Diversity, inclusion and employee well-being have become frontline issues for companies over the past year. To address those initiatives, businesses are relying predominantly on women managers — and their work is often going unrecognized.
Those are some of the findings released Monday in the Women in the Workplace 2021 Report from LeanIn.org and McKinsey and Co., which spanned 423 companies and over 65,000 employees.
Compared to men at the same managerial level, the report found that women leaders are investing 60 percent more effort than men into emotionally supporting their teams, and 25 percent more into helping their employees handle their work-life balance.
Compared to men, women are also implementing 61 percent more in allyship practices. This includes speaking out against bias or standing up for employees of color. Black, LGBTQ and disabled women perform twice the diversity and inclusion work when compared to women as a whole, when the work is not part of their normal job responsibilities.
With 42 percent of women feeling “often or almost always” burned out (compared to 35 percent of men) this year, Alexis Krivkovich, a senior partner at McKinsey and Co. who was involved in the study, said companies must begin to recognize and incentivize this type of unpaid work, which has become more critical and intensive since the onset of COVID-19.
“All companies say it’s extremely important work, yet only 25 percent of companies formally recognize that activity,” said Krivkovich “Most companies don’t formally acknowledge anywhere in their performance review process the important role they expect leaders to play in sponsorship and support of the next generation of talent. And Covid-19 has pushed the limits for people in terms of mental and emotional well-being.”
LeanIn.org founder and CEO Rachel Thomas emphasized the importance of this work during a time when employees are quitting their jobs en masse, and employers are having difficulty retaining employees. A record 15 million employees have quit their jobs since April, according to McKinsey.
“We know that when employees have managers that focus on their well-being, they’re happier and less likely to leave their job,” said Thomas. “If that work doesn't get recognized or rewarded, you risk signaling that that type of work is not important in your company.”
Overall, diversity practices have remained fairly stagnant between 2019 and 2020. Ninety percent of companies say that diversity and inclusion are top priorities, while 60 percent implemented mental health benefits in response to Covid-19. However, there remains a “broken rung,” or too few women in middle management to be promoted to C-Suite; for every 100 men, 89 white women and 85 women of color were promoted.
Just 41 percent of employees — and 35 percent of women of color — believe their companies have substantially followed through on their diversity commitments. Women of color said they experienced the same frequency of microaggressions as they did last year, such as being confused with another employee of the same ethnicity.
“To make these changes in a company culture, it’s going to take more than bringing in the occasional consultant,” said Erin Hatton, associate sociology professor at University at Buffalo. “When workers are dissatisfied, you don’t give them a symbolic luncheon. It takes vision that allows for things like flexibility, childcare, ensuring that workers are earning a good living wage. We have to see every level of management being equal across demographic groups. This is not comfortable change. This type of change is really, really hard.”
Krivkovich said the most successful, diverse companies deploy a rigorous system of metrics and accountability; diversity is closely tracked, and employees are rewarded for promoting equality and allyship. These companies also support their employees with everything from mental health benefits to parental leave, to actively engaging with their communities of color.
Companies will benefit tremendously from committing to diversity on a granular level, said Thomas.
“We want to hold onto women at all levels, women of all colors, at all generations,” said Thomas. “If you don’t have an inclusive culture, they don’t feel safe, and they’re not able to tap their best talent or bring in their best ideas.”