Uneven access on the way to the summit’

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — In a report released today titled “Women in Leadership: Unequal Access on the Road to the Top”, The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shares new research that shows that women, especially women of color, are more likely than men to experience barriers in leadership roles in their organizations.

For example, female managers of color are five times more likely (21%) than their white counterparts (4%) to say they left a job after being passed over for a new leadership opportunity at work.

Research shows that women are increasingly disillusioned with equal access as they move up the ladder. While men are more likely to feel included and taken seriously as a leader, women don’t feel the same momentum.

“As we approach International Women’s Day on March 8, it is important to highlight that organizations with a higher proportion of women in leadership positions experience better business outcomes, including greater innovation and productivity,” said SHRM Chief of Staff and Chief of Government Affairs Emily M. Dickens. “Yet women are still underrepresented in the C-suite. In a climate where it is harder than ever to find and retain talent, it is imperative that business leaders take a closer look at the gaps between genders that exist in their organizations to see that every employee has the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

To better understand the challenges women face when seeking advancement in the workplace, SHRM surveyed HR professionals, individual contributors and managers across the economy, finding that women report less tangible support from managers, reduced access to promotion opportunities and increased challenges. associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are the main findings of the report:

  • Female managers (55%) are more likely than their male counterparts (42%) to aspire to a senior position because they think they would be good at it.
  • Only 61% of women say their manager encourages them to develop their careers compared to 71% of men.
  • Female managers are less likely than male managers to say employees in their organization are informed about internal job openings (78% vs. 86%).
  • Female managers are less likely than their male counterparts to have reached their current position by being promoted internally (40% vs. 48%).
  • As women move from individual contributors to managers, they become more likely to believe that women in their organization have fewer opportunities for career growth than men (24% vs. 37%).
  • White female managers (65%), and particularly female managers of color (57%), are less likely to feel included in key networks in their organization than male managers of color (68%) and male managers white (73%).
  • Female managers of color (56%) are much less likely to feel they can talk about their personal life with others at work without feeling judged than white female managers (70%), male managers of color ( 72%) and white male managers (79 percent).
  • Female managers with care responsibilities (35%) are more likely to have experienced a pandemic-related career setback than their male counterparts (26%).
  • Only half (52%) of HR professionals believe that senior managers in their organization are held accountable for ensuring that male and female employees have equal access to career paths or opportunities leading to leadership roles.

“Women in Leadership: Unequal Access on the Journey to the Top” makes several recommendations for employers, including “comeback” programs to connect with women who have left the workforce during the pandemic. These programs help women find roles that better match their experience and engage them in a way that is consistent with their goals.


The worker survey was conducted from June 29 to July 14, 2021, using the University of Chicago Nationally Representative Probability Panel’s AmeriSpeak Panel, NORC. Online interviews were conducted with 1,017 individual contributors and 1,038 managers. Data has been weighted to reflect the population of working adults in the United States.

The HR Professional Survey was conducted electronically among a random sample of HR Professionals among active SHRM members from June 10 to July 20, 2021. A total of 1,094 HR Professionals participated in the survey. investigation. Academics, students, consultants and retired HR professionals were excluded. Respondents represented organizations of all sizes in a wide variety of industries across the United States.

About SHRM

SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting the changing workplaces of today. With more than 300,000 HR members and business leaders in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families around the world. Learn more at SHRM.org and on Twitter @SHRM.

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