2019 McKinsey Report: ‘Broken Rung’ In Corporate Ladder Leading To Too Few Women At The Top

Posted: November 7, 2019

According to the fifth report on Women In the Workplace by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org, female representation at entry level positions is not encouraging enough

McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org have come out with their fifth report about Women in the Workplace 2019. Even with more women in the boardrooms, female representation – especially for women of colour – in the entry-level positions is not encouraging. This definitely will have an impact on women trying to go higher up the hierarchical chains in organisations.

This data is collected from around 600 companies. The companies have over a quarter of a million employees surveyed, along with more than 100 in-depth one-on-one interviews, to know about their experiences at work.

The trickle-down effect of having more Women in C-Suite

In 2019, around 44 percent of the total companies surveyed had three or more women in their topmost level of management, the C-suite. This is definitely an improvement from the 29 percent in 2015.

The companies are realising the benefits of having more women in top-level management as they influence the business decisions and the organisation culture. This is probably why they are hiring or promoting more women at the director level and above in the past few years. Though the progress made is heartening, even now, only 1 in 5 among top-level executives is a woman—and only 1 in 25 of the total number of executives is a woman of colour, something that needs to be looked into.

Entry-level conundrum needs urgent attention

The percentage of women representation may have seen a growth in the past 5 years, but the reality is that they continue to be underrepresented at every level. But the key impediment that women face is much earlier in the pipeline when they try and take their first step from an entry-level executive to a manager.

Taking care of this “broken rung” is the key to achieving parity. The present numbers state that the ratio of entry-level executives being promoted or hired to managerial positions is 100 to 72 in favour of men. No wonder then that men end up holding 62 percent of manager-level positions. This leads to more women being stranded at the entry-level, and fewer women are becoming managers which no doubt affects their morale.

The inequality has a long-term impact on the talent pipeline. Because men outnumber women at the managerial level considerably, there are significantly fewer women to hire or promote to senior managers. The number of women decreases at every subsequent level due to which they are still playing catch up.

The case for fixing the broken rung is powerful. If women are promoted and hired to first-level managers at the same rates as men, corporates in the US will add one million more women in their management over the next five years.

Prevention is better than cure

The employers need to be proactive and work on finding optimal solutions to address this problem before it is too late. To do so they can take the following steps:

  • Include more women in the prospective list of candidates while looking to hire for managerial roles
  • Constantly check for unconscious bias within those responsible for hiring. Also provide them training to correct that problem because any kind of prejudice will invariably hamper the goal of achieving greater representation for women
  • Strict adherence to the evaluation criterion set by the management. And encouraging more women to undertake leadership training and including them in more high-profile assignments.

Employee satisfaction is paramount

Employees across all demographic groups are happier with their company and are more likely to stay when they feel they have equal opportunity for advancement and think the system is fair. But many of the employees do believe that the system is not fair for everyone.

Less than half of the women and men think the best opportunities are given to deserving employees. And fewer than a quarter feel that the most qualified candidates are promoted to managerial roles.

Management needs to step up to the challenge

Employees feel that adequate support from their superiors (through giving more responsibilities and providing sponsorship opportunities) along with impartial hiring and promotion practices are important to create a fair and equitable workplace environment.

Managerial support is essential because, as per the report, only about one in four employees confirm that their managers assist them in shaping their career. And about one in three employees say that their managers provide them better career opportunities. At the same time, less than a third of the employees get the sponsorship from their superiors to get ahead in their career.

Some women groups are worse off than others

Women of colour, lesbian and bisexual women and women with disabilities face even worse experiences than other women. More barriers to advancement, inadequate support from managers and fewer sponsorship opportunities leave them less happy at work. That they are more likely to quit their jobs is a very serious concern.

Gender Diversity: Commitment vs. Reality

Although 87 percent of companies are right behind the goal of gender diversity, compared to the 74 percent in 2015, many employers need to do more treat gender diversity with utmost seriousness.

Setting diversity targets and sharing diversity metrics across the board, holding leaders accountable and rewarding them when they make progress is the need of the hour.

Picture credits: Pexels

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