Contrary to popular belief, research shows that the glass ceiling is not the biggest obstacle to women’s progress at work. In fact, 30% more white men are promoted than white women to the first step up to manager, and that discrepancy continues until 80% of executive roles are filled by white men. It is the “broken rung” from individual contributors to management that keeps women from reaching executive leadership positions, and that discrepancy is even higher for women of color. Since fewer women are promoted to junior management, fewer women are in the pipeline when it comes time to choose senior management roles. The number of women decreases at every subsequent management level.
Why women are underrepresented in management
This disparity is linked to bias in performance management, lack of investment in learning and development, and lack of sponsorship for underrepresented talent in the workplace. 80% of training and coaching budgets are typically spent on VP-level executives and above, representing only 20% of the organization. To put it in perspective, that is $360B spent yearly on the same 20% at the top.
Without proper sponsorship at a company level, organizations are unable to diversify their teams. This polarized spending reinforces the status quo and doesn’t help companies grow a pipeline of future leaders. Additionally, at high-growth software companies, underrepresented talent struggles to find “support in numbers” due to the reality of small teams and a lack of diversity within them.
Level up to scale up
To bridge this gap, Insight Partners and The Forem have collaborated on the bi-annual Level Up to Scale Up program aimed at advancing women across Insight’s portfolio companies. The program offers live workshops that equip participants with the skills and connections needed to drive innovation and elevate their careers. The curriculum teaches participants to increase personal impact, build strategic relationships, and scale best practices across the organization. Participants are coached on self-advocacy and task alignment with their strengths, boosting job satisfaction and performance. Female leaders also gain networking opportunities within the Insight portfolio, fostering support and success in the software sector.
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Investing in inclusion and belonging, sustainably
In 2021, Insight developed the CEO ScaleUp Pledge: a multi-pronged initiative to encourage founders to critically evaluate the current state of diversity in their workplace, better themselves as inclusive leaders, and take strategic action to prioritize inclusion and belonging as their company scales.
In the last 18 months, 1,200 employees across 45 portfolio companies have been trained in The Forem programs.
The Level Up to Scale Up program sits on the roster as a sponsored “strategic action” for its holistic, DEI-mindful approach to employee upskilling. Our goal is to reduce the barrier to action for companies who have signed the CEO ScaleUp Pledge and are committed to diversity efforts in their organizations. With The Forem, we’re focused on retaining and advancing women in our portfolio companies while increasing the impact and overall engagement of those who go through the program. In the last 18 months, 1,200 employees across 45 portfolio companies have been trained in The Forem programs, and 500+ hours of networking have been facilitated on the platform.
“We are starting to see a huge ROI”
“We are starting to see a huge ROI,” said Mick Charles, SVP of Human Resources at SingleStore, one of Insight Partners’ participating portfolio companies. “The sense of gratitude is obvious. People are happy we are investing in them, not just checking a box.”
On a practical level, this ROI is represented in declining “regrettable attrition” (meaning: quits that could have been avoided) across the company. Mick attests that for participants in The Forem’s programs, attrition is “below industry standards,” and participants are more “promotion-ready.”
Beyond the numbers, Jorah Ryken, SingleStore’s Director of Employee Engagement, sees value in the bigger picture.
“It’s helping our employees build a foundation of confidence, and that emerging confidence creates a unique, shared experience for the women in the program,” she explained. “We feel very lucky because The Forem supports engagement both during the program and after on employees’ own time. We see them actively utilizing the networking engine and peer review functionality on The Forem’s platform to further enable their growth.”
Investing in underrepresented talent is only the beginning
Employee engagement and retention are key building blocks to organizational success, but sustaining that success hinges on continuous emphasis to uphold a strong, involved, and empowered community. “At the core of SingleStore’s values is the desire for everyone to know they have a voice and everyone to use that voice,” Mick added. “That’s the diversity of thought we are looking for, and that’s what leads to innovation.”
At Insight Partners, we believe that investing in underrepresented talent is only the starting point. We recognize the need for our portfolio companies to ensure that their managers actively support and uplift every employee across the organization. Together, we are here to accelerate the journey of every individual within our portfolio companies and ensure that growth propels organizations toward their next significant milestone.