Fixing the Broken Rung with Cristin Hubbard, Jill German, Vera Imper and Rebecca Vermeulen

What is the biggest obstacle that women face today? You might think that it is the “glass ceiling” or the invisible barrier that prevents women from reaching senior leadership positions. But according to Women in the Workplace, a five-year research study conducted by McKinsey & Company and, the biggest obstacle women face is actually the first step up to manager, also known as the “broken rung.”

For every 100 men who are hired and promoted to manager, only 72 women are hired and promoted

At the heart of the “broken rung” concept is this surprising statistic: for every 100 men who are hired and promoted to manager, only 72 women are hired and promoted. As a result of this “broken rung,” more women are getting stuck in entry-level positions and fewer women are becoming managers. This initial promotion gap is even more pronounced for women of color—for every 100 entry-level men promoted to manager, only 68 Latina women and 58 black women are promoted.

Women can never catch up
This early inequality has ripple effects that impact the long-term representation of women at all levels of a company. According to the researchers, “Since men significantly outnumber women at the manager level, there are significantly fewer women to hire or promote to senior managers,” so as a result, the number of women gets exponentially lower at every subsequent level. Despite improvements in hiring and promotion rates for women in senior levels, women as a whole can never catch up to their male counterparts as there are simply too few women to advance.

We must make a conscious change
Fortunately, the “broken rung” can be fixed by several primary solutions identified by the study. To get closer to achieving gender equality, companies could set goals for getting more women into first-level management and require that a diverse set of candidates is considered for every position. In addition, the companies could require hiring managers to participate in unconscious bias training and establish clear hiring and promotion processes to limit bias. According to the study, “If women are promoted and hired to first-level managers at the same rates as men, we will add one million more women to management in corporate America over the next five years.”

HBA San Francisco is excited to collaborate with RMS Roche Women In Leadership and Genentech's Women Professional to invite you to an intriguing and virtual discussion inspired by the McKinsey & Company and’s Women in the Workplace study. Join us on Wednesday, 10 June, 4–5 PM PT as our HBA Luminaries share their experiences and thoughts on how to address the “broken rung” on the corporate ladder.

Our panelists will include Jill German, head of Roche Tissue Diagnostics, Roche Molecular Solutions, along with Cristin Hubbard, SVP, therapeutic area head for immunology, infectious diseases and ophthalmology, Genentech, Vera Imper, VP and head, business development, Roche Molecular Solutions and Rebecca Vermeulen, VP, patients and society strategy lead, Genentech.

Please contact Gena Hanhan with questions about the event.

Sources: McKinsey, LeanIn, Forbes, International Women's Day