Women are locked out of senior roles due to a 'broken rung' on their career ladders, McKinsey says

Business Insider Finance 1 month ago
  • New research suggests that the biggest obstacle to closing the gender gap in senior management isn't a glass ceiling, it's a broken rung.
  • Only 72 women are promoted or hired to first-level manager for every 100 men, resulting in women holding just 38% of manager-level positions, according to a new report on women in the workplace by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org.
  • "Unless we close the disparities in hiring and promotions that make up the broken rung, we are many decades away from reaching parity, if we reach it at all," the authors wrote.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The biggest obstacle to closing the gender gap in senior management isn't a glass ceiling, it's a broken rung.

Only 72 women are promoted or hired to first-level manager for every 100 men, leading to more women getting stuck in entry-level roles and significantly fewer women than men in contention for senior positions. The gap in those taking that first step has resulted in women holding just 38% of manager-level positions, according to Women in the Workplace 2019, a report by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org based on surveys of HR managers and analysis of pipeline data from 329 companies employing more than 13 million people.

"The number of women decreases at every subsequent level. So even as hiring and promotion rates improve for women at senior levels, women as a whole can never catch up. There are simply too few women to advance," LeanIn.Org cofounder and CEO Rachel Thomas and her coauthors wrote.

The discrepancy in hiring and promoting women to first-level management roles disproportionately affects women of color. For every 100 men, only 58 black women and 68 Latinas are promoted, and only 64 black women and 57 Latinas are hired, the report found.

HR leaders and employees also lack awareness of the issue: more than half of them expect their company to achieve gender parity in leadership over the next decade. Only 19% of HR bosses flagged promotion to first-level manager roles as the biggest challenge to reaching gender parity in management, compared to 47% who pointed to women's poorer access to sponsorship and 45% who highlighted a lack of qualified women in the pipeline. Just 7% of men identified the first step up as women's largest obstacle.

"Unless we close the disparities in hiring and promotions that make up the broken rung, we are many decades away from reaching parity, if we reach it at all," the report's authors wrote. "Fixing it will set off a positive chain reaction across the entire pipeline. More entry-level women will rise to management, and more women in management will rise to senior leadership."

Addressing the broken rung would add 1 million more women to management over the next five years, the authors estimated. They outlined several steps for companies to take, including setting a goal to get more women into first-level management, putting more women in line for those promotions, and establishing clear evaluation criteria.


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