The Incredible Shrinking Woman
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What is the Broken Rung?

Ladder broken rung

by guest author, Lily Crager

The corporate ladder

The corporate ladder is a commonly known analogy in the American workplace. It’s representative of honest and hard work to secure a prosperous life and achieve upward mobility. In short, it’s the American Dream.

The analogy makes sense, too. There is a pecking order at corporations and the climb to be at the top of that pecking order is a rigorous and vertical trek. However, for women, the corporate ladder is full of trap doors and faulty steps. Namely, the very first step is known as the “broken rung”.

According to a report by McKinsey, women held just 38% of entry-level management positions while men held 62% in 2019. That means for every 100 men promoted only 85 women are promoted, and for Latinas and Black women that gap widens (71 Latinas promoted to every 100 men, and 58 Black women to every 100 men). This gap in entry-level managerial positions is known as the “broken rung” in women’s trajectory toward career success.

Clock longer hours American Dream

Work Harder, Clock Longer Hours

A majority of women's answers for how to ascend the corporate ladder is to simply work harder-- clock longer hours, take on extra tasks, and in general, bend over backward to deliver superior results. Unfortunately, this strategy, although heroic, will lead to burnout, stress, and it may not even guarantee a promotion.

The best thing to do is to take a step back from the entire ladder scheme. Pause the deadline-driven work and gain some perspective. It’s in seeing the bigger problems that you can create room to think strategically about your career path and free yourself from the weight of managerial authority. Here are a few methods to help you create your own ladder of success:

  • Look to get a mentor. Someone you admire, trust, and can turn to for advice or just a conversation. You’re also five times more likely to get a promotion if you have a mentor, so get your networking hat on and start sending those LinkedIn requests!
  • Always aim to learn something new. Continuous learning is essential for sparking new perspectives and further advancements. Whether that means attending business school or taking reading a book in your industry, always keep your mind open to learning new things.
  • Know your worth. Lastly, but most importantly, know your worth. Know that you are more than your title and that your work deserves recognition. If your boss won’t give it to you, then carve your own path.

Break Out of the Mold

Yes, the corporate ladder is the traditional way, but it’s a broken climb for women. There are other trajectories to the top. As a record number of women attend business school, getting an MBA is a viable option if you want to trailblaze your own path and start a venture of your own.

Whichever path you choose, make it your own. Plot your ascent to the top, build the ladder and decide to climb each rung, instead of blindly following a corporate one with broken rungs and systematic obstacles for women.

Sources: McKinsey | Guider | GreatBusinessSchools


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