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Women have made huge strides in the workplace, but challenges persist.

Women now make up more than half of the non-farm workforce in the U.S., according to a December 2019 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. This shift is the result of long-term trends, such as women obtaining more college degrees and female-dominated industries performing well in today’s economy.

However, challenges persist. Here are three key takeaways from our research in women at work in 2020 in the wake of #MeToo:

  • Women have cracked the glass ceiling, but the climb to the top has many missing rungs. A McKinsey & Company report found that 72 women are hired or promoted to manager for every 100 men, constricting the pipeline for female leadership.
  • Post-#MeToo, women are more likely to report workplace sexual harassment. Sexual harassment complaints filed by the EEOC increased by 13.6 percent from 2017 to 2018.
  • Meanwhile, reports of gender harassment — hostility based on gender — increased in the workplace. The number of women reporting gender harassment increased from 76 percent of women in 2016 to 92 percent in 2018.

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into all three claims.

Women are more educated than men.

Women have been the majority of college-educated adults for about four decades. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Yet, in 2019, they finally became half of college-educated adults in the U.S. workforce. Pew Research Center

And, they’re ambitious.

Seventy-four percent of women in the early stages of their professional career aspire to reach executive leadership levels. Egon Zehnder and LinkedIn

Women Ambitious

Yet they are not well-represented in leadership roles at major companies.

Only 62 women have led Fortune 500 companies since 1972. Bloomberg

women leardship in company

Since 2009, only three female CEOs were followed by another woman. Bloomberg

Nor are they well-represented in the U.S. Congress, despite a record number of women getting elected in 2018.

In 2019, 126 women hold seats in Congress, comprising 23.6 percent of the 535 members. That’s 25 women (25 percent) serving in the Senate, and 101 women (23.2 percent) serving in the House of Representatives. Rutgers

Women Selection in Election in US

Women are 50.8 percent of the U.S. population, according to the most recent Census. U.S. Census

Women Hiring Ratio

Why aren’t there more leadership roles filled by women? The glass ceiling may no longer be the right metaphor.

Instead, think of your career as a ladder. For women, the first major rung — management level — is broken.

Only 72 women are promoted or hired to manager for every 100 men. McKinsey & Company

Women Vs Men Hiring

Women, men and HR leaders agree that “women are less likely to be promoted to first-level manager roles.” McKinsey & Company

Here are some of the other HR leaders’ reasons:

Women Hiring Ratio

McKinsey & Company

Further up the ladder, companies have stronger policies on representation.

Forty-one percent of companies have policies targeting gender representation at senior levels of management while only 34 percent have policies for junior management. McKinsey & Company

Companies Policies for Gender Specific

Today, 44 percent of companies have three or more women in their C-suite, up from 29 percent five years ago. McKinsey & Company

Companies C Suite

When people see more women at the top, they are less concerned about gender inequality elsewhere. Harvard Business Review

In the #MeToo age, women are more likely to report sexual harassment...

The percentage of women reporting sexual harassment to HR grew from 43 percent in 2018 to 51 percent in 2019. Fairygodboss

Women Harassment

Of those that didn’t report it, 41 percent said they didn’t because the alleged harasser was their direct supervisor. Fairygodboss

Women Harassed by Supervisor

… and the incidents of sexual harassment may be going down.

In 2016, 25 percent of women reported being sexually coerced in the workplace. In 2018 that number had declined to 16 percent. Plos One

Harassment Decrement

Meanwhile, the number of women saying they’ve received unwanted sexual attention declined from 66 percent of women to 25 percent. Plos One

Sexual Harassment Decrement

Sexual harassment — and the feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem these acts caused — decreased from 2016 to 2018. Plos One

However, gender harassment has increased.

In contrast, women are experiencing more gender harassment, from 76 percent of women in 2016 to 92 percent percent in 2018. Plos One

Gender Harassment

Food services and retail see the most
sexual harassment.

Here are the industries with the most sexual harassment cases filed between 2005 to 2015:

  • 14.23% Accomodation and food services
  • 13.44% Retail trade
  • 11.72% Manufacturing
  • 11.48% Health care and social assistance
  • 6.92% Administrative and support and waste management and remediation
  • 6.48% Public administration
  • 5.73% Professional, scientific and technical services
  • 4.94% Transportation and warehousing
  • 3.98% Finance and insurance
  • 3.98% Educational services

Center for American Progress

Ultimately, understanding how the workplace is changing for women will help you prepare for 2020. If you’re serious about your career, keep reading our 2020 employment and career stats series, including:

Don Sjoerdsma

Don Sjoerdsma

Career Advice Expert

Don is a freelance writer with more than five years' experience in digital media. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Oprah.com, Yahoo! and HuffPost. While at OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, his creative use of archival content...

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