October 03, 2018
To improve career outcomes for the young women you recruit, focus on company culture
By: Barbara Harvey

The figures that tell the story of gender inequality in the workplace make disappointing—if familiar—reading: Women are 21 percent less likely to reach manager levels in their organization; three-quarters of today’s fastest-growing companies in Europe and the United States have no women in senior leadership positions; and 9 out of 10 companies established since the year 1900 had no women founders.1

This disadvantage starts early in women’s careers. Analysis of the data from just under 3,000 young workers in 32 countries who were interviewed as part of our Getting to Equal 2018 study revealed that by the age of 30, women earn 6 percent less than their male peers. Young men are also 8 percent more likely to reach manager positions in the first five years of work and 22 percent more likely to reach senior manager levels.

Figures shown indicate men are more likely to reach senior management levels by age 30

In our 2017 study on advancement and the gender pay gap2 we identified three powerful accelerators that help men and women to advance: digital skills, having a career strategy and developing technology experience. Even as students, young men have the edge, taking advantage of more of these accelerators during their years of study. Forty-one percent of undergraduate men upskilled in digital technology compared with only a third of their female peers. As graduates enter the workforce these disadvantages are perpetuated; 56 percent of men have a mentor at the start of their working life versus 50 percent of women.

The question facing all employers striving for an equal leadership pipeline is how to help young men and women thrive equally well in the workplace. Our 2018 research sought to look more deeply into the drivers of advancement and how to address the disadvantage. Using an econometric model, we combined interview data with published information on employment and pay to measure the impact of the factors on advancement and pay. We identified 40 factors that have an influence on women’s progress; 14 strongly so. In inclusive company cultures, where more of these factors are more common, women—and young women—thrive: Young women in these environments are more likely to love their jobs, aspire to reach senior leadership and advance; there are twice as many women managers by the age of 30 in these inclusive environments. By changing company culture to one characterized by having…

  • Bold leaders who publish targets for achieving diversity, make their leadership teams accountable and bring women into senior positions.

  • Policies that solve for equality by focusing on creating a level playing field rather than just targeting things as a women’s issue. Encouraging women to take maternity leave, for example, decreases the likelihood of women advancing; unless you also encourage men to take leave too.

  • Empowered and trusted employees who can use technology to give them flexibility over where and when they work and learn and who can be themselves at work; not have to conform or change their appearance.

Companies are also changing the career outcomes of their young women workers and building a more diverse leadership pipeline.


1 All figures from Getting to Equal 2018, “When She Rises, We All Rise”.
2 Getting to Equal 2017, “Closing The Gender Pay Gap”.

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