“A glass ceiling is a metaphor used to represent an invisible barrier that keeps a given demographic (typically applied to women) from rising beyond a certain level in a hierarchy.”
For a long time now we have been aware of gender bias against women & they have therefore been disadvantaged when it comes to career success. There is pay discrimination, sexual harassment, unfair assessment of their talent & suppression of independent voice. Yes, it’s a reality & we will be silly to ignore this ‘glass ceiling’. It’s a fact that only 4% of Fortune 500 companies are run by women!
So, how does one break this ceiling? How do we advance without really becoming a crusader or having to fight endless battles against the proverbial “old boys gang”?
There are no simple answers to this question but I will share 3 ways of dealing with this barrier. It has worked for me; I hope it does for you too.
#1: Play your strength
Women are gifted with a few attributes unique to the gender. These include nurturing, financial planning (trust me on this) & team leadership. We need to use these attributes positively to our advantage.
For example, skillfully leading teams & making both genders work together can make you shine in an organization struggling with friction issues. Using your empathic traits to negotiate hard decisions or even influence them makes for excellent leadership traits. We often ignore these skills whereas they should be strength.
They will also help you handle difficult conversations with regard to personal advancement. Being assertive & affirmative in a composed manner is a sure winner.
Identify your strength, develop that talent & pick a field that will give you the advantage. Keep learning new skills in that area to stay ahead. Every roadblock you face will become slightly easier if you deal with it in a more constructive manner using inherent strength. Shine with your accomplishment more than your argument. Work towards taking your team along that success path.
#2: Gender Neutrality Vs Gender Equality
Sometimes, this battle can blur our vision of what we really want out of this discussion. It's important to remember that it’s not a fight to get treated like men. No, not at all! And certainly not about asking for privileges in the name of being women achievers.
The ask is for a level play field of talent. We need a neutral assessment of talent regardless of sex, race, caste or any other defining criteria. The arguments should be in favour of fair treatment for all instead of focusing on how another set is privileged.
Let's shift our focus from how historically men have always been favoured to how we can make both genders work on talent basis neutrally. Know the HR policies well before you join an organization & ask the right questions that will help you grow within. If you are setting up on your business, be sure to have fair & open talent appreciation program. Don’t work towards gender advancement. Encourage gender neutrality instead.
#3: Develop A Network & Have Mentors
It’s a competitive world out there. There are so many opportunities & even more talented people ready to seize them. Make sure you are developing your network of influence. Reach out to people from different fields, learn from their journey & offer to contribute with your time or talent.
This will build your visibility and introduce new perspectives. It might even throw up new career opportunities.
Seek mentors who can help you develop your talent as well as challenge you every now & then. In today’s time, it's fairly easy to find coordinates & write to people who inspire you. Be clear in what you are seeking & how they can help. Having a couple of mentors from different fields will give a balanced view of the world. Their individual rise to success will help you smash that glass ceiling as well.
Be open to feedback. Don’t hesitate to ask for introductions, without sounding entitled. Commit yourself to this learning path. Don’t take a mentor’s time for granted. Take every opportunity to gain any lesson that you can from their gender struggles. It will add to your strategic strengths in brilliant ways.
Most importantly, be confident, stay positive & learn aggressively. Don’t fight unnecessary battles. Use your energy to be someone who can't be ignored. Keep shining!
Love & Success!
Views expressed are personal. Akancha is Founder & Director of Azure, a Strategic Brand Consulting Firm, a leadership coach and motivational speaker. She tweets @AkanchaS
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