Women might make up about 51% of the population, but only represent about 25% of the C-suite in the U.S. Recent McKinsey & Company figures show that there are four men for every one woman in executive positions. It’s a persistent gap that companies should be working to fill.

There’s been some progress, of course. However, as noted by Crystal Crump, managing director of company relations at national workforce development nonprofit LaunchCode, we’re still stumbling along. Crump laments that women’s grips on the rungs of the corporate ladder have slipped precipitously since 2020. She explains that during the pandemic, women felt greater responsibility to embrace the caretaker persona, often at the expense of their occupational goals. Certainly, many worked extra hours, but they still lost ground when it came to advancing their careers.

Young women in their formative working years especially are feeling the pressure. LinkedIn found that women with leadership aspirations need to push harder than their male counterparts during their first decade of working because for every woman who makes it to the leadership level, almost twice as many men make it. If they don’t “sprint” early, Karin Kimbrough, chief economist at LinkedIn, notes that women’s opportunities for advancement become narrower and narrower.

These problems point to the need for employers to rethink their cultures and attitudes toward women in the workforce. Women deserve the ability to follow their pursuits without being hindered because of their gender. Below are three ways that companies can make changes that will help professional women advance:

1. Improve strategies for career growth.

Gender diversity in any organization has a lot to do with hiring policies. Consider job descriptions: Glassdoor explains that certain words or phrases might make women feel they’re not welcome to apply. These can include everything from superlatives like “world-class” and “superior” to titles like “guru,” “hacker,” or “ninja.”

Beyond job descriptions that could seem gender-charged, employers can reevaluate how they assess candidates, particularly for advanced roles that require more experience. For example, many women might have gaps on their résumés because they took breaks to raise young children. An estimated 43% of women exit the workforce after becoming mothers, according to The Mom Project. This leaves them with résumé gaps that can keep them from ever being chosen for initial interviews when they decide to rejoin the workforce.

Companies can and should do better jobs at seeing gaps on anyone’s résumé as talking points and not necessarily reasons to turn applicants away. Hiring managers can also help the women on their teams make internal moves through robust mentoring and training programs. Career pathing isn’t just good for ambitious women; it’s good for businesses because it helps reduce turnover and improve succession planning.

2. Create an inclusive environment for working mothers.

There’s no doubt that working mothers continue to face bias in the workplace. They’re frequently overlooked for promotions, despite having qualifications that make them ideal candidates for manager, director, and executive positions. The assumption is that they wouldn’t be able to balance the needs of both job and familial duties. But that’s an unfounded assumption based on fear and bias.

If the pandemic showed nothing else, it showed that people can work from anywhere. Additionally, we all discovered the value of asynchronous work. So, why can’t working mothers be empowered to set schedules that work for them, their direct reports, and their companies? It seems ridiculous to assume that a woman can’t succeed in both her personal and professional life.

A YouGov study found that 57% of women want flexible working arrangements. This can include the ability to work remotely some or all of the time. Giving women (and men) this option can bring more working mothers into the workplace and perhaps keep other women from leaving.

3. Establish employer-supported mental health programs.

In a 2021 survey, nearly three-quarters of women told LinkedIn that work was causing them undue stress. Though every job is stressful at times, constant stress can quickly lead to mental health strain and burnout. In fact, women are 32% more apt to experience burnout than men.

Employer-sponsored and employer-supported mental health offerings can help. McKinsey recommends that workplaces offer resources to support mental health, such as educational workshops and assistance programs. The more resources women have, the more likely they’ll be able to mitigate mental health concerns before they interfere with their work.

One of the biggest reasons that professional women are leaving employers right now is to find organizations that prioritize well-being. Businesses that take this seriously will be able to attract and retain talented women.

It takes a diverse team to stay competitive in today’s quick-moving corporate environment. Employers who want to stay at the leading edge need to do what’s necessary to avoid losing the skills and talents of qualified women around the globe.


  • Brittany Hodak

    Keynote Speaker and Author

    Brittany Hodak is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and customer experience speaker who has delivered keynotes across the globe to organizations including American Express and the United Nations. She has written hundreds of articles for Forbes, Adweek, Success, and other top publications; she has appeared on programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN; and she has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands and entertainers, including Walmart, Disney, Katy Perry, and Dolly Parton. She originated the role of Chief Experience Officer at Experience.com, and she founded and scaled an entertainment startup to eight figures before exiting. Entrepreneur magazine calls her “the expert at creating loyal fans for your brand.” Brittany’s debut book, Creating Superfans, will be in stores on January 10, 2023.