A McKinsey report finds women are “unable to enter” the tech industry

Trying to get a foot in the door.
Trying to get a foot in the door.
Image: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
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Across most industries, there’s a notable gender disparity at the very top. But in some sectors, including tech, it’s hard for women to even get a foot in the door.

A report from McKinsey released Tuesday (March 22) finds that women are “unable to enter” the technology, energy and basic materials, and automotive and industrial manufacturing industries. In technology, 37% of women make up entry-level roles, and only a fraction go on to advance to the C-suite. According to the firm, women hold 15% of tech’s chief officer titles.

McKinsey explains this discrepancy by pointing to the pipeline problem. There simply aren’t enough women studying engineering to recruit from, since they make up 20% of bachelor’s degrees, 24% of master’s degrees, and 23% of doctorates in engineering.

The report also points to industries where female employees are “stuck at the middle” and “locked out of the top.” The three groups are represented in the below chart grid. The charts in dark blue are the industries where women are “unable to enter.” Dark purple represents “stuck in the middle,” and the ones in pink are the industries where women are “locked out of the top.”

In logistics and transportation, health care and pharmaceuticals, and hospitality, many women are simply “stuck at the middle.” In these fields, there’s large female representation (48% to 64%) in entry-level jobs, but women thin out in middle-management roles, says McKinsey. Furthermore, women are “locked out of the top” in retailing and consumer goods, media and telecom, and financial and professional services. While the industries in this third group are likely to advance women to middle management, very few will make it to the C-suite.

The data might suggest that women are leaving the workforce at greater rates compared with their male counterparts, but a September study (pdf) conducted by McKinsey and LeanIn.org, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s nonprofit, found that women, on average, are leaving their organizations at the same or lower rates as men. In fact, it showed that female senior vice presidents were 20% less likely to leave and women in the C-suite were half as likely to leave.