A major new study of 30,000 North American employees by McKinsey and LeanIn.Org reveals several surprising facts about how men and women interact at work today. See which of these results surprises you most:

Working moms, parental leave, minorities--not what you think

  1. The study revealed motherhood doesn't squash ambition. Moms in the workplace are 15% more likely to want an executive promotion than non-moms.
  2. Women don't leave their employers faster, either--an idea I've heard all my life. Women are leaving their organizations at the same or lower rates as men. Women leaders are more likely to stay with their company than their guy peers. In fact, compared with men at the same level, SVP-level women are 20 percent less likely to leave, and women in the C-suite are about half as likely to leave.
  3. No one buys the corporate line that you should take family time-90% of women and men believe taking extended family leave will jeopardize their career. And the idea that minorities are disengaged? Far from it.
  4. Black, Hispanic, and Asian women are actually more interested in being promoted than white employees of both genders.

What's holding you back?

For both sexes, gender is a sticky point.

  1. 40% of female senior managers believe their gender is inhibiting their success.
  2. So do 15% of men. They believe it's harder for them to advance than it is for women.
  3. 88% of men believe women have the same or greater opportunities at work as they do.Meanwhile,
  1. Women are four times more likely than their male peers to think they have fewer advancement opportunities solely based on their gender.
  2. Plus, women are three times more likely to believe they were passed over for a promotion because of gender.

Promotions aren't based on merit

The reality of getting passed over for promotion based on something other than merit gets a big nod from both sexes.

10. Two thirds of men and women don't believe the companies they work promote based on merit anyway. So what are career opportunities based on, if not merit? Many of them, the study results suggest, are based on who you know and more importantly, who knows you.

The networking gap

11. Women and men enter the work force at roughly the same rates. They advance equally from entry level to mid level positions.

12. Then, the gap starts to widen, so that only 70% of women make the rise from SVP to C suite, where 98% of men do.

For women, promotion opportunities dwindle as they build seniority.

13. It takes a toll. As they move into senior management, only 28% of women are happy with their careers, compared with 40% of men in senior management. Many of them lose the desire to move up further.

So what's going on? One possible explanation is the "girl ghetto" effect. It goes like this: Men have mostly male networks. Women have mixed networks of women and men. Until men have more equally mixed networks, women won't have access to senior leadership, which is predominantly male. The study has a detailed analysis of the gender-based networking habits rising executives if you want to take a look at how this plays out.

14. For example, twenty percent of senior-level men say that four or more executives sponsor them.

15. For women, only ten percent of senior-level women can count four sponsors.

Why aren't men networking with women?

Interestingly, it seems they think they are.

16. Only 1 in 9 men believe that women have fewer opportunities than they do.

The CEOs are most convincing.

17. 74% of women believe their CEO is committed to gender diversity.

18. Half of men nod along, believing gender diversity is a top priority for the CEO.

19. Only about a third of women think it's a top priority for the CEO. They believe the CEO considers gender diversity more of a "nice to have" not a "need."

Perceptions aside, the devil is in the execution.

20. Only 33% of women think their direct manager is even committed to gender diversity--66% think "not so much."

21. Only 40% of companies in the study had gender diversity goals that managers were accountable for. You can't change what you can't track.

Diversity drives performance

Gender diversity in leadership is worth tracking. The direct performance rewards are worth it, no matter which size company you're calling home. In startups, gender-diverse founding teams outperform male-only teams by 63%, according to a recent study by FirstRound. When it comes to finance, diverse fund portfolio management outperforms male-only portfolio management by 60%, according to KPMG.

In the corporate world, the latest Catalyst Bottomline report found that,

  • Return on Equity: Companies with the highest percentages of women board directors outperformed those with the least by 53 percent.
  • Return on Sales: Those with the highest percentages of women board directors outperformed those with the least by 42 percent.
  • Return on Invested Capital: Companies with the highest percentages of women board directors outperformed those with the least by 66 percent.

What you can do

  • Track the gender pipeline in your organization so you act from facts, not feelings.
  • As you network, insist on a gender neutral stance from yourself, whether you are a woman leader or a man leader. Start today.
  • Gentlemen, commit to mentor at least as many, if not more, women as men. It's the ultimate performance power move.
  • Speak up when you see a panel, board, or committee that's all one gender. Not being included doesn't necessarily mean women are excluded (even if it feels like that). This study suggests that many senior men actually don't know that many professional women-do them a solid and suggest a few. Insist on diverse participation from a performance position.
Published on: Oct 6, 2015
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