Professional women in today’s workplace
In February 2022, we conducted an in-depth study about “Women professionals in the modern workplace.” After two remarkable years of balancing life and work through a pandemic, we wanted to learn more about women’s perspectives about their places of work and hear how this extraordinary time of change has impacted them.
In our study, we interviewed 3,000 women professionals: 1,000 in the US, 1,000 in the UK, and 1,000 in Australia. We asked them all the same questions and received far different answers. All of our respondents were 25 and older, worked full-time hybrid, remote, or in the office during 2020 and 2021.
Confidence in performance thrives when nurtured
It is gratifying to see that while the majority of women feel confident in their performance, an impressive 91 percent of professional women in the UK feel this way. Only 78 percent of US women are confident in their performance, but this is quite a bit more than the mere 57 percent who feel confident in Australia.
We also asked our respondents whether a colleague had ever made them feel uncomfortable or less qualified in the workplace just because they are women. The results were good, but not great.
Sixty-five percent of professional women in the US reported that they feel comfortable in the workplace and have not been made to feel less qualified because they’re women. That’s compared to 74 percent in the UK and 56 percent in Australia.
Considering years past, this is a great improvement, but we still have a long way to go. It is unacceptable that 35 percent of professional women in the US, 26 percent in the UK, and 44 in Australia still said they have been made to feel uncomfortable in the workplace just because they are women. We should hope to eliminate this altogether from any healthy company culture.
Professional women and the Great Resignation
The Great Resignation has seen record quit rates across all industries worldwide. In the US, 8.8 million people voluntarily left their jobs between November and December 2021, ending a year of record quit rates. We were interested in seeing how the Great Resignation affected professional women, so we asked them.
In 2021, 27 percent of professional women in the US left their jobs and started a new one (15 percent quit and 12 percent were fired or let go). In the UK, these numbers were much lower—only 15 percent of women changed jobs. Of those, 13 percent quit, and 2 percent were fired or let go. The change was more acute in Australia, with 39 percent of women changing jobs. To compare, 22 percent quit their jobs and 17 percent were fired or let go.
What does this mean? According to the data, professional women in the UK had a significantly more stable 2021 than women in the US and Australia who underwent major changes in their professional lives.
Employers should pay close attention to women planning to make a career move. Looking forward into 2022, we found that 13 percent of professional women in the US are still planning to leave their jobs. In the UK, 10 percent plan on leaving, and in Australia, 19 percent of women plan to do so.
Gender equality: Who was promoted in 2021?
In the US and the UK, we found that 64 percent and 63 percent of women, respectively, were promoted either to a new position or received a pay or benefits increase. Australia lagged behind, as only 55 percent of women reported receiving a promotion, or bumps in pay or benefits. The fact that fewer women were promoted in Australia may explain the country’s higher rates of attrition.
Looking into 2022, we see that 33 percent of respondents in the US expect a promotion or have applied for a promotion of sorts this year, alongside 20 percent in the UK and 49 percent in Australia.
Even though it’s 2022 and women feel very confident in their performance in the workplace, we still wanted to know if they thought that their companies give promotions equally to men and women.
The findings are profound. While 53 percent of women professionals in the US believe that women and men in their company are promoted equally, 34 percent felt men are promoted more often or quicker than women. In the UK, 57 percent believe promotions are equally awarded, but 40 percent believe men are promoted more and more quickly than women. In Australia, it seems only 37 percent of women in the workforce believe there is promotion equality and 40 percent believe men are promoted more quickly.
Examining the gender pay gap in 2022
Looking at the pay gap has always been a direct and uncompromising way of gauging where professional women stand. Examining workplace advancement through the prism of pay, many women today believe that their company pays men and women equally for the same role. This was not always the case.
In the US, 48 percent of professional women believe the company they work for pays women and men equally for the same role compared to 53 percent in the UK, and only 32 percent in Australia. An astounding 31 percent of women in the US, 38 percent in the UK, and 33 percent in Australia feel their company pays men more than women for the same role. Of even more concern is the 20 percent of women in Australia who admit that they don’t know if women and men are paid equally.
Women’s leadership in the workplace
To accurately understand the position of women in a company, we must look at the proportion of women in leadership positions. When asked about the balance in female/male leadership, 33 percent of respondents in the US, 32 percent in the UK, and 28 percent in Australia reported that their company has a balanced female/male leadership.
An additional 31 percent of respondents in the US, 32 percent in the UK, and 28 percent in Australia reported that their company has made a visible commitment to developing more women leaders in the past year (2021). This shows that overall, two-thirds of companies that employ women professionals are aware of the importance of balancing the ratio of men and women in leadership roles. It also shows that these companies are taking action to bring more equality to their organizations.
Across the three continents in which we conducted our research, it was clear that a company’s attitude towards women is reflected in its culture and values. We asked our respondents about how company attitudes towards women affect how they feel about their workplace.
Women-specific benefits reflect an organization’s commitment to inclusivity and professional women around the globe respect it. Globally, women believe that paternity and shared parental leave are benefits essential to achieving men’s and women’s equality.
When we asked, 36 percent of women in the UK, 33 percent of women in the US, and 16 percent of women in Australia mentioned that their employer offers paternity and shared parental leave benefits. In addition, extended paid maternity leave is also an important way of standing behind professional women.
According to our respondents, 32 percent of professional women in the US, 37 percent in the UK, and 32 percent in Australia are well aware that their company provides this. Overall, about 60 percent of companies offer women-specific benefits and about 40 percent have no additional women-specific benefits in the UK and Australia. In the US, the ratio of benefits stands at 70/30.
The bottom line: Today’s professional women are thriving
International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate women’s professional achievements and gauge how far companies need to go to achieve true and lasting gender equity and equality. So much progress has been made in the global workplace in recent years. The pandemic catalyzed the need for companies to be more flexible and accommodating for people in general and women in particular. Women have thrived professionally, and equal pay and promotion will clear the way for additional gains for women in leadership roles and career success.