The 2023 Women in the Workplace Report Through the Legal Lens

November 10, 2023

McKinsey & Company and recently released their 2023 Women in the Workplace report. This is the ninth year they conducted this research (you can see our summary of the 2022 report here).  

Key Takeaways from the 2023 Women in the Workplace Report 

Key Challenges Women Face 

The report outlines four myths about women in the workplace:  

  • Myth: Women are becoming less ambitious. 
  • Myth: The glass ceiling is the biggest barrier to women advancing in their careers.  
  • Myth: Microaggressions have a ‘micro’ impact.  
  • Myth: It’s mostly women who want – and benefit more – from flexible work.  

The report digs deeper into each of these myths about women’s workplace experiences and career advancement to uncover the realities and help companies find a path forward that casts aside outdated thinking once and for all and accelerates progress for women. The report is filled with helpful insights, and we recommend reading it in its entirety. (Read it here) 

Recommendations for Companies 

The report goes on to recommend five core areas of focus for companies looking to support and advance women:  

  1. Track outcomes for women’s representation.  
  2. Empower managers to be effective people leaders.  
  3. Address microaggressions head-on.  
  4. Unlock the full potential of flexible work.  
  5. Fix the broken rung, once and for all.  

The Recommendations Through a Legal Lens 

Track outcomes for women’s representation.  

The report highlights that tracking outcomes is critical to any successful business initiative, and we agree. There is real value in tracking women’s representation across the workplace as well as other diversity metrics.  

That said, it’s important that any program tracking these outcomes considers worker wellbeing, discrimination laws, and the privacy risk of collecting and storing data.  

A few things to keep in mind when collecting information about gender and other protected categories:  

  • Make the form optional but outline the benefits of completing it, including the potential for improved diversity.  
  • Include diverse answers alongside a ‘prefer not to say’ option. Employees may be comfortable disclosing some but not all answers. By providing an inclusive questionnaire and giving employees space to not share if they aren’t comfortable, you’ll likely increase your uptake and improve your data. It’s a win-win.  
  • Disaggregate the data and ensure the information doesn’t make its way into employee files.  
  • Understand that even if employees provide the information anonymously, it may still constitute sensitive personal information. For example, if you only have two Black team members or three Latino team members, it’s more likely that their questionnaires will be attributable to them, especially if the answers to each question aren’t separated from the questionnaire in its entirety.  

Empower managers to be effective people leaders. 

Companies looking to implement policies to attract and retain women should invest in training managers about potential biases and how to overcome them. Unconscious bias training can also help companies reduce the risk of discrimination and sexual harassment claims. 

These previous articles are also helpful: 

Address microaggressions head on.  

A microaggression is “demeaning or dismissive comments and actions – rooted in bias – directed at a person because of their gender, race, or other aspects of their identity.” Examples include: 

  • Asking an Asian American to teach words in their ‘native language’. 
  • White individuals hiding valuables around Black or Latino individuals.  
  • Comments like, “Everyone can succeed if they work hard enough”.  
  • Telling a racist or sexist joke and then saying, “I was just joking.”  

Failing to address microaggressions in a California workplace may increase your risk of a hostile work environment claim, as well as an exodus of female and diverse employees.  

To address microaggressions, companies can:  

  1. Provide training on microaggressions for all employees; 
  2. Create a culture in which employees are comfortable speaking up and challenging microaggressions; and  
  3. Have a clear policy prohibiting microaggressions, including a clear process for reporting complaints.  

Unlock the full potential of flexible work. 

‘One sentence that really resonated with me is “These women are defying the outdated notion that work and life are incompatible – and that one comes at the expense of the other”. This is exactly why Noam and I founded CGL. And we’re excited to see what happens with more movement in this direction.’ – Hannah Genton, Founding Partner at CGL.  

We’ve covered flexibility in several other posts: 

Navigating workplace law and worker autonomy. 

Policies to improve employee wellbeing. 

5 tips for implementing a four-day work week. 

Fix the broken rung. 

A key step in fixing the broken rung is to implement policies that reduce the risk of bias creeping into promotion and pay decision-making.  

We previously highlighted some key tips for implementing employee performance and promotion guidelines:  

  1. Detail the rationale behind the policy (to improve workplace culture).  
  2. Confirm which employees the policy applies to.  
  3. Clearly outline any criteria for advancement.  
  4. Detail when employee advancement opportunities are considered.  
  5. Make and retain detailed contemporaneous notes about decision-making to reduce risk.  

If you need help updating your workplace policies, the CGL employment attorneys are ready to assist you.  



The materials available at this website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this website or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between CGL and the user or browser. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.

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