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Women in the Workplace 2021

McKinsey & Company and Lean In


Other Countries


Workplace Gender Equality

Women in the Workplace 2021

Women in the Workplace 2021

The Women in the Workplace 2021 report, published by McKinsey & Company in partnership with LeanIn.Org, analyses the representation of women in corporate America, provides an overview of HR policies and programs – including HR leaders’ sentiment on the most effective diversity, equity, and inclusion practices – and explores the intersectional experiences of different groups of women at work.

The 2021 report is the seventh year of Women in the Workplace, the largest study of women in corporate America. The data set reflects contributions from 423 participating organisations employing 12 million people and more than 65,000 people surveyed on their workplace experiences; in-depth interviews were also conducted with women of diverse identities, including women of colour, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities.


  • The report shows that, a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, women have made important gains in representation, and especially in senior leadership. But the pandemic continues to take a toll. Women are now significantly more burned out—and increasingly more so than men.
  • Despite this added stress and exhaustion, women are rising to the moment as stronger leaders and taking on the extra work that comes with this: compared with men at the same level, women are doing more to support their teams and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
  • The report finds that women are also more likely to be allies to women of colour. Yet this critical work is going unrecognised and unrewarded by most companies, and that has concerning implications. Companies risk losing the very leaders they need right now, and it’s hard to imagine organisations navigating the pandemic and building inclusive workplaces if this work isn’t truly prioritised.
  • The report also illustrates that disconnect between companies’ growing commitment to racial equity and the lack of improvement seen in the day-to-day experiences of women of colour. Women of colour face similar types and frequencies of microaggressions as they did two years ago—and they remain far more likely than White women to be on the receiving end of disrespectful and “othering” behaviour.
  • And while more White employees see themselves as allies to women of colour, they are no more likely than last year to speak out against discrimination, mentor or sponsor women of colour, or take other actions to advocate for them. This points to the critical need for businesses to equip employees at all levels to challenge bias and show up as allies.


  • Introduction
  • The state of women in corporate America
    • Despite important gains, women are still underrepresented
    • Women of colour lose ground at every step in the pipeline
    • The “broken rung” is still holding women back
    • Women are more burned out—and more so than men
  • Women are setting a new standard for leadership
    • Women managers are doing more to support their teams
    • Women leaders are more active champions of DEI
    • The work women leaders are doing drives better outcomes
    • This critical well-being and DEI work is going overlooked
    • A CLOSER LOOK: Women leaders face greater challenges
  • Intersectional Experiences
    • Asian women
    • Women with disabilities
    • Lesbian and bisexual women
    • Latinas
    • Black women
  • Women of colour continue to have a worse experience at work
    • Women of colour face a wider range of microaggressions
    • The “allyship gap” persists
    • White employees don’t fully understand what allyship is
    • A CLOSER LOOK: Women who are “Onlys” and “double Onlys”
    • A CLOSER LOOK: Mothers of young children who are “Onlys
  • The road to progress
    • How companies can advance diversity and inclusion
    • How companies can begin to address burnout
  • Looking ahead

This report was originally published on

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