Career Woman

Can you break through a glass ceiling?


Good gracious yes, we all know that we’re nearly 20 years into the new millennium and it’s outrageous that glass ceilings are still an issue, but it’s a fact of life. There are certainly women who have crashed through those ceilings in almost every field of endeavor, but it still takes women more guts and determination to do it than it takes a man. Or as it was said about classic movie star Ginger Rogers, she danced as well as her famous partner Fred Astaire but she had to do it backwards and in high heels.

Dancing backwards, of course, sounds counter to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s much-quoted premise that leaning in is the way to advance and succeed in business, but you get the point. As Sandberg describes it, women have to claim their place at the table by reaching for opportunities, making their voices heard, asking for what they deserve, and believing that they have it in themselves to be worthy of achieving their full potential and reaching their goals. No one is going to promote you if you sit on the sidelines being a good sport and expecting someone to notice.

What holds women back?

The historical glass ceiling wasn’t necessarily constructed with nefarious purpose, but was a result of the fact that men were there first. Then they hired and promoted other men, largely because they knew them and were comfortable in their company both on the job and on the golf course, but also because society had forever been accustomed to women keeping the home fires burning while men went out and fought the wars (literal or metaphorical) to bring back the goods. Can’t you just hear a caveman grunting, “I go hunt. You stay and gather?” It had been that way since the dawn of time, and people don’t change all that quickly.

Once women decided to get serious about competing in the workplace, it’s no wonder that men closed ranks. If you had a great thing going, would you want to make way for interlopers? The problem is that more than half a century past what’s known as the second wave of feminism, it’s still a fact that women as a group are paid 75% of what men earn, and that only a tenth of most senior positions in corporations are filled by women.

Who has broken through?

If you want role models,  fortunately, there is a good number of them. These are women who have known their own value and not been afraid to put themselves out there. It’s certain they endured some knocks along the way, but they knew what they wanted and they kept their eyes on the prize. You may not aspire to the kind of jobs they hold, but let them serve as an inspiration as you move along your own path.

For example, take a look at the Forbes and Fortune 2017 lists of the most powerful women in business. They include:

  • Mary Barra, Chairman & CEO of General Motors
  • Indra Nooyi, Chairman & COO of PepsiCo
  • Marillyn Hewson, President & CEO of American aerospace company Lockheed Martin
  • Isabelle Kocher, CEO of French multinational utility company Engie
  • Emma Walmsley, CEO of British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline
  • Feng Ying Wang, CEO of Great Wall Motor China
  • Ginni Rometty, President & CEO of IBM
  • Meg Whitman, COO of Hewlett Packard
  • Ruth Porata, SVP & CFO of Google

So how do you do it?

There are no hard and fast rules, but preparing yourself for crashing through that glass ceiling does take focus and planning. Here are some pointers:

  • Upgrade your education. No matter what your current full-time job is, get ready for your next step up by enrolling in an AACSB accredited online MBA program that will broaden your scope of knowledge and give you new tools for effective communication, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving. Not only that, but an MBA on your resume is a powerful indication that you’re prepared to move up.
  • Continue to develop yourself. Search out opportunities to do more and learn more. Ask for more responsibility. Bring new ideas to the table. Contribute as much as you can to team efforts. Study what’s going on in your industry and related fields, and keep on top of what’s happening in your own organization.
  • Promote yourself. Keep a record of your accomplishments and let people know what you can do. All the men are doing the same thing, so you’re letting yourself down if you don’t self-promote, too.

Above all, take yourself seriously and have faith in your own abilities. Then go get ‘em!

About Business Woman Media

Our women don’t want to settle for anything but the best. They understand that success is a journey involving personal growth, savvy optimism and the tenacity to be the best. We believe in pragmatism, having fun, hard-work and sharing inspiration. LinkedIn

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