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How lion pride dynamics provide insight into the main issues women face at work

Lianna Brinded
Head of Finance, Yahoo Finance UK
Pic: Yahoo Finance

Lions are interesting animals to consider when exploring the division of labour between genders. Males are designed to mate, sleep, and fight. It’s down to the lioness in the pride to hunt for food, raise the cubs, and secure the territory.

When we look at the workplace, we see these dynamics being played out in offices and boardrooms.

Dr Sundiatu Dixon-Fyle, the global client development lead in McKinsey & Company’s recently-created Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) service line, outlined a number of issues that hold women back from progressing up the ladder, in an interview on Yahoo Finance Presents: It’s A Jungle Out There. 

One key example is the roles women and men tend to have at work and how that means it puts each of the genders on a different path — namely it’s harder for women to become leaders, while men are put on an almost automatic trajectory to become a boss. 

“There’s a statistic that’s very troubling. We didn’t only look at the representation of executive teams but also what kinds of roles women had on those teams,” said Dixon-Fyle.  “[We split] them between [two types of roles.] The first are line roles, which are essentially the roles that lead to CEO and are more related to the business line — 95% of chief executives are promoted from line roles, which include chief finance officer. And the second are staff roles, which are more support roles.”

“We found that women were twice as likely to be in staff versus line roles,” she added.

The Jungle podcast is a new 10-part series that unpacks productivity lessons from nature. This week’s episode looks at women in the workplace and the acute challenges they face in terms of pay, position, and subconscious biases that prevent them from working in a level playing field. During the discussion, Dixon-Fyle also highlighted the need to understand the intersectionality of issues when it came to women of colour in the workplace.

Charts: McKinsey

“When you take black women, they are four times more likely to be in staff roles than line roles. So it’s probably no surprise that there are really no black female CEOs if you look at the Fortune 500,” said Dixon-Fyle. “So I definitely, think there is a double hit (for women of colour).”

To understand how you can create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, listen to the full episode above, or download it on Apple Podcasts, ACast, or Google podcasts to listen while on the go.