Forward. Backward. Enough.

We all know women who have broken glass ceilings, won a seat at the table and found their voice to bring more women leaders to the workplace. We applaud their success and grab the hands they stretch out to lift us all up. Together, we’ve done the work and increased the number of women in leadership positions across all industries.

As I reflect on Women’s History Month, however, I find myself asking, “Why isn’t it enough?”

The 2022 and 2023 Kinsey Reports on Women in the Workplace tell us that women are leaving leadership roles in staggering numbers. Voluntary separation by women leaders is up to an all-time high of 10.5 percent. That’s a 40 percent increase since 2020 compared to a 21 percent increase in voluntary separations by men over the same period.

For every woman promoted to the director level, two women directors leave. Rates of first-time promotions to manager raise real concerns, showing that for every 100 men promoted from entry level to manager in 2023, 87 women were promoted, 73 women of color were promoted and, in a particularly troubling relapse, only 54 black women were promoted. That figure is down from a high of 96 women in 2020-2021.

These statistics are particularly concerning for those of us championing diverse leadership in transportation. Despite all our efforts put into DEI and the gains in attracting women to transportation, there are simply not enough women being promoted at all career stages so that we can build C-suites truly reflective and understanding of the communities we serve.

Women leaders want to be promoted. They aspire to senior level roles at the same rate as men at their level. Complex, interconnected, individual and systemic reasons keep women from higher levels of leadership.

The gender pay gap is real and will not close until 2088 at the current rate of progress, according to an American Association of University Women study. A recent survey reveals that working women do not feel respected at work or protected from retaliation for reporting discrimination. Only 11 percent strongly believe their male colleagues respect women as much as they respect other men in the workplace, 80 percent agree/are unsure that men have less respect for women managers than they do for male managers and 82 percent agree/are unsure that reporting gender bias or discrimination issues at work would lead to negative ramifications for job security or career advancement.

Women did not create these issues. These issues did not magically disappear when women became leaders. Now women leaders are increasingly under pressure to find solutions where their male predecessors have failed.

The McKinsey reports show that women often do more DEI and employee well-being related work compared to men at their same level. In addition, 40 percent of women leaders say their DEI work is not acknowledged at all in performance reviews. It is no wonder that 43 percent of women leaders are burned out, compared with only 31 percent of men at their same level.

During Women’s History Month, let us thank the women leaders who paved the way by giving them a break. All of us—men and women at all stages of our careers—can find ways to support, promote and value women and all the diverse people who make our teams stronger and more insightful. This is not women’s work; it is on all of us to find fixes that will create more inclusive workplace policies, processes and cultures. Continue to hire and promote women and support their success by replacing behaviors that diminish with behaviors that respect. Ask a man to take meeting notes. Ask the women on your teams for their ideas and do not let anyone else take credit for them. Call out biased language and promote respect for all team members. Too many women have had enough. It is time to share the burden so we can all share the success.

Inez Evans leads WSP’s national bus practice and is a Director of WTS International.

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