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Pipeline of Future Female Leaders Shrinking, Research Says

Data suggests dissatisfaction among women in middle and upper leadership, and less likely to recommend their workplace to others.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Today, Linkage, a SHRM company, released its Advancing Women Leaders research. The data examines the advancement pipeline crisis facing women in the highest leadership ranks while exploring women’s attitudes toward their workplace. The research suggests that, as they advance through their company’s ranks, female leaders become less willing to recognize their current workplace as one to recommend to other aspiring and working women leaders.

The report, collected from over 3,000 women through Linkage’s Advancing Women Organizational Assessment, shows that while a large majority of women (81 percent) share values with their employers, those same workers are less likely (47 percent) to stay with their companies. Furthermore, as women reach the director or senior director role, they are less likely than earlier in their career to recommend their organizations as “a great place for women leaders to work” (Net Promoter Score = 0). This trend, evidence of a decline in company commitment as women’s careers progress, will lead to fewer women candidates for promotion to upper management/C-suite roles. And from the manager level up, a gender gap in the pipeline emerges. With less women in the director and senior director roles recommending their workplace, the result will be even less gender diversity upper management.

Additionally, SHRM’s Women in Leadership: Unequal Access on the Journey to the Top Report supports these findings. The report found that 1 in 3 women managers believe they do not have an equal chance at promotion compared to their male counterparts. And because women are more likely to believe they will not be advanced, they are less likely to bring new women into their current employer’s ranks and are more likely to move to another other company.

“It’s a make-or-break moment when it comes to equitable advancement of women in the workforce,” said Jennifer McCollum, CEO of Linkage. “Employers who nurture future talent through dedicated women’s leadership development can prevent this gap from widening.”

Additional key findings include: 

Access to Growth and Opportunities

  • More than 3 in 4 female managers (78 percent) were less likely to say employees are aware of internal job openings than their male counterparts (86 percent).
  • Nearly 2 in 5 female managers (37 percent) say they were given fewer opportunities for upward mobility compared to their male colleagues.

Causes for Leaving

  • Half of the respondents stated that flexibility is a top-three consideration when deciding whether to stay or leave a company.
  • More than 2 in 5 respondents (43 percent) expressed a feeling of burnout at their current workplace.

To continue advancing women leaders, employers need to be keen on the support and upward mobility opportunities their female employees require. Linkage, named one of the 2023 Top Training Companies in the leadership training sector, is a global workforce development firm committed to promoting women and accelerating inclusion in leaders and organizations. To learn more about Linkage and its work with women in the workforce, please visit:


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