The Broken Rung in the Workplace Ladder

It’s easy to draw out the ladder metaphor for workplace advancement. The first rung is your entry-level position, the second rung is a manager position, the third rung is a senior-manager position, and rung by rung you climb to the top of your company.

There is a logical succession to upward mobility at a company. It makes sense that a ladder is a conceptualized picture of the American corporate pegging order– it’s a singularly-focused, rigorous trek. You get hired, work hard, get promoted, worker harder until you end up on the top. This, however, is idealistic and not the reality. The ladder logic is thrown out the window as this climb is disrupted early on by gender bias.

According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace, for every 100 men promoted only 72 women are. This, in turn, has led to a disparity in the managerial level position. Women hold just 38% of managerial positions as opposed to men who make up 62%. This faulty rung of the corporate ladder has been termed the “broken rung” for women.

Courtesy of GreatBusinessSchools

A lot of discussion has been had about the poor representation of women in leadership positions. The term “glass ceiling” has been popularized to refer to the invisible barrier between women and C-Suite positions. However, this disparity can be traced back to early in a women’s career. It isn’t so much the promotion from Vice President to President that excludes women, but the very first promotion from entry-level to a manager.

The onus is on corporations to resolve this promotional breakdown, but the pace of corporations is a slow one. Social change is implemented in small drips in business when biases like the “broken rung” need to be urgently addressed. Bringing awareness to this concept can help members of the workplace empower women early on.

Here are some ways to hurdle over the “broken rung” and set up for a clear path between you and the C-Suite:

  • Find a mentor. Based on Guider data, mentees are five times more likely to be promoted as opposed to their non-mentored counterparts. Learn how to find a mentor virtually by reading these tips.
  • Pick up new skills. Continuous learning is a key trait for any leader. With a rising number of women attending business school, you can consider getting a degree in your field or simply aim to pick up a small skill. Make continuous learning a hallmark of your professional career.
  • Take on responsibilities. You don’t need a title to prove you are qualified for the job. Take on the responsibilities that are expected of the job you want to have and eradicate any doubts that you aren’t the person for the position.
  • Believe in yourself. The thing that will carry you through promotions, biases and any obstacle work throws your way is having self-belief. Know your worth and never discount yourself even when others do.

Yes, for women the corporate ladder has a broken rung. However, that does not mean that women have to continually be disadvantaged by it. Women– if anything, use the ‘broken rung’ as spite. If your company doesn’t value your work enough to promote you accordingly, it is their loss. Remember the skills and expertise you have, and if need be, take those gifts elsewhere and build your own ladder.

Sources: GreatBusinessSchools | Guider | McKinsey