Glass Ceilings, Glass Cliffs & Broken Rungs

broken rung

The words we use to describe the upward struggle of women in the workplace feel a little shaky. It’s no wonder that integrating gender diversity best practices has been an uphill battle — and women are still underrepresented at junior, mid and senior levels. Even when they’re diligently encouraged to, ‘lean in.’

The problem begins the first time a woman is passed over for a managerial promotion, otherwise known as the ‘broken rung.’ When few women become managers, even fewer can be promoted at a higher level.

According to LeanIn.org:

“Women are less likely to be hired and promoted to manager: For every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, only 72 women are promoted and hired. Men hold 62 percent of manager-level positions, while women hold just 38 percent. The number of women decreases at every subsequent level. One-third of companies set gender representation targets for first-level manager roles, compared to 41 percent for senior levels of management.”

Women not getting promoted at the junior level is only one part of the problem. As you can see from the above statistics, stepping over that broken rung is just the first hurdle.

Mid-Level Attrition and the Glass Cliff

Once a woman makes it past the broken rung, she’s not out of the woods yet. While a managerial promotion gives someone a ‘head start’ to future promotions, it’s mid-level attrition that is the most difficult threshold guardian to pass — especially for women in tech.

Even when someone has been promoted at the junior level, the road through mid-level positions can still be disheartening. And no amount of ‘leaning in’ can help her.

Many women see their male counterparts promoted ahead of them. They’ve heard the ‘diversity hire’ whispers and caught accusing stares one too many times. They work harder to prove themselves. They hide personal information about their families for fear others might have false assumptions about their ‘availability.’

They’re accused of failing to ‘lean in’ to opportunities as they come.

And when the struggle feels like it has become too much to handle, they are offered a position that they haven’t been groomed for — one that is destined to fail; otherwise known as a glass cliff. Or, they are passed over altogether.

Luckily, the solution for mid-level attrition is the same as it is at the junior level: women-only mentorship Power Circles and sponsorship and promotion from superiors (both male and female).

How to Repair the Broken Rung

The two-pronged solution for repairing the broken rung, preventing mid-level attrition and avoiding glass cliffs is the same: sponsorship and promotion from superiors and peer mentorship circles.

Helping Women ‘Lean In’ on the Ladder

Women can only lean in so far. At some point, male allies and organizations need to meet them halfway. They can do this by offering women the same training, mentorship and sponsorship offered to their male counterparts — at all levels.

First and foremost, women need equal sponsorship and promotion from their superiors. But this is easier said than done.

Men subconsciously (and often consciously) receive sponsorship and promotion through superiors, colleagues and out-of-office organizations. These sponsors generally act as ‘talent managers,’ speaking on behalf of employees and making the social and network connections needed to claim future opportunities.

Women-only peer mentorship programs give participants the confidence and the advice they need to seek out, apply for and land promotions. When men apply for a promotion, they (on average) possess only 60 percent of the skills required; women won’t apply unless they have 100 percent.

Peer mentorship circles help women stay on track and encourage them to keep advancing upward.

Male Allies: An Important Piece of the Diversity Puzzle

When everyone has the tools they need to succeed in their jobs, it’s a win-win. Everyone benefits. Yet, we can’t move forward and fix something when many can’t even acknowledge there is a bias.

Male-only support circles can help male allies understand how to help their female counterparts. These types of circles can offer empathy and insight into the world of discrimination women face in the workplace.

The good news? Employing mentorship circles and superior sponsorships is just as effective as one-on-one mentorship, making this solution cost-effective.

In a study conducted with one Fortune 100 company, participants reported that after 25-to-30 hours of virtual meetings with their Power Circles and ‘check-in’ time with other circle members, in addition to being paired with a sponsor within the organization, we were able to reduce attrition rates by 49 percent, saving the company $1.25 million in recruiting costs per cohort of 30.

While we don’t expect things to change overnight, these initial results point to an approach that promises the advancement of women at exponential rates.

(1) The “broken rung” is the biggest obstacle women face, LeanIn.org – 2019 https://leanin.org/women-in-the-workplace-2019

(2) Leveraging the Power of We, Emerging Women – 2019 https://emergingwomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/r9-EW-003-White-Paper.pdf

(3) Sheryl Sandberg: The Gender Gap Isn’t Just Unfair, It’s Bad for Business
– 2019 https://www.wsj.com/articles/sheryl-sandberg-the-gender-gap-isnt-just-unfair-its-bad-for-business-11571112300

(4) Tara Sophia Mohr: Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified – 2014 https://hbr.org/2014/08/why-women-dont-apply-for-jobs-unless-theyre-100-qualified

We’re Not Waiting 117 Years – Inspiration for International Women’s Day

The World Economic Forum predicts it will take until 2133 to achieve gender parity.

Wait… what? The year 2133? That’s 117 years from now, people. Do we really want to wait four generations to achieve what we know will be a world-shifting balance? NO.

This isn’t just about supporting equal pay for women (although it definitely includes that). This year’s campaigns for gender parity make it clear that businesses must harness female talent to really succeed and thrive.

Studies show that organizations most inclusive of women in top management perform up to 35% better than their peers. This study finds that an organization with 30 percent female leaders could add up to 6 percentage points to its net margin.

The bigger picture, then, is to value women equally as leaders – to bring balance to pay grade, yes, but also to respect and value women’s unique talents in the business, economic and political world. In this way we not only ensure that women are able to rise to positions of power, we also encourage men to incorporate more feminine leadership traits into their repertoires, resulting in a more prosperous climate for all.

Here’s what you can do to accelerate the movement. Make the Pledge for Parity. Pledge to call for gender-balanced leadership. Pledge to illuminate paths to leadership for girls and women. Pledge to explode both conscious and unconscious bias and to stay open to new points of view, for yourself, your company and the world.

Are you in?

Keep yourself inspired this International Women’s Day with these wise words from passionate leaders who remind us why equality can’t wait 117 years…

“We are here not because we are law-breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law-makers.” – Emmeline Pankhurst

“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” – Rebecca West

“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half its citizens.” – Michelle Obama

Margaret Mead

“If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse gift will find a fitting place.” – Margaret Mead

 Aung Sang Suu Kyi

“In societies where men are truly confident of their own worth, women are not merely tolerated but valued.” – Aung Sang Suu Kyi

Audre Lorde

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” – Audre Lorde

sheryl sandberg

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” – Sheryl Sandberg

geraldine ferraro

“We’ve chosen the path to equality, don’t let them turn us around.” – Geraldine Ferraro

virginia woolf

“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.” – Virginia Woolf

Juicy Bites: Women Entrepreneurs Reshaping The World

This week we find out:

  • Why women should support, mentor and guide other women
  • How women entrepreneurship is changing the world
  • Powerful wisdom from women in history
  • Why women’s voice in politics matter
  • The inspiring legacy of Judith Daniels, a trailblazer for women in the publishing world

At the end of this post, we encourage you to join us for a conversation. This week’s Juicy Bites question for you, dear emerging women, is:

Cheryl Giovannoni, chief executive of advertising, Ogilvy & Mather. Photograph: Guardian

1. Take advice from the knowledgeable women around you via The Guardian

Cheryl Giovannoni, chief executive of advertising at Ogilvy & Mather shares with us a few valuable pieces of advice. She explains how important is for women to support each other and to offer mentorship.

“Women being there for each other, providing moral support, mentoring and guiding, and giving valuable time, is something that doesn’t happen enough. Helping the next generation of women to make choices that are confident and embraced is something that we all have a responsibility to do, if we have been privileged enough to get to the top ourselves.”- Cheryl Giovannoni

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2. The Global Rise of Female Entrepreneurs via Harvard Business Review

Women entrepreneurship is a phenomenal force that  is truly reshaping the world. Approximately 37% of enterprises globally are women-owned. These women reinvest, create jobs, and innovate. Also, recent research showed that entrepreneurs tend to be more successful because of their trusted status in the community.

“Entrepreneurial activity creates growth and prosperity — and solutions for social problems. And today’s trends show that women will be a driving force of entrepreneurial growth in the future.”- Jackie VanderBrug

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3. Ten Influential Quotes from 10 Powerful Women of the 20th Century via Rise and Actualize

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This is our time to rise and actualize! As women lead the way through an authentic expression of who we are, by leveraging feminine virtues instead of burying them, we will create a more integrated world where the best of the masculine and the feminine work in harmony. This post celebrates some of the most brilliant, courageous, authentic women trailblazers of the 20th century. These women’s wisdom inspire and motive us to move forward and continue to challenge the conventional.

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

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4. Amplifying Their Voices via Huff Post Women

Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, talks about the importance of women’s voices in Washington. Women, who are are a majority of the population — 51 %, and make 85% of the consumer purchases in our country, can no longer tolerate policies that ignore or discriminate women.

“Armed with the thoughts and opinions of our nation’s most influential constituency, there is no more pressing time to amplify the voice of American women.” — Stephanie Schriock

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5.  A Magazine for the “Career Girl” via The New Yorker

Judith Daniels who was a trailblazer for women in the publishing world, dies at 74. Daniels served in senior editing positions at The Village Voice, New York magazine, Time Inc. and Conde Naste, she also founded the only magazine for “career girls” called Savvy: The Magazine for the Executive Woman.

Judith Daniels was leaning in when Sheryl Sandberg was ten years old—which only goes to show that equity in the workplace hasn’t come such a long way, after all. “When men read about successful women, they think they see the Western civilization crumbling,” Judy told a newspaper reporter in 1977, describing her vision for Savvy. “Men tend to overreact to female ambition. To them, ambition is still a dirty word.” Still, Judy emphasized that Savvy was not meant to be anti-male. Savvy would not be “a separatist magazine for militants.”

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We are excited to start a conversation and learn more from YOU, dear emerging women. Leave a comment below:

Juicy Bites This Week: Overcoming our Fears

This week we learn:

  • Wisdom from pioneer science woman Maria Mitchell
  • Why it’s important to take credit for your work
  • The top 100 websites for women
  • Why startup failure is not the end of the world

At the end of this post, we encourage you to join us for a conversation. In one word (or more) tell us:

What does it take to overcome our fears?

1. Pioneering 19th-Century Astronomer Maria Mitchell on Education and Women in Science via Brain Pickings

Maria Mitchell was the first woman to work as a professional astronomer. She became professor of astronomy and the only woman on the faculty at Vassar College in 1865. A trailblazer woman in science, a fighter for equal pay and equality in education, she also co-founded the American Association for the Advancement of Women and became the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

From Maria Mitchell: Life, Letters and Journals (public library; free download) — emerges a portrait of a fascinating, fearless woman.

Check out this diary entry from 1874:

“For women there are, undoubtedly, great difficulties in the path, but so much the more to overcome. First, no woman should say, ‘I am but a woman!’ But a woman! What more can you ask to be?

Born a woman — born with the average brain of humanity — born with more than the average heart — if you are mortal, what higher destiny could you have? No matter where you are nor what you are, you are a power — your influence is incalculable; personal influence is always underrated by the person. We are all centers of spheres — we see the portions of the sphere above us, and we see how little we affect it. We forget the part of the sphere around and before us — it extends just as far every way.”

She also encouraged the freedom of thought:

“Women, more than men, are bound by tradition and authority. What the father, the brother, the doctor, and the minister have said has been received undoubtingly. Until women throw off this reverence for authority they will not develop. When they do this, when they come to truth through their investigations, when doubt leads them to discovery, the truth which they get will be theirs, and their minds will work on and on unfettered.”

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2. What are we all so afraid of? via The Telegraph

A new blog, ifuwerentafraid.tumblr.com shows the impact fear can have on women’s lives. The blog is hosted by Lean In, the campaign run by Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook and the author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.

Anna Maxted, a bestselling author based in North London, England – no stranger to crippling anxiety – wonders what she’d do if she weren’t afraid.

“You gaze at this parade of women on If U Weren’t Afraid and suddenly understand that your fears are ordinary, honest. And yet, how sad to see those discarded dreams.”

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3. Why You Need To Brag More (And How To Do It) via Forbes Woman

A May 2013 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women who work with men are far less likely to take credit for their work than those who collaborate with other women. Instead of  truly accepting their accomplishments , women give away the credit, talking about the great team they had, the collaborative efforts involved, etc. Familiar right? Instead of saying thank you, women are unnecessarily modest.

“A 2012 report from management consulting firm Accenture called “The Next Generation of Working Women” found that women are less likely to speak up than men, less likely to proactively manage their own careers, and less likely to ask for a raise. According to an NPR report that aired last year, the last fact can mean anywhere from $1 million to $1.5 million in lost earnings over a woman’s lifetime. Owning up to your accomplishments isn’t about arrogance; it’s about equality.” ~ Peggy Drexler

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4. The 100 Best Websites For Women, 2013 via Forbes Woman

The fourth annual list of FORBES 100 Best Websites for Women is a formidable resource.  We are curious which one is your favorite? Leave your suggestion in the comment box below.

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5. Why you should ignore startup failure stats via VentureBeat

Melania Brescia Photography
Melania Brescia Photography

Running a startup that eventually fails can be a valuable experience, writes Eran Laniado, managing director of BMN.

Eran explains:

“[…] not attempting to pursue one’s dream may be very frustrating. Moreover, those who never try will never fail. Those who never fail find it difficult to cope with challenging situations outside of their comfort zone when these eventually arise. A failure today may teach a person to cope more successfully with similar situations in the future.”

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This week’s Juicy Bites question for you, dear emerging women is:

Let’s start a conversation. We would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.