SPROWT ARTICLE | Margarida Couto

Margarida Couto scaled 1

Women Leadership – How to climb, without falling, a staircase with broken steps? (to later break a 'glass ceiling')

There are numerous studies showing a positive correlation between gender diversity in leadership and better financial performance of companies. It would be expected, if not for a matter of competitive advantage, that companies invest in the rise of women to leadership positions.

However, what we have been witnessing (in various geographies) in most companies, with some honorable exceptions, is quite the opposite. The question that arises is: “Why, if it’s a win-win situation?” The answer may seem easy, but more challenging is to navigate the obstacles that this answer entails.

According to the research conducted year after year by the international consulting firm McKinsey (which has dedicated a lot of attention to the topic and disseminated the results of numerous studies), one of the major obstacles to the ascent of women to top positions is the so-called ‘broken rung’ – even in companies that hire more women than men at the entry level, those who reach relevant positions in organizations represent a small number. Essentially, because these positions emerge at a time when they have to reconcile their ambition for top positions with the demands of motherhood/family life. It is at this particular moment that, for many, the rung of the ladder toward leadership breaks. And they fall.

We must, therefore, fix this broken rung. Only then can we break the sadly famous ‘glass ceiling’…


I see only one way – with the committed involvement of men. Since the current top leadership is mostly male, if we cannot count on them by our side, any significant evolution will be compromised in the long run.

Quoting Ernest Hemingway in his work ‘A Farewell to Arms’:

– Who is in the trenches beside you?

– And does that matter?

– More than the war itself!

So, it is men we need in the trenches, by our side – in this complex yet relevant issue, the blame is on no one, but the responsibility is on everyone, men and women!