Moving women to the top: McKinsey Global Survey results

A majority of executives believe gender diversity in leadership is linked to better financial performance, but companies take few actions to support women in the workforce.

As the number of women participating in the workforce grows, their potential influence on business is becoming ever more important. Seventy-two percent of respondents to a recent McKinsey survey believe there is a direct connection between a company’s gender diversity and its financial success.1 Indeed, the share saying so has risen in the past year, even in the face of continued economic turmoil.

Yet companies have not so far successfully bridged the gap between men and women in the top levels of management. This is not surprising, since the survey shows that diversity isn’t a high priority at most companies and that there’s great variability in the number of gender-diversity policies that companies have pursued. For both of these factors, the results suggest that more is better: at companies where gender diversity is higher on the strategic agenda and more related policies are implemented, executives say that company leadership is also the most diverse. Among respondents at companies that include gender diversity as a top-three agenda item and those at all companies, there is a 32 percentage-point difference between the shares who say women fill more than 15 percent of their C-level positions. The degree of support from CEOs and other top managers is another important factor influencing a company’s performance on diversity, respondents say, so it is notable that few companies’ top management teams currently monitor relevant programs. The differences executives report at the most diverse companies suggest some ways all companies can improve their gender diversity and, eventually, financial performance.

Source: McKinsey Quarterly, October 2010

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