Pandemic burnout is nipping at the slow but steady progress American women have made up and down the corporate ladder over the last five years, a McKinsey & Co. report conducted in partnership with Lean In released Monday has found.
In an annual survey of 65,000 workers across 423 organizations, one-third of women said they were considering scaling back their careers or leaving the workforce altogether. That figure jumped almost 10 percentage points from the beginning months of the pandemic. Women, the survey found, were more likely to report experiencing burnout than men — a gap that’s widened in the last year, too.
“Our concerns are the impact of pandemic burnout on women long term, and what companies need to do in response,” said Rachel Thomas, co-founder and CEO of Lean In.
In the last five years, women’s representation has increased at all levels, the report found. Women hold nearly 50% of all entry level jobs and around a quarter of C-suite roles, each up a few percentage points from 2016.
But the pandemic has put these small gains at risk, the report’s findings warned. “The representation of women is only part of the story,” the authors write. “The pandemic continues to take a toll on employees, and especially women.”
Pandemic related child care struggles have already pushed millions of women in the U.S. out of the workforce. Surveys like this one and others suggest that if things don’t improve, many more will soon follow.
Child care is but a piece of the burnout puzzle for women, the survey found. Employees of female managers say their bosses are more likely to provide emotional support and help them navigate work-life issues during the pandemic. Female senior leaders are also more likely to take on formal and informal work promoting diversity and inclusion within their organizations.
This kind of work is going “unrecognized and unrewarded” on a formal level, such as in performance reviews, the authors concluded.
“If the last few years have told us anything, it’s that there is an entire component to performance which may not be tied to operational and financial metrics,” said Jess Huang, a McKinsey partner who co-authored the study.
Despite this year’s small gains, the corporate pipeline is still broken for many women. Since 2016, women have been promoted out of entry level jobs at lower rates than men. And when they do get into manager roles, they are more likely to report microaggressions, like having their competence challenged or judgment questioned.
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