Overcoming the “Broken Rung” in the Pandemic


What would the workforce look like if 25% of women left their jobs? The answer: something similar to the workplace in the 1850s. The problem: this is the current crisis we are facing as women are disproportionately being affected by COVID-19. 

A recent report by McKinsey found that nearly one in four women are considering a downshift in their career, if not a full exit of the workforce completely. This consideration would unravel any advancements made in gender parity in the workplace over the last decade. 

Global pandemic aside, progress toward gender parity is still moving glacially slow. For six consecutive years, women have remained significantly outnumbered in entry-level management a dilemma termed the “broken rung”.

While the glass ceiling has been popularized, the origin of that upper-level gender discrepancy isn’t that last promotion from Vice President to President, instead, it’s that very first push from entry-level to manager. 

This first rung is the hardest for women to step over because of the bias that stands in their way. According to last year’s Women in the Workplace report, women held just 38% of manager-level positions compared to men who held 62%. This means for every 100 men promoted, only 85 are and the gap widens when you look at Black females (58 promoted for every 100 men) and Latinx females (71 promoted for every 100 men). 

The point in highlighting these figures isn’t to discourage, instead to draw attention to the looming female recession that could drive female advancement in business into crisis.

It’s also a lead into reiterating what can be done to overpower gender bias in the workplace. Here are some things to help women advance in the workplace and get those promotions that, by the numbers, predominately go to men.

  • Mentorship

    If you have a mentor you are not twice, not three times, not four times, but five times more likely to get a raise compared to your mentor-less peers. Your mentor is your teacher, leader, friend, advisor and hypewomen all wrapped into one. So, the sooner you find your person the better!

  • Visibility

    Ensure the decision-makers know your name. Whether that’s through standout work, team bonding, extracurriculars or networking, make an effort to know everyone company-wide.  

  • Continuous learning

    If you make continuous learning a hallmark of your professional career you’ll not only earn respect from peers, but the skills you learn will make you seasoned and ready for promotion. Whether you attending an online business school or take a free online class, always keep your mind open to new learning opportunities. 

  • Taking on responsibility

    Before you get the promotion, act like you already have the job and that means doing the actual job. If you want to be a senior-level copywriter, edit extra pieces, take on the same slate of responsibilities as a senior-level and work hard at it. There will be no question you can’t do the job if you’ve proved that you can. 

  •  Self-worth

    The thing that will get you through promotions, hires, fires, downshifts or upswings is yourself. You need to have absolute confidence in your self-worth and work ethic. If you know your worth, you can proudly enter that boss’s office and tell them you are the right person for the job, nobody else. Better yet, when you have self-worth you can mean that. 

As the pandemic rages on and corporations move only inches towards gender parity in the workplace, it’s up to us, women, to propel ourselves forward in the work environment.

Empowerment goes beyond inspirational quotes, it comes down to working hard and leaving no room for any bias or circumstance to threaten the foundational truth we have worked so long to champion – women are essential in the workplace.

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