Women in Leadership: Why Perception Outpaces the Pipeline—and What to Do About It | IBM Institute for Business Value and Chief

Leadership & Culture

This new 38-page report provides insights into the current state of women in leadership. It notes that many organizations are implementing programs to help women advance their careers, such as providing career development planning specific to women’s needs, requiring job succession plans to include women candidates, and holding senior management accountable for gender equity with performance metrics. However, based on a global survey of over 2,500 organizations, the report shows that while gender parity “feels” close, it’s getting farther away. For example, in examining the pipeline of current and future women leaders, we see some growth at both ends. 1) Although the percentage of women serving in C-Suite and board positions has increased (from 10% and 8%, respectively, in 2021 to 12% for both in 2023), as has the percentage of women in junior professional/specialist roles, which grew from 35% in 2021 to 40% in 2023….2) the remaining percentage of women in the rest of pipeline has hollowed out, worsening since the pandemic. The report notes that women have massively exited the workforce from mid-level leadership tiers that feed the C-Suites and boards of tomorrow. Stated differently, the percentage of women in middle management dropped from 28% in 2019 to 23% in 2023, while the percentage of women in senior management dropped from 25% to 19%. Page 23 begins a section on specific actions organizations can take to increase their pipeline of current and future women leaders. As a supplement to this report, I am resharing the 2022 Women in the Workplace Report by Lean In and McKinsey, which includes additional practices that support the advancement and retention of women in leadership.