I recently saw an item about a senior executive having moved from one well known meat company to another faux meat company and then another meat company all in less than a year. He’s moved across the meat and faux meat senior management track so quickly and smoothly I’m certain there’s probably an alter ego somewhere for him in the MCU (Meatpeople Career Universe, obviously). Paging Captain Senior Leadership…
This post isn’t about him or his moving companies, but it sits tangental to this year’s Women in the Workplace study. For those not familiar, the Women in the Workplace study was launched in 2015 by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company to give companies insights and tools to advance gender diversity in the workplace.
The most notable highlight of this year’s study was that working women, as a collective unit, are experiencing a ‘Great Breakup’ with their employers. Perhaps cousins to the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting, the Great Breakup is the occupational equivalent of “It’s not me, it’s you.”
Breaking up with the broken system
Women are ‘breaking up’ with companies because, like many relationship break-ups, there’s one side doing far more taking than giving. In this instance, companies are taking opportunities away from women more than they’re giving them.
The study found that for every 100 men that are promoted from entry level to manager, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted. This unequal footing is called the ‘broken rung.’ If you’ve ever been on a faulty ladder, you know that once you’ve tried to step on and move up on broken rungs, it gets that much harder to keep climbing.
We can see the broken rung in full effect when you look at senior leadership in a lot of companies. Across all industries, 1 in 4 people in the C-Suite is a woman. In the food industry, the number is even more dire and women make up only 20% of senior leadership positions, never mind the C-Suite. I can count on one hand how many women lead the companies in our Top 100 list. That Captain Senior Leadership was seemingly able to move leadership positions with such ease doesn’t shock me, rather it seems to illustrate precisely how saturated senior leadership positions are with men.
Lack of opportunity for promotions or to move up the corporate ladder is a big reason why women are leaving companies. Obviously there are women in leadership roles, but the survey (and frankly, any woman in a corporate job) tells us they face much more resistance to getting into those roles. I have yet to meet a woman that hasn’t experienced ever-present microagressions, constantly having your authority questioned, as well as having your gender or parental status play a role in being denied or passed over for raises or promotions.
Many women are fed up. They’re throwing in the towel and moving on to smaller companies that place more value in diversity, equity and inclusion.
Why Women Leaving Should Worry Corporations
This exodus of women should worry corporations and the industries they serve. We’re already experiencing workforce issues as a large swath of employees age out of the workforce. Manufacturing, which has already had its own problems trying to attract talent, has its own complex relationship with women. In the years since I launched Influential Women in Manufacturing, I’ve heard countless stories of how many women were the only woman in the room full of male colleagues on the plant floor, engineering department, etc.
Industries like manufacturing can’t afford to alienate women any longer. If women keep leaving companies due to being overlooked for promotions or raises nor can they even take the first step up the corporate latter, there won’t be any women left. While I’m sure there are factions that would love to see women back away from the corporate ladder and back into the home, that’s just not reality.
Manufacturers in particular need to step up their DEI game. Don’t just slap DEI onto your Human Resources or Marketing materials and call yourselves diverse. Take a good hard look at why Jenna, who has worked for 10 years in Engineering keeps getting passed over for promotions while Chet, who started four years ago has already gotten two. Is Jenna really not qualified, or is your all-male-senior leadership simply biased?
Take a good hard look at your numbers and your teams. If all you see is men, ask yourself why and start to fix yourself accordingly.