Women in the Workplace 2018 Report at a Glance

Gender diversity improvement and female advancement in leadership are the core initiatives of LeanIn.Org. Along with McKinsey & Company, they have published this report annually since 2015 to give companies and employees the information they need to advance women into leadership positions and improve gender diversity within their organizations. For the past 4 years companies have reported that they are highly committed to gender diversity, but that commitment has not translated into meaningful progress.

Women in the Workplace 2018 is the largest comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America. This year, 279 companies completed a survey of their HR practices and shared data regarding their pipeline. Also, more than 64,000 employees were surveyed on their workplace experiences. For additional insights, women of different races and ethnicities were interviewed as well as LGBTQ women. “This year’s findings make it clearer than ever that companies need to double down on their efforts. As progress seems to be stalled to achieve equality, companies must turn good intentions into concrete action”.


“Experts agree that articulating a business case, setting goals and transparently reporting on progress, and rewarding success are key to driving organizational change”. When it comes to gender diversity, it does not seem these practices are put in place because:

Only 38% of companies set targets for gender representation

Only 12% share most gender diversity metrics with their employees

Only 42% hold senior leaders accountable for making progress toward gender parity

“Because setting goals is the first step toward achieving any business priority and transparency is a helpful way to signal a company’s commitment to change; it is hard to imagine impactful change when leaders aren’t formally expected to drive it”.

Based on four years of data from 462 companies employing almost 20 million people, including the 279 companies participating in this year’s study, it is clear women face an uneven playing field since the beginning of their careers and continue to be vastly underrepresented at every level. For women of color, it’s even worse. Only about one in five senior leaders is a woman, and one in twenty-five is a woman of color. Other findings show that women are less supported by their managers in contrast with their male colleagues and are more likely to deal with sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Six immediate actions recommended for companies to make progress on gender diversity:

  1. Get the basics right—targets, reporting, and accountability
  2. Ensure that hiring and promotions are fair
  3. Make senior leaders and managers champions of diversity
  4. Foster an inclusive and respectful culture
  5. Make the “Only woman in the room” experience rare
  6. Offer employees the flexibility to fit work into their lives



The researchers of this study state that change starts with treating gender diversity like the business priority it is. For them the benefits of diversity are proven: new ideas, better results, and happier employees. The faster organizations incorporate effective everyday business practices such as goal setting, assessment and communication of progress along with accountability, the better the chances of improving diversity in the workplace.


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