A recent study by the ILM discovered that 73% of women believe a glass ceiling (obstacles) is preventing them from reaching senior positions. The ILM survey identified that women are held back by lower confidence and lower ambitions and hard factors such as maternity and child
care related issues. Some articles even go so far as to say that the glass ceiling only exists in women’s heads. Fact is, fewer women than men aim for and/or reach senior management positions.
When I researched this topic, I was reminded of Henry Ford’s
famous quote: “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.” Whether the glass ceiling is real, a collective myth or a figment of a woman’s imagination does not really matter. For the women who feel that it exists, it is very real and influences their career and often life decisions.
For each woman the glass ceiling is likely to be slightly different. Each woman has her own set of limiting beliefs (e.g. how ambitious she can be, how much she is worth) and her own external obstacles depending on the environment (e.g. company, chosen career field, country) she lives and works in.
In this and the following article I want to explore what we as women can do to break through our glass ceilings, external or internal, real or imagined, and achieve the success we want in your chosen career or life path.
In order to deal with our glass ceiling we first have to identify and get to know it.
So, what or where is your glass ceiling? What is holding you back?
This is not an easy exercise to do and takes a bit of time and effort. Ideally, write down any thoughts that come to mind when you ask yourself the above question. I invite you to review the area of your life that you feel most dissatisfied with. It can be in your career, your studies, your home life, your fitness, or any other area of your life. What are you telling yourself about this area of your life? Listen out for any phrases like: ‘I can’t go any further because’, ‘I am held back by’, ‘there is no point, because’, ‘I am not’, ‘it is very hard for me to’. If you can write all these down and really get to know your glass ceiling.
One of the findings of the ILM survey was that a lot of women did not want to become managers. Therefore before we deal with the glass ceiling we need to be absolutely clear on whether we really want that next management position or not (or any other goal beyond our glass ceilings).
How important is ‘breaking through’ your glass ceiling to you?
To achieve our goals we need to dedicate time and effort. We often have to be prepared to sacrifice other activities in the short or long term. The same goes for breaking through glass ceilings. So if all your real and perceived obstacles were no longer there, and as if by magic the glass ceiling would disappear, and you had that next promotion (or substitute here whatever your glass ceiling is), what would that be like? Imagine yourself having achieved it and being that senior manager (or having moved beyond your glass ceiling). Would it be worth it? And what other areas of your life (if any) have gained or suffered?
If you totally and utterly want to move beyond your currently perceived glass ceiling, then there are a number of things you can do to either break it or at least start getting it to crack in places. Some ideas I want to offer you are:
Break or put cracks into your glass ceiling
For each statement you wrote down earlier on what is holding
you back, do the following:
- For each obstacle, write down what it would or
could take to get rid of it, put a crack in it or move beyond it.
- Ask yourself, what belief would be more useful
to have instead or what would your ideal scenario be? And what evidence would
you need to support this?
Be as creative as you can and accept any thought that comes to mind. If you find this difficult, imagine a friend wrote down all those obstacle statements and she asked you to help her find ways to deal with her obstacles or glass ceiling.
Now consider the following, if the glass ceiling was not there, how would act differently right now, today, tomorrow, next week?
Sometimes, it can help us to just mentally move beyond our obstacles. Pick just one of your obstacles and imagine the opposite was true (or your ideal scenario). What would that be like? What would change in your behaviour as a result of the opposite of this obstacle being true? If you can, try it out in practice and act differently and see what happens. You might be surprised by the results.
As this is a topic that is affecting a lot of women, we will come back to it next week with some hints and tips how to break through, smash or at least get some cracks into that glass ceiling.
I look forward to your thoughts and comments.
- Where did the term glass ceiling come from (wiki.answers.com)
- ILM Ambition and Gender report (i-l-m.com)
- Glass ceiling: Women have the same chance of promotion as men (dailymail.co.uk)