Stuck.

This word applies to many women in the workplace, according to the 2019 “Women in the Workplace” study by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org.

Where — and why — do women get stuck in most organizations? For most, it’s the first rung of the corporate ladder as they try to take the step up to manager. According to the study, the number of women in manager roles has decreased by 5% since 2015. Only 72 women are promoted or hired to a manager position for every 100 men who are promoted or hired to this role.

While the representation of women in the C-suite has increased from 17% to 21% since 2015, the decline in manager promotions for women means a smaller pipeline of future women leaders. Without growth early in the pipeline, gains in women’s representation in the C-suite will eventually stall.

Organizations that ignore this trend could face consequences to their bottom line. For example, the Peterson Institute for International Economics completed a survey of 21,980 firms from 91 countries and found that having women at the C-suite level can significantly improve financial performance.

Women bring innate strengths in creativity and collaboration  to organizations but often lack the skills to advance in a male-dominated business environment. Organizations can start to fix this broken rung by helping women find their purpose, build their personal brand, connect with others and learn to lead.

Find a Purpose

Organizations need to help women define their goals and recognize their unique talents. Once they know where they want to go and what they are good at, it’s easier for them to map a course for success. Plus, women who understand their skills and gifts can work more effectively in teams and with leaders, further increasing their odds for a promotion.

Build a Personal Brand

Women need to learn how to promote themselves, but they also must learn to feel comfortable doing so. Today, many professionals establish and build their personal brands through both online and offline actions. Training programs should help women establish and build their personal brand to attract opportunities and make connections.

Connect With Others

Women need to find a community — including mentors, role models and networking groups — that can provide a support system and help them navigate their organization. Networking is an art that takes development and practice, and women may need more coaching in this practice than men, because they might feel less comfortable with self-promotion and asking others for help.

Learn to Lead

Providing women with leadership skills can increase their confidence and ability to manage others. A key component is strengthening emotional intelligence, which is a key determinant for success as an individual contributor and as a leader.

Leadership training should focus on how to use the appropriate leadership style in response to the needs of the person and the situation. These skills can help women recognize and practice effective strategies at work and in life.

Organizations can help fix the broken ladder by being aware of the problem and then taking actions to fix it. Women have a better chance of being promoted when they have the skills needed to make the leap from individual contributor to manager. Hopefully, these actions to promote gender parity will give women the recognition and opportunities they deserve.

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