Feature: The Corporate Ladder Is Dead

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Published in The Alumni Society

The ladder would be an accurate metaphor for mobility in corporate America—15 years ago.

The narrative of entrepreneurial success has long featured a protagonist whose climb was a singular effort fueled by dedication, determination, and “rugged individualism,” as President Herbert Hoover called it. The ubiquity of the phrase “climbing the corporate ladder” harkens the strength those motifs have in our business and social cultures, but the undeniable reality is, the ladder is no longer the exclusive—or even the preferred—way to the top.
Nearly 40 percent of the US population identifies as an ethnic minority. Almost half of those people (54 million) are Hispanic. By 2050, it is anticipated that Hispanics alone will comprise 30 percent of the country. This outlook makes two facts clear for businesses: nearly one-third of their customers and talent will be Hispanic; and both customers and employees will look for authentic recognition of that fact. In the corporate workplace, that translates to a paradigm shift. No longer can the climb be up the one-lane ladder; a way must be made for a communal rise …

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