How “The Broken Rung” In Corporate America Is Keeping Black Women Stuck


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Being the only woman in the room is a familiar feeling for women in male-dominated industries, including finance, film, and the “up or out” worlds of law and academia, which are prohibitive to working mothers.

Despite efforts toward change, gender and racial diversity in corporate America remains pitifully low. According to the Stanford Corporate Governance Research Initiative, via CNN, among Fortune 100 companies this year, “black professionals account for just 3% of CEOs, 1% of CFOs and 3% of profit leaders like division presidents.”

As Stephanie Foster of Women Driving Innovation says in this video from our panel, “The Only Women in the Room Are Making Room for More,” featured at the Spark Disruptors conference last month, the numbers for Black women in corporate America are more abysmal. According to an August 2020 Lean In report, women, especially Black women, are left behind by the “broken rung.” “For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 58 Black women are promoted, despite the fact that Black women ask for promotions at the same rate as men.”

Across the board, as Foster says in this clip, it will take 100 years to close the gender pay gap for all women and men at its current rate.

Though men in positions of power must help crate high-level positions for female peers, women who open doors for others also drive meaningful change. You can watch the full panel—featuring moderator Linda Zhang of Purview Investments interviewing finance and asset management gurus Jess Bost, of Consolidated Planning, and Stephanie Foster, of Women Driving Innovation, as well as filmmaker Kelcy Edwards, of Iron Gate East, about the need for women to amplify and support other women and minorities in their fields—here.

It’s “Wake-Up Week” on, in which we’re highlighting panels from our recent Spark Disruptors Conference about needed change, rule-breakers, and people doing meaningful things to challenge the status quo. Wake yourself up with more clips at