a business case, setting goals and reporting on progress, and rewarding success are key to driving organizational change. When it comes to gender diversity, more companies need to put these practices in place. Only 38% of companies set targets for gender representation, even though setting goals is the first step toward achieving any business priority. Only 12% share a majority of gender diversity metrics with their employees, even though transparency is a helpful way to signal a company’s commitment to change. Only 42% hold senior leaders accountable for making progress toward gender parity, and even fewer hold managers and directors accountable. Yet it’s hard to imagine a groundswell of change when leaders aren’t formally expected to drive it.

Women are doing their part. They’ve been earning more bachelor’s degrees than men for decades. They’re asking for promotions and negotiating salaries at the same rates as men. And contrary to conventional wisdom, they are staying in the workforce at the same rate as men.

Only about half of employees think that their company sees gender diversity as a priority and is doing what it takes to make progress—and 20% of employees think their company’s commitment to gender diversity feels like lip service.

There needs to be a whole lot more accountability. Companies need to be accountable for developing, mentoring, and sponsoring women. And they have to become accountable for hiring more women so that the pipeline is full. Without that kind of accountability, talk about diversity is just lip service.”

— SVP, 20 years at company

Women are left behind from the get-go.

The two biggest drivers of the pipeline are hiring and promotions, and companies are disadvantaging women in these areas from the beginning. Although women earn more bachelor’s degrees than men, they are less likely to be hired into entry-level jobs. At the first critical step up to manager, the disparity widens further. Women are less likely to be hired into manager-level jobs, and they are far less likely to be promoted into them. Largely because of these gender gaps, men end up holding 62% of manager positions, while women hold only 38%.

This early inequality has a profound impact on the talent pipeline. Starting at the manager level, there are significantly fewer women to promote from within and significantly fewer women at the right experience level to hire in from the outside. So even though hiring and promotion rates improve at more senior levels, women can never catch up.

For every 100 men promoted to manager, just 79 women are promoted. This gap in the promotion rate to manager is worse for women of color. Most notably, for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 60 Black women are.

If companies continue to hire and promote women to manager at current rates, the number of women in management will increase by just one percentage point over the next ten years.

But if companies start hiring and promoting women and men to manager at equal rates, we should get close to parity in management—48% women versus 52% men—over the same ten years.

I sit on our promotion committee. One thing I see is that when women are given more scope and responsibility, and then they deliver success, it takes six months to a year for them to be recognized. Whereas when men get a new responsibility, I’ve seen them immediately get promoted or get recognized without creating any deliverable.”

— VP, 6 years at company

Companies should foster an inclusive and respectful culture.

Women are more likely to face everyday discrimination—or microaggressions—like being subjected to demeaning comments, having to provide more evidence of their competence, or being mistaken for someone much more junior. For 64% of women—and 71% of lesbian women–microaggressions are a workplace reality. Sexual harassment also continues to pervade the workplace: 35% of women have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their career, from hearing sexist jokes to being touched in an inappropriately sexual way.

Women and men point to the need for companies to do more to create a safe and respectful work environment. Only 27% of employees say that managers regularly challenge biased language and behavior when they observe it. Forty percent say that disrespectful behavior toward women is often quickly addressed by their company. And just 32% think that their company swiftly acts on claims of sexual harassment.

Women are less optimistic than men about their company’s efforts to curb inappropriate behavior. As one example, 32% of women say that disrespectful behavior toward women is often quickly addressed by their company, compared to 50% of men.

55% of women in senior leadership, 48% of lesbian women, and 45% of women in technical fields report they’ve been sexually harassed.

I was in the elevator and pressed the button for the executive office. Someone said to me, ‘Um, no honey. That’s for the executive offices. The interns are going to this floor.’”

— Director, 4 years at company

Women are too often the “Only” one.

Too few women results in too many “Onlys”—women who are the only or one of the only women in the room. One in five women is an Only, and they are having a significantly worse experience than women who work with more women. They are more likely to deal with microaggressions. They often feel on guard, pressure to perform, and left out. And they are almost twice as likely to have been sexually harassed during the course of their career.

These negative experiences take a toll on women Onlys. Despite having higher ambitions to be promoted and become a top executive, they are 1.5 times more likely to think about leaving their job than women who are not Onlys.

Around 40% of senior-level women and women in technical roles are Onlys.

Far fewer men are Onlys—just 7% say that they are often the only or one of the only men in the room—and regardless of their race and ethnicity, they face less scrutiny than women Onlys. Men Onlys most frequently say they feel included.

I feel like I have to represent the entire race. I need to come across as more than proficient, more than competent, more than capable. I have to be ‘on’ all the time. Because in the back of someone’s mind, they could be judging the entire race based on me. And I don’t want anybody else’s opportunity to be ruined because I messed it up. I know that seems really heavy, but that is often how I feel. I am pretty sure that when most white people make a mistake, they don’t feel like they’re representing all Italians or all Irish. But a lot of Black Americans do feel like that.”

— Mid-level administrator, 4 years at company

LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company would like to thank the 279 companies and more than 64,000 employees who participated in the Women in the Workplace study. Their information and insights offer new visibility into the state of women in the workplace and the steps that companies can take to achieve gender equality. We also appreciate Women’s Foodservice Forum, the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, and Health Evolution’s help convening the food and health-care industries.

Consumer Packaged Goods

  • Amway
  • Bacardi
  • Chobani
  • Coca-Cola
  • Constellation Brands
  • Dr Pepper Snapple
  • Estee Lauder
  • Hillshire / Tyson Foods
  • J. R. Simplot Company Food Group
  • Kellogg Company
  • Kerry
  • Kraft Heinz
  • Land O'Lakes, Inc.
  • L'Oreal USA
  • Maple Lodge Farms
  • Mondelez International
  • PepsiCo Foodservice
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Reckitt Benckiser Group
  • Rich Products
  • S&D Coffee and Tea
  • The Nature's Bounty Co.
  • Ventura Foods, LLC

Energy, Utilities, and Basic Materials

  • 3M
  • Baker Hughes
  • Devon
  • Domtar
  • DTE Energy
  • Duke Energy Corporation
  • Edison International
  • Jacobs
  • Newmont
  • NiSource Inc.
  • PG&E
  • Schlumberger
  • Suez
  • TransAlta
  • WEC Energy Group

Engineering and Industrial Manufacturing

  • Boeing
  • Caterpillar
  • Haskell
  • Huntington Ingalls Industries
  • Illinois Tool Works
  • Ingersoll-Rand
  • Koppers
  • Louis Berger
  • Michelin North America
  • Mueller Water Products
  • Oshkosh Corporation
  • Stantec
  • The Aerospace Corporation
  • Whirlpool

Financial Services

  • AIG
  • Allstate
  • American Family Insurance
  • Amex
  • Annaly Capital Management
  • Aon
  • Ares
  • Bank of America
  • Barclays
  • BlackRock
  • Brown Brothers Harriman
  • Capital Group
  • Capital One
  • Centerbridge
  • Comerica Bank
  • Cottingham Butler
  • CVC
  • Franklin Templeton
  • Guardian Life Insurance
  • JPMorgan Chase
  • KKR
  • Legg Mason
  • MassMutual Financial Group
  • MetaBank
  • MetLife
  • Morgan Stanley
  • NFP
  • Nuveen
  • PGIM
  • Raymond James
  • State Street
  • SunTrust
  • T. Rowe Price
  • The Blackstone Group L.P.
  • The Carlyle Group
  • US Bank
  • Vanguard
  • Visa

Foodservices and Distribution

  • Breakthru Beverage
  • Brinker International
  • Cargill
  • Darden
  • Denny's
  • Dot Foods, Inc
  • Ecolab
  • Glazer's Beer and Beverage
  • Golden Corral Corporation
  • Gordon Food Service
  • KeyImpact
  • Martin Brothers Distributing Co Inc
  • McDonald's Corporation
  • McLane Company
  • Noodles and Company
  • Panera Bread
  • Performance Foodservice
  • Red Lobster
  • Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews
  • Reinhart Foodservice
  • Republic National Distributing Company
  • Sodexo
  • Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits
  • Starbucks
  • Sysco
  • Texas Roadhouse
  • The Opici Group
  • US Foods
  • Wendy's
  • White Castle
  • YUM! Brands Inc

Healthcare and Lifesciences

  • Advanced Clinical
  • Aetna Inc.
  • Allina Health
  • AmerisourceBergen
  • AstraZeneca
  • BCBS North Carolina
  • Becton Dickinson
  • Biogen
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Celgene Corporation
  • Centene
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • Cook Children's
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • EMD Serono
  • Flatiron
  • Geisinger
  • Genentech
  • Gilead Sciences, Inc.
  • GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
  • Henry Ford Health System
  • Intercept Pharmaceuticals
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Medidata
  • Medtronic
  • MilliporeSigma
  • MVP Health Care
  • Novartis
  • Pfizer
  • Quest Diagnostics
  • Sanofi

Professional and Information Services

  • Akin Gump
  • Axiom Law
  • Baker & McKenzie
  • Cramer-Krasselt
  • Day & Zimmermann
  • Exponent
  • Fitch Ratings
  • Maximus
  • McDermott Will & Emery
  • McKinsey
  • O'Melveny & Myers LLP
  • Realogy
  • University of Phoenix
  • Wilson Elser
  • Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati


  • Columbia
  • Levi's
  • Nordstrom
  • Office Depot
  • Sephora
  • Tapestry
  • Walmart

Technology, Media, and Telecom

  • Activision
  • Adobe
  • AdRoll
  • Airbnb
  • AppNexus
  • Arrow Electronics
  • AT&T
  • Avnet
  • Bloomberg
  • BMC Software
  • Box
  • Century Link
  • Cisco
  • Comcast NBC Universal
  • Curriculum Associates
  • Dell
  • DocuSign
  • Expedia
  • Facebook
  • Genpact
  • Getty Images
  • Harris Corporation
  • HotSchedules
  • Ingram Micro Inc
  • LiveNation
  • McGraw Hill
  • Medallia
  • Micron Technology
  • Mozilla
  • New Relic
  • Oracle
  • ServiceNow
  • SurveyMonkey
  • Thomson Reuters
  • T-Mobile
  • Uber
  • Veritas
  • VMware
  • Western Digital
  • Wipro Limited
  • Zendesk

Transportation, Logistics, and Infrastructure

  • Alaska Air
  • Armada
  • Chorus Aviation Inc (Jazz Aviation)
  • HAVI
  • Hilton
  • United Airlines