The following My View, My Voice column was authored by Carolyn Dolezal, Chief Operating Officer at ASUG.

“Success is a slow process, and quitting does not speed it up.”

In honor of Women’s History Month, I recently paused to reflect on the progress of parity for women in business. I’ve been working in and around corporate America (and in global corporate roles) for a long time. While businesses have made strides in many areas, we still have much further to go on this front.

One of my favorite research studies observing the progress of women in the workplace is McKinsey’s annual study of Women in the Workplace. In the report, published last October, I was struck by this myth-buster:

  • Myth: The biggest barrier to women’s advancement is the ‘glass ceiling.’
  • Reality: The ‘broken rung’ is the greatest obstacle women face on the path to senior leadership.

The broken rung, as the report explains, refers to a career ladder with its first or second rung missing or damaged. This is a metaphor for the barriers that women face when moving up into managerial roles.

Every year since this study was first conducted nine years ago, women in the workplace have reported facing "their biggest hurdle at the first critical step up to manager,” according to the report, which shared these insights:

  • In 2023, for every 100 men promoted from entry level to manager, 87 women were promoted. And this gap is trending the wrong way for women of color: in 2023, 73 women of color were promoted to manager for every 100 men, down from 82 women of color in 2022. As a result of this broken rung, women fall behind and can’t catch up.
  • About 75% of companies with a higher percentage of women and women of color in managerial roles than their industry peers indicate they invest in mentoring and guiding employees through new management models and ways of working (versus 50% of their peer companies).

So, if our home organizations don’t always provide them, where else can we find mentors or connect with those experienced and trusted advisors who can share their experiences, inspire us, challenge us, and encourage us to keep progressing? That’s where a community of peers like ASUG can be invaluable. In ASUG, you can find somebody who’s walked the same road you’re traveling along, and who can provide real-life experience and learning to help you move further and faster than if you walk alone.

Whether it’s a professional challenge in a business transformation, the need to develop a business case to your company’s board, or a personal conundrum about whether to take a new job, your ASUG community can provide invaluable perspective. In my time as ASUG’s Chief Operating Officer, I’ve seen many ASUG members provide professional references and resource referrals to one another, share insights into difficult managerial problems, extend solutions to technical problems, and even offer personal support to peers struggling with health or family issues. That support, especially coming from a trusted friend, can mean the world to someone.

Mentoring goes two ways. In a community of peers, we each have experiences to share that can directly benefit others. I’ve volunteered in mentoring organizations outside of ASUG for more than 20 years—and I learn as much from my mentees and the challenges they face as I hope they might learn from me. Here are some of my most popular tips for mentors and mentees:

  • Ask questions, listen carefully, and help the mentee figure things out. You don’t have to have all the answers.
  • Share stories and lessons learned throughout your career. Those are some of the most memorable ways to learn. One of the frameworks you can use is the STAR model: describe what happened using situation, task, action, and result. This is a succinct and logical way to frame context, considerations, and outcomes.
  • Keep everything confidential. That, of course, will lead to a strong, trusted relationship. Trust is essential for healthy, candid dialogue.
  • Ask respectful yet challenging questions. The key is to help your mentee see things from a different perspective. It will help them stretch, grow, and develop.
  • Do a process check. From time to time, ask each other how things are going with your partnership. Find out if you want to make any adjustments to how you work together.

In that spirit of community and professional support, I’m delighted that ASUG is relaunching ASUG Women Connect, a program dedicated to promoting equity and career development resources for all ASUG members. Providing educational content, learning resources, community, and opportunities, ASUG Women Connect reflects the ASUG mission to help our members learn, connect, and grow. We look forward to working with anyone interested in closing the parity gap to join us in driving the dialogue forward. For more information, please visit our ASUG Women Connect group on LinkedIn or email

Success sometimes comes slowly. But it will come if we stay the course and invest in lifting up one another.

Carolyn Dolezal is Chief Operating Officer at ASUG.

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