Women have made significant strides in breaking through the glass ceiling in recent years, with women's representation in the C-suite reaching an all-time high. However, a persistent obstacle remains at the middle management level, commonly referred to as the "broken rung." This hurdle, as identified in the Women in the Workplace 2023 report from McKinsey and LeanIn.Org, hinders the advancement of women aspiring to reach corporate leadership. The report, based on a comprehensive survey of over 27,000 women in the US and Canada, highlights that women's representation in the C-suite has surged by 6% since 2018, marking a promising milestone.
The ‘broken rung’ is the greatest obstacle women face on the path to senior leadership.
While we celebrate these strides, progress has not been shared equally, and women of color continue to be significantly underrepresented in leadership positions. The report found that women are 13% less likely to be promoted to manager than men, and women of color are 40% less likely to be promoted. This gap is even wider at the senior manager level, where women are 21% less likely to be promoted than men, and women of color are 57% less likely to be promoted. This underscores the need for organizations to address the underlying factors that impede the career progression of women of color and foster a more inclusive and equitable workplace where all women have the opportunity to thrive at all levels.
Strategies for Equitable Advancement
To effectively bridge the "broken rung" and create a more equitable path for women to reach leadership positions, organizations should focus on the following five core areas:
- Tracking Outcomes for Women's Representation: Regularly monitor and measure women's representation at all levels of the organization to identify areas for improvement and track progress over time.
- Empowering Managers to Be Effective People Leaders:
- Clarify managers' priorities and reward results. Companies need to explicitly communicate to managers what is core to their roles and motivate them to take action. The most effective way to do this is to include responsibilities like career development, DEI, and employee well-being in managers' job descriptions and performance reviews.
- Provide managers with training and resources to develop their skills in identifying, supporting, and promoting talent, particularly among women. This includes creating a culture of mentorship and sponsorship, providing access to leadership development programs, and encouraging managers to actively seek out and promote women for advancement opportunities.
- Addressing Microaggressions Head-On: Establish clear policies and procedures for addressing microaggressions to create a workplace where everyone feels respected and included. This includes providing training for employees on how to identify and respond to microaggressions, creating a safe space for employees to report microaggressions, and taking appropriate disciplinary action against those who engage in microaggressions.
- Unlocking the Full Potential of Flexible Work: Offer flexible work arrangements that enable employees to balance their personal and professional lives without compromising their career advancement. This includes offering options such as telework, flexible hours, and paid parental leave.
- Fixing the Broken Rung: Focus on identifying and removing barriers that prevent women from advancing to senior management positions. This includes addressing unconscious bias, providing women with access to the same opportunities as men, and creating a supportive environment where women feel encouraged to take on leadership roles.
Through my work at AMS and with our clients, I've witnessed firsthand how implementing these strategies can make progress in addressing the broken rung, foster a more equitable workplace, and empower women to reach their full potential.
Read the referenced article and download the full report for more insight.