Key Findings of the 2020 Women in the Workplace Report

McKinsey & Company have released their latest 2020 Women in the Workplace report, detailing a steep increase in the number of women saying they’re considering leaving the workforce entirely. 

The increase in the number of women saying they’re considering either downgrading their position or leaving the workplace is largely due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted women. 

It was such a significant trend that authors of the report noted that for the first time in more than six years, more women were leaving the workplace than male counterparts, pointing to the fact that women are more vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic due to childcare. Authors of the report point out that females are three-times more likely to be responsible for taking care of a young child and household chores than their male spouse, which leaves them working what the report calls ‘double-double shifts.’


“Mothers were already working a double shift… now with coronavirus, what you have is a double-double shift,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer

This has resulted in high-levels of employee burnout and drops in productivity, which has caused a notable increase in the number of women leaving the workforce to downshift their responsibilities to alleviate work-related stress. Authors of the report say that “one in three mothers may be forced to scale back or opt out,” or the workforce. 

“Given the enormous challenges mothers are facing at work and at home, two things should come as no surprise: many mothers are considering downshifting their career or leaving the workforce, and mothers are significantly more likely to be thinking about taking these steps than fathers.” 

“Women are often held to higher performance standards than men,” the report states, “and they are 1.5 times more likely than senior-level men to think about downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce because of COVID-19.” 

McKinsey says that 3 out of 4 women are citing burnout as the main reason for downshifting or dropping out of the workplace entirely, which has been compounded by pressure from the pandemic. 

This is particularly problematic due to the fact that companies simply can’t afford to lose women leaders, particularly at a crucial time like this. Authors of the report call the prospect of losing a significant portion of the workforce “alarming” and add that the financial impact of this move could prove “significant.” 

“Research shows that when women are well represented at the top, companies are 50 percent more likely to outperform their peers,” writes McKinsey, adding that “if women leaders leave the workforce, women at all levels could lose their most powerful allies and champions.” 

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The report adds that “76% of mothers with children under age 10 say childcare is one of their top three challenges during COVID-19, compared to 54% of fathers with young children.” 

McKinsey’s report has also keenly tracked the presence of women in the workplace for the past five years, and found that women’s share of executive-level roles has increased from 17% to 21%, while women in senior vice-president roles jumped from 23% to 28%. 

However, as the authors of the report point out, “for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 85 women are promoted – and this gap was even larger for some women: only 58 black women and 71 latinas were promoted.”

“As a result, women remained significantly outnumbered at the manager level at the beginning of 2020 – they held just 38% of manager positions, while men held 62%.” 

The report says that employees have responded that the following present the biggest challenges to their productivity during COVID-19: 

  • Anxiety of being fired or furloughed
  • Burnout 
  • Mental Health
  • Childcare and/or homeschooling their children
  • Financial Security
  • Physical and mental health of their friends and family 

Speaking of the report, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg has said that “this is the most alarming report we’ve ever seen,” adding that “I think what’s happening is this report confirms what people have suspected, but we haven’t really had the data, which is that the coronavirus is hitting women incredibly hard and really risks undoing the progress we’ve made for women in the workplace.” 

“Mothers were already working a double shift… now with coronavirus, what you have is a double-double shift,” Sanberg said. “You know, mothers are spending 20 more hours a week on housework and child care during coronavirus than fathers. Twenty more hours a week is half of a full-time job,” she said. 

Authors of the report state that organisations around the globe are approaching a crossroads, being forced to make a decision that “could shape the workplace for women for decades to come- for better or for worse.” 

“If companies recognise the scale of these problems and do all they can to address them, they can help their employees and do all they can to address them… if not, the consequences could badly hurt women, business, and the economy as a whole,” the report concludes. 

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