As a woman in the workplace, you probably have heard about the glass ceiling for years. This term serves as shorthand for the very real phenomenon of women, especially women of color, experiencing the inability to reach the top rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their competency. 

Despite the protections against gender discrimination in the workplace embodied in Title VII of the Equal Rights Act of 1964, a new study conducted by LeanIn.org covering the years 2015-2019 reveals the following: 

  • 70% of employed women report that they have experienced microaggressions, i.e., incidents, actions, statements, etc. representing subtle or indirect discrimination. 
  • 33% report that they have personally observed biased behavior toward women in their company. 
  • 30% report that the company for which they work fails to timely or adequately address disrespectful behavior aimed at their female employees. 
  • 25% report that they believe their company denied them a promotion, raise or the opportunity to advance based on their gender. 

Corporate make-up statistics

The study likewise reveals the following: 

  • Women make up 48% of the American workforce. 
  • Women account for only 38% of managers. 
  • Women account for only 34% of senior managers/directors. 
  • Women account for only 30% of vice presidents. 
  • Women account for only 26% of senior vice presidents. 
  • Women account for only 21% of “corporate suite” executives. 

Broken rung

Based on the above data, LeanIn concludes that your biggest workplace challenge is not breaking through the glass ceiling. Rather, it consists of getting around what LeanIn terms the “broken rung” of the corporate ladder, i.e., promoting women from entry level positions to management level positions.