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11.30.22

Building an Inclusive Corporate Ladder

By Katie Barnes & Alysa Cronin  

LeanIn.org and McKinsey’s cite The Broken Rung as the single biggest obstacle keeping women from advancing in their careers. Forbes calls it a blind spot for the business world. Industry Today says it’s the Achilles heel strangulating women’s rise to senior-level positions.   

The stifling phenomenon known as The Broken Rung signifies the profound number of women all over the world in every field who find the first step up the corporate ladder—the step from an entry-level position to a manager position—is broken. Not only does The Broken Rung make it nearly impossible for companies to lay a foundation for sustained progress at more senior levels, but the impasse is also on track to lower world-wide gross domestic product growth by $1 trillion come 2030.1 Worse yet—in a recent Mercer survey of more than 1,000 companies in 54 countries, 81% said it was important to have a plan for advancing gender equality—but only 42% actually did. 

For companies that want to become leaders in the industry and set positive trends that will transform operations and enable women to reach higher levels of leadership at the same rate as men, banishing The Broken Rung is vital.  

Luckily, there are ways for organizations to change how women are integrated into the workplace, nurtured, and retained. Here is how BHG Financial—one of 125 Best Workplaces for Women™ according to Fortune Magazine and Great Places To Work®—is doing just that.  

Into the Fold They Go 

Integration has never been more important. In fact, women who are poorly integrated into the workplace may fail to build and benefit from relationships with their colleagues.  That is why onboarding at BHG spans a full 90 days. As part of the program, BHG has dedicated touchpoints and checkpoints coming from People Development—from events to video calls and employee surveys to help employees assimilate into the culture.  

“It was the most hands-on and detailed onboarding I’ve ever been a part of,” says BHG Senior Manager, Data Partnerships, Nikki Dixon. We spent time learning all about BHG products and how the different departments work together from start to finish to provide service at an exceptional level, she says. “It was very impactful to understand how my role helps our company reach its goals early on.”  

BHG Financial’s Brittany George, Vice President of Funding, agrees. When you join the firm you become a part of the family, she says. “There is so much focus not only on your success as a professional—but the firm cares about the growth of your personal life, too.”   

Nurture the Pipeline 

When women are not getting promoted at the junior levels of the pipeline, it is challenging to equalize gender diversity at more senior levels—the gap is simply too large to catch up.  

BHG is a company that understands that as more women become managers, there will be more women to promote and hire at each subsequent level. That is why, out of 329 BHG employees within a manager role, 40% are women. This means more entry-level women will rise to BHG management and more women in management will rise to BHG senior leadership. 

George, who joined the firm in 2008, says it all goes back to the firm’s mantra: BHG builds people that build BHG. It’s not just a statement, it’s an action, she says. For example, the investment and time that has been poured into her development as a leader is nothing short of incredible, George says. “BHG is full of opportunity. I am a living testament—being someone that started my career here in Data Entry.” 

Keep the Keepers 

Great Place To Work research reveals what makes women stay at their companies. There are many factors, but purpose tops the list. In fact, women are three times as likely to stay in their jobs if they believe their work has special meaning and is “not just a job.”  

For BHG Vice President of Creative, Karanya Aksornkoae, who joined the firm 10 years ago, that makes perfect sense. It’s been the increase of responsibility and stretch assignments that keep her committed. “At BHG I have been given the opportunities, resources, trust, love, and support to be the best version of myself—both as an individual and a professional,” Aksornkoae says.  

When it comes to retaining the top talent, BHG founders have gone all-in, says Dixon. “BHG cares, I mean truly cares about their employees.” She says some of the ways BHG makes a difference in the lives of its employees is through free healthcare premiums for colleagues and their family members, mental health therapy, monthly activity competitions with cash prizes, meditation sessions for lunch, massages, and yoga—to name just a few. 

Banishing the Broken Rung  

The good news is “any company can create cultures that support women and help them thrive,” says Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place To Work, in a recent news release. Regardless of whether they are in the executive suite or the frontline … boomers or Gen Z, African American, Asian American, or any specific demographic groups and related intersection,” says Bush, “but it takes consistent and dedicated work.” 

Unless we close the disparities in hiring and promotions that make up The Broken Rung, according to the World Economic Forum, it will take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide. Conversely, 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.  

1 McKinsey & Company, “COVID-19 and Gender Equality: Countering the Regressive Effects,” 2020

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