4 Myths Debunked By Women In The Workplace Report 2023

2023 Women at Work Report exposes myths, empowers change for fairness, and dives into workplace experiences for a more equal future.

Busting myths, empowering women: a close look at the workplace reality in 2023, revealing insights and paving the way for equality and progress.

McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org have come out with their ninth report about Women in the Workplace, 2023. Even though Women are more ambitious than ever, and workplace flexibility is fuelling them, women’s representation is not keeping pace.

For the report, the data is collected from 276 organizations employing more than ten million people. From these organizations, more than 27,000 employees and 270 senior HR leaders were surveyed and shared their insights on policies and practices.

The report focuses on the specific biases and barriers faced by Asian, Black, Latina, and LGBTQIA+ women and women with disabilities, through an intersectional feminist lens.

The research reveals that 2023 marked the highest number of women’s representation ever at the C-suite level, an increase from 17 to 28 percent. However, only slow progress of three and four percent for women at the manager and director levels.

4 myths about women at work

Through this report, it debunks four myths about women’s workplace experiences and career advancement. Let’s deep dive into women’s work experiences in 2023, debunk myths, and work for change for a more equitable and inclusive workplace.

Myth 1: Women are becoming less ambitious

McKinsey report 2023

Reality: Women are more ambitious than before the pandemic—and flexibility is fuelling that ambition

The report highlights young women are more determined than ever before to build a successful career. Nine in ten women under the age of 30 want to be promoted to the next level, and three in four aspire to become senior leaders. It means, 80 percent of women want to be promoted to the next level, compared with 70 percent in 2019.

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Moreover, the increase in flexibility with the pandemic did not dampen women’s ambitions, it opened many more opportunities. Flexibility at work, that is the choice of when and where to work, not only broke the traditional work system but also redefined it.

Flexibility allows women to pursue their ambitions: overall, one in five women say flexibility has helped them stay in their jobs or avoid reducing their hours.

Read more: How To Find Flexible Work Opportunities In Sales And Marketing

Myth 2: The biggest barrier to women’s advancement is the ‘glass ceiling’

McKinsey report 2023

Reality: The ‘broken rung’ is the greatest obstacle women face on the path to senior leadership

For the ninth consecutive year, women face their biggest hurdle at the first critical step up to manager. Many studies say that women hit a “glass ceiling” as they advance in the workplace, and the ceiling is the first step obstacle that prevents women from reaching senior leadership positions.

In reality, the biggest obstacle that women face to lose their positions is not the ceiling but the “broken rung”! But, what is a broken rung?

The report describes broken rung as the phenomenon where ‘women in entry-level positions are promoted to managerial positions at much lower rates than men’. As a result, women fall behind and can’t catch up.

When all women lose ground at the first step-up to the manager, the ‘broken rug’ holds back women from marginalized communities the most. The report shows, for every 100 men promoted from entry-level to manager, 87 women were promoted this year, and 73 women of colour were promoted to manager for every 100 men, down from 82 women of colour last year.

Similarly, the broken rung is stunting the career advancement of Indian women, especially to those from marginalized communities due to often encountering obstacles in their hierarchical development, starting from the early stages of their careers.

Read more: Breaking The Glass Ceiling: Women’s Struggles In Corporate Promotions

Myth 3: Microaggressions have a ‘micro’ impact

Women in the Workplace, report 2023.

Reality: Microaggressions have a large and lasting impact on women

Discrimination based on one’s gender, religion race, sexuality, caste or any other aspects of identity is an everyday injustice in all social institutions.

Microaggressions in the workplace are a significant issue that affects not only employees’ career growth but also their mental health and all other functions in both personal and professional life.

Years of data show that women experience microaggressions at a significantly higher rate than men, especially women from marginalized communities/identities.

In the Indian context, a Dalit, Muslim, Tribal, or woman from any other minority community and women with a disability, the LGBTQIA+ community face more discrimination from getting hired to feeling inclusive and safe in the workplace.

This research highlights how minoritized groups carry a ‘double discrimination’ burden due to their religion and socio-economic historical class background, especially in cross-cultural workplace settings.

Furthermore, 78 percent of women self-shield at work or adjust the way they look or act in an effort to protect themselves from microaggressions. And, they are three times more likely to think about quitting their jobs and four times more likely to almost always be burned out.

Read more: I’m A Proficient Employee Who Happens To Be A Transwoman, So Why The Discrimination?

Myth 4: It’s mostly women who want—and benefit from—flexible work

Men want flexible work hours too

Reality: Men and women see flexibility as a ‘top 3’ employee benefit and critical to their company’s success

Regarding workplace flexibility, both employers and employees have different perceptions. In choosing when and where to work, women employees place significant importance.

Reasons like disproportionate amount of childcare and household responsibilities, and workplace flexibility gave women the opportunity to paid work. The survey found that 38 percent of mothers with young children say they would have had to leave their company or reduce their work hours without workplace flexibility,

Does workplace flexibility only benefit women or mothers? Absolutely No. It is not just women or mothers who benefit from hybrid and remote work, rather most employees do.

A majority of employees, both men and women, highlight workplace flexibility as the primary reason for their work-life balance and better health status.

Research shows that good work–life balance and low burnout are key to organizational success. Moreover, 83 percent of employees cite the ability to work more efficiently and productively as a primary benefit of working remotely.

Read more: Work-Life Balance For Fathers Is Necessary Too, If We Are To Aim For True Equality

5 Recommendations and suggestions from the report

Women in the Workplace 2023 not only report their findings but also provides clear solutions that organizations can implement to make meaningful progress toward gender equality.

The report recommends and suggests five core areas for companies to support and advance women at work.

Track outcomes to improve women’s experience and progression

For any successful business initiative, tracking outcomes is critical.

Measure employees’ outcomes and experiences—and use the data to fix trouble spots, take an intersectional approach to outcome tracking, and Share internal goals and metrics with employees are the few points to do.

Support and reward managers as key drivers of organizational change

As companies more deeply invest in the culture of work, managers play an increasingly critical role. However, managers do not always get the direction and support they need to deliver on them.

To get it fixed, clarify managers’ priorities and reward results, Equip managers with the skills they need to be successful, and Make sure managers have the time and support to get it right.

Take steps to put an end to microaggressions

It is important companies take strict measures to tackle microaggressions. The report recommends a few steps to get started like making clear that microaggressions are not acceptable, teaching employees to avoid and challenge microaggressions, and Creating a culture where it’s normal to surface microaggressions.

Fine-tune flexible working models

Flexibility is the new norm at work, and the next step is unlocking its full potential. For that, the report recommends establishing clear expectations and norms around working flexibly, measuring the impact of new initiatives to support flexibility, and putting safeguards in place to ensure a level playing field across work arrangements.

Fix the broken rung for women, with a focus on women from minority

Here are three steps to get started for fixing the broken rung, and there is no excuse for companies failing to take action. Track inputs and outcomes, Work to de-bias performance reviews and promotions, and Invest in career advancement for women from minorities.


The 2023 report brings to light important realities about women’s experience in the workplace today. It debunks the myths that not only hold back women but also deny them equal rights to work and receive what they are eligible for.

Insights from the study can provide a backdrop for senior leaders as they plan for the future of their organizations. Moreover, to the inclusion of women from all identities and provides what they deserve and in building a great workplace.

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