The Corporate Ladder Has a Broken Rung

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The Rise of Women MBAs

What do you think is worthy of a promotion? Extraordinary work, a proven track record of hitting performance quotas, notable leadership skills are all legitimate qualifiers. 

This, however, gets to be more complicated when looking at entry-level promotions. Entry-level workers have a short track record, they are just learning new skills and getting used to hitting quotas. They are in the growth phase of corporate metamorphosis. So, what qualifies a worthy promotion for an entry-level position? Based on the numbers, gender bias plays a huge part in the decision. 

For every 100 men promoted only 85 women are, and that gap widens for Latinas (71 Latinas for every 100 men) and Black women (only 58 Black women for every 100 men). This leads to a drastic disproportionate representation of women in entry-level managerial positions. Women held just 38% of these positions while men held 62% in 2019, according to McKinsey.

Furthermore, this entry-level dilemma is made systemic as research has shown that men are more likely to promote other men and women are more likely to promote their female peers.  

This breakdown on the corporate ladder for women is known as the “broken rung”. Research and press have popularized the glass ceiling or the invisible barrier between women and the C-suite. However, it turns out that the disparity isn’t in that last promotion from Vice President to President, instead that very first promotion from entry-level. 

So, no matter how often we hear the advice, “you’re figuring out in your 20s”, the opposite seems to be the case for women. It’s in this very first role that performance matters in order to get over that broken rung.

There are a few things to do early in your career to hurdle this bias. The most important one is finding a mentor. If you have a mentor, you’re five times more likely to get promoted as opposed to your mentorless peers. So, put on your networking hat and get to sending those polished emails! 

Along with mentorship, arm yourself with an arsenal of skills. Making continuous learning a hallmark of your professional career. Whether that’s attending an online business school or simply reading a book about your industry, those unique insights are invaluable. 

Finally, and most importantly, know your worth. Whether it’s promotions, difficult clients, disrespectful comments, or career indecision, you will be able to navigate through these hardships if you believe in yourself. Know your value and be confident in that.

It’s also encouraging to see indicators that women in business are advancing. More women than ever before are enrolling in business schools, the representation of female leadership is slowly, but surely growing. These advancements are thanks to the continuous efforts women have made to champion gender parity, despite circumstances like the “broken rung”. 

However, we are facing a threat to these advancements and a deepening of the gender gap in the workplace as the pandemic disproportionately affects women. In a report by McKinsey, it was found that nearly one in four women are considering a downshift in their careers or a complete exit from the workplace in general. That would remove 25% of women in the workplace, a fate that would set gender parity back decades. 

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This looming crisis can only be combated with an empowered attitude. We need to support female peers and continue to call out biases present in the workplace. 

Sources: McKinsey | PayScale | Guider | GreatBusinessSchools