1. Affirmative action is the way to go
  2. Recognize women leaders
  3. Be receptive to your employees’ needs
  4. Listen to your employees
  5. Understand that growth is mutual


  • The broken rung refers to hurdles women face in entry-level positions that make it more difficult to achieve promotions.
  • These hurdles are usually due to gender-based or intersectional discrimination.
  • This results in companies performing at less than optimal levels since highly qualified women employees may be overlooked.
  • Employee happiness and retention also suffers further hurting the company. 
  • The broken rung can be fixed by focusing on promoting gender diversity and providing equal opportunity for all employees.


The ‘broken rung’ phenomenon

Much remains in the way for recognition of women in the workplace, a recent study by  McKinsey & Co. and Lean In has found. Women are just as ambitious as men but find it harder to climb the corporate rung from the very first step itself. This broken rung isn’t something created by them; it is caused by systemic problems rooted deeply in the system.  

The broken rung refers to hurdles faced by women at entry-level jobs which prevent them from achieving promotions. This creates a compounding problem. Thanks to the broken rung, women employees are unable to progress in their careers. The result?

Companies lose out when they don’t provide equal opportunities to create more women managers.

Hurdles in Promotion Aren’t the Only Difficulties Faced by Women

Women face more trouble than men “earning” their respect at work. They face the arduous task of getting past microaggressions, lack of inclusion, and burnout in order to progress in a professional workspace. Often, women are overlooked for key promotions merely because companies fear they may become mothers and not be available to work.

Gender-based troubles don’t stop for women once they’ve climbed the ladder, either. Women managers are more likely to not have their authority and their work recognized than their male peers.

The barriers are even higher for women of color. Black women leaders (59%) are more ambitious and desirous of becoming top executives at their places of work compared to women leaders overall (49%). However, they are more likely to face discrimination for having different skin color, and linguistic and cultural differences.

While women still have a long road to go, gender diversity has a longer road still. Companies that prioritize gender inclusion stand to gain more. Overcoming gender inequality in the workplace is critical for employee success and the well-being of the companies they work for.

Gender Diversity: The Road to Mutual Growth

Equity in the workplace is a critical factor, and one that companies can no longer afford to overlook. With the influx of younger women in the professional field, they are now less tolerant of gender inequality in the workplace. The younger women workforce comprises more women of color, minority sexual identities, and women with disabilities. All of these are critical criteria to promote diversity inclusion.

What happens when equal work from women managers is not recognized? They are more likely to leave their companies.

A one-size-fits-all approach is no longer the go-to mechanism for company success. Embracing gender diversity and diversity benefits eases the road forward by creating more inclusive work environments.

It’s not just women who stand to gain. The benefits of diversity inclusion come under one broad overarching theme—equal opportunity for all. Employees who feel they have the equal opportunity enjoy happier careers. More importantly for companies, they stay for longer and are far more likely to recommend their workplaces to others.

Source: static.nurole.com

The COVID-19 Effect: A Revolution for Professional Workspaces

The COVID-19 pandemic may have been devastating for economies worldwide, but it has also been a turning point for gender roles in the workplace. The rapid shift to remote and hybrid work models has been an effective mitigating factor for the hurdles standing in the way of women managers. 

Remote and hybrid work models are opportunities for more comfortable work environments, lesser discrimination, and happier employees. This results in greater gender diversity in employment and promotion and a more rewarding work culture for everyone.

Source: Johnson & Johnson

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) are being widely embraced to promote better work cultures for employees. Focusing on DEI in companies creates a culture of love and belonging, helping unleash the full potential of a brilliant mix of people.

Remote and hybrid models may not be suitable for all roles or companies, but they are here to stay—and employees all over are embracing them enthusiastically. The study by McKinsey & Co. and Lean In revealed that 90% of the women surveyed prefer to work remotely. 

Remote work comes with greater flexibility, increased psychological safety, and greater opportunities for diversity and inclusion. Women of color reported they were less likely to face racism while working remotely compared to working on-site.

So does that mean our problems of gender inequality in the workplace are solved?

There is a flip side, however. Remote and hybrid work aid in breaking stereotypical gender roles in the workplace, but they do not address the heart of the problem. Often, women are overlooked for senior positions since they can potentially become mothers.  The bias against pregnancy and motherhood in working women leads to companies seeing them as liabilities.

5 Ways to Fix the broken rung

The road towards gender diversity in leadership for companies involves two broad steps: creating more women managers and retaining the ones they already have. Of course, this is easier said than done. Achieving these goals involves clear, targeted steps toward identifying the largest gaps in diversity inclusion. Bridging these gaps ensures equal opportunity for promotions to women manager roles, and roots out women-specific and intersectional issues that get in the way.

Companies with better gender diversity in leadership roles do better—they have better accountability, track their goals more efficiently, and ensure that employees are happier. Gender diversity through an equal opportunity at all levels of employment is clearly the way forward for company growth.

Fixing the broken rung may not be easy, but it’s not impossible either. Here are five steps you can take to build a better workplace for women:

1. Affirmative action is the way to go.

Gender stereotypes have been around long enough for them to not go away by themselves. An extra step to create a more welcoming workspace might not be extra. But it will certainly go a long way to retaining your employees. A direct focus on women’s empowerment may be necessary. 

Consider evaluating not just employee performance, but also specific hurdles they may face. The problems men and women face are often not the same and require tailor-made approaches. Empowering women on the same footing as men through gender-specific approaches allows for a more wholesome environment for growth.

A great example to look at would be Bain & Company.

Source: Bain & Company

2. Recognize women leaders

Pay attention to your women employees and look out for the ones who take initiative. More often than not, the leader you’re looking for isn’t waiting to be recruited. They are waiting to be recognized.

With a large number of women reporting that they face discrimination in promotions, it is evident that the broken rung is a real problem. The focus, therefore, should not just be on recognizing new women leaders, but also on looking for women that have been overlooked. This includes fair and periodic employee evaluations for all genders and ensuring nobody faces gender-based discrimination through internal mechanisms.

Source: Catalyst

3. Be receptive to your employees’ needs.

The male gender isn’t the yardstick for employee success. With more women entering the workforce, it’s time to pay attention to their specific wants and needs. And no, Football Fridays aren’t always going to cut it.

Solving employee problems is a necessity. But the race does not end here. Companies must learn to pay attention to individual feedback rather than generalized solutions. You will be surprised to see men and women perceive different needs and problems through different lenses. One size does not fit all!

Focusing on what women require in an organization is something that Citrix has been doing over the past few years!

Source: Citrix

4. Listen to your employees.

The best person to tell you about a problem is the one facing it. Listen to feedback from your employees. You don’t know who might give you a new perspective, but it will certainly expand your company’s horizons.

Companies need to adopt a wider lens when facing challenges or even when looking to grow. Employees working within the company have a grassroots-level view of organizational functioning. Oftentimes, they know exactly what needs to be done to improve by virtue of their hands-on experience.

A tool like Pietential allows companies to understand and visualize employee requirements and problems without intruding into their personal information. It even allows you to get comparative analytics on employee demographics!

Source: Pietential

5. Understand that growth is mutual.

Most importantly, understand that gender diversity benefits everyone. You aren’t giving free handouts. Instead, you’re incentivizing a talent pool that has long been overlooked. Empowering women leaders leads to faster growth for your company.

Companies tend to think, “Why should we do this?” or “Things are working fine as is.” The approach here is to be dynamic. Things can always be better, and now you know one more way to achieve that. 

Below, you can find 40 companies that are empowering women and learn how:

Source: Ripplematch


What is the “broken rung”?

The broken rung refers to the greater difficulties women face in getting promoted to leadership roles from entry-level roles compared to their male peers in achieving the same. Studies indicate that companies with better gender diversity in leadership roles perform better and have happier employees.

How do you fix the broken rung?

Fixing the broken rung involves creating equal opportunity for women in the workplace compared to men. Recognition of the inherent gender-specific and intersectional biases and taking measures to tackle them is the first step towards creating gender diversity at all levels of employment at a company.

What difficulties do women face in the way of promotions in companies?

Women in entry-level positions and leadership roles are more likely to have their work and authority questioned by their male counterparts, receive lesser recognition, and are burned out to a greater degree at work. 

Do companies with more women representation in the workforce do better?

Studies indicate that companies that practice equity in the workplace have a more efficient workforce and a more positive work culture. They perform better in terms of goal management, efficiency in output, and employee retention.