Pandemic continues to stunt women’s careers, study finds

Women in the Workplace 2021

7th Annual Study by Lean In and McKinsey

Women in the Workplace is the largest study on the state of women in corporate America. Based on data from 423 companies employing 12 million people, this year’s report features:

  • Insights from nearly 400 CHROs on the most effective practices for supporting employee well-being and advancing DEI
  • A detailed look at what companies and employees see as the benefits and risks of remote work
  • Best practices for eliminating bias in hiring and promotions—including what top-performing companies are doing
  • Data-driven vignettes on the distinct experiences of Asian women, Black women, Latinas, lesbian and bisexual women, and women with disabilities


“The report follows last year’s bleak warning that the pandemic was throttling women’s careers and jeopardizing the previous six years of progress. Data from the US Census Bureau showed that at the start of 2021, 10 million mothers with school-aged children weren’t actively working — 1.4 million more than the previous year. According to the National Women’s Law Center, women accounted for all the job losses in the US workforce in December 2020.”


Full report available for download here:



For all the change brought on by the pandemic, women in white-collar roles still made strides at nearly every level of U.S. companies last year, a comprehensive new study shows.

The proportion of women in the corporate workforce didn’t decline significantly last year, and the number of women holding some senior roles increased, according to data from the 2021 Women in the Workplace report by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.Org. But the report also found that women are experiencing higher rates of burnout than men, and are questioning whether they want to remain with their companies and on their existing career paths.

Lareina Yee, a senior partner at McKinsey who previously served as the firm’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, and Rachel Thomas, Lean In’s co-founder and CEO, spoke separately with the Journal about some of the takeaways from this year’s report. Here are edited excerpts of the conversations.

‘Women held on’

WSJ: The report’s finding that women didn’t leave the corporate workforce in big numbers last year seems counter to so many expectations and experiences during the pandemic. What happened?

MS. YEE: Simply said, women held on.

MS THOMAS: The numbers are holding, but the experiences of women are getting worse or just continuing to take a toll because women are more burned out than they were last year.,,

WSJ: The report surveyed hundreds of companies, but are women in other occupations having different experiences or leaving the workforce altogether?

MS. YEE: Absolutely. This focuses on the corporate sector and corporate workers; this isn’t a full-economy view. So if you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, our national statistics, they don’t match. We have seen higher unemployment figures for women, particularly in salary and front-line roles, in the retail sector, in food services, in healthcare. This is looking at one specific slice, of corporate white-collar workers, managers and senior leaders. Companies have a decision whether they lean forward to support and retain and advance women—or see what happens and risk losing them.



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