indicatorThe Twenty-Four

From glass ceiling to broken rung

Advancing gender equality in the workplace

By Miranda Mantey, ATB Ventures 7 March 2024 3 min read

In honor of International Women's Day, the Owl is delighted to feature Miranda Mantey, Product Innovation and IP Strategist with ATB Ventures as today’s guest author.

Every year on March 8th, the world comes together to recognize the invaluable contributions of women and to acknowledge the challenges they face worldwide. International Women’s Day is both a celebration and a call to action, urging us to reflect on our progress and the work that still lies ahead.

It comes as no surprise that women play a significant role in the global economy. Estimates suggest that closing the gender gap could boost the global economy by a staggering $7 trillion USD. The dollar figure aligns with the considerable potential for growth in women's employment. Globally, statistics reveal that 51.6% of women aged 25-54 are employed, compared to 94.6% of men. The trillion dollar question then arises: How do we achieve gender equality? Women's access to and participation in the labour market can be dependent on their regions and lifestyles. The data show that women's labour force participation varies significantly based on household type, whereas men's participation remains relatively consistent (see the chart below). This draws to our attention the need for systemic and multifaceted solutions to a complex challenge. Recent data within a North American context shed light on the challenges women encounter in the workforce, deepening our understanding and dialogue on this issue.

During my university years and early professional career, the concept of the “glass ceiling” loomed large—an invisible barrier preventing women from ascending to a specific level of senior leadership positions. However, a 2023 McKinsey & Company report challenges this notion, proposing a shift in perspective to the “broken rung.” The report reveals that while women's representation in the C-suite reached a record high of 28% in 2023 (a 6 percentage point increase from 2018), progress stalls at lower levels of corporate hierarchy.

The most significant obstacle for women lies not in climbing from Senior Vice President to the C-suite, but in advancing from Entry-Level to Manager. Shockingly, for every 100 men promoted to a managerial position, only 87 women receive similar promotions. Moreover, women of colour face persistent underrepresentation across all levels of the corporate ladder, with their promotion to management actively declining from 82 women per 100 men in 2022 to 73 women per 100 men in 2023.

These data underscore the importance of addressing the "broken rung" at the managerial level, where women lag behind their male counterparts in career progression. Gender disparity in early promotions results in a higher proportion of men occupying managerial positions, thereby limiting the pool of women eligible for senior leadership roles and perpetuating the cycle of underrepresentation.

Despite these challenges, there are reasons for optimism. First, as a white woman in the workplace, I recognize that my experiences represent only a fraction of the obstacles faced by people of colour and LGBTQ+ individuals. This awareness is potent as it nurtures empathy and solidarity, propelling us toward movements that advocate for all underrepresented minorities, fostering collective social and economic progress.

Second, we are constantly uncovering evidence that proves that greater female inclusion yields positive economic outcomes. A study by the International Monetary Fund found that closing the gender gap could boost GDP by an average of 35%. Interestingly, their research finds that 80% of these gains come simply from an increase of workers in the labour force, but the last 20% comes from an effect of gender diversity on productivity. While progress toward gender equality remains gradual, ongoing research is providing valuable insights into addressing underlying issues.

Lastly, there are numerous entrepreneurial initiatives doing fantastic work to promote greater female inclusion in the workforce and tech industry. One example of this is Alberta-based Toast which is a collective on a mission to get more women into influential positions in tech. They work with companies throughout North America to increase gender diversity on their technical teams while helping women in tech get the job they want and the pay they deserve. Organizations such as Toast are a testament to the ongoing efforts toward amplifying the gradual improvements we are currently seeing in the market. 

As we commemorate International Women’s Day, let’s not only reflect on the challenges women face, but also celebrate their achievements and commit to creating a more equitable and inclusive world for all.

Answer to the previous trivia question: Approximately 75% of unpaid care and domestic work is performed by women at the global level.

Today’s trivia question: What percentage of private sector businesses in Alberta are majority-owned by women?

Men tend to have high labour force participation rates regardless of the type of household they live in. For women, on the other hand, labour force participation rates vary significantly depending on the household type.

Men tend to have high labour force participation rates regardless of the type of household they live in. For women, on the other hand, labour force participation rates vary significantly depending on the household type.

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