Women are achieving great things in the world of work. They are opening 1,817 new businesses per day, with women of color starting new businesses at a faster rate than anyone else in the country. What’s more, companies with greater diversity in gender, race and other factors are more productive and see higher revenues.
Despite this progress, many women around the world still face significant challenges in the workplace. For example, according to a Spanish study, women are 30% less likely to be called for a job interview than a man, even when they have the exact same resume. Meanwhile, the gender pay gap in the US actually widened between 2017 and 2018 (the most recent data available).
And these disappointing trends begin early on: According to the 2019 McKinsey report “Women in the Workplace,” the crucial spot where women get left behind in their careers is not, as many believe, when they decide to have a family; rather, it’s at their very first promotion. The report shows that while an equal number of men and women enter the workforce, more men get promoted into management positions — outnumbering women two to one in entry-level managerial roles.
So what drives success and setbacks for women, and how can we make workplaces more equitable? In honor of International Women’s Day 2020, Indeed surveyed 1,442 women in the U.S. to learn more about this topic and how employers can help.
Managers have the biggest impact on women’s success and failure
According to the women we surveyed, one factor contributes to their victories and setbacks at work more than any other: their managers. A good manager can inspire them to grow and achieve, while poor management can actually prevent them from getting ahead.
On the positive side, a majority of respondents (58%) attribute times of success and growth in their lives to having a great manager. That’s even more than those who credit their success and growth to learning opportunities (45%) and their education (43%).
Conversely, managers are also the top-cited barrier to growth for our respondents: 40% attribute their difficulties in getting ahead to not having a great manager. The next most common barriers respondents encounter are biases about the role of women at work (26%) and experiencing microaggressions (regular and brief verbal, behavioral or environmental offenses that women encounter, whether intentional or not; cited by 25%).
What can employers do to help? Foster healthy relationships between female workers and management, ensuring that managers are regularly checking in with employees and encouraging open, two-way conversations.
Sponsors and mentors matter most to minority and LGBTQ+ women
While all of our respondents say that managers have the biggest impact on their success, there are other factors, too. When we break the data down by race and LGBTQ+ orientation, we see that different subgroups of women value certain factors more than others. For example, mentors and sponsors are seen as more crucial to success for Latina, black and LGBTQ+ women than they are for women as a whole.